A digression (from Latin digressio - digress , Greek παρέκβασις Parékbasis ) is a part of a literary text that ignores its subject and deals with an internal narrative, reflection, description or the like that does not or does not deal with the actual topic at best is indirectly connected. The digression belongs as a rhetorical stylistic device to the amplificatio and is related to the excursus . It can be used to loosen up an otherwise all-too-dry subject or as a retarding moment to increase tension shortly before the decisive turn in the main topic.
The term is first found in the German language in Jean Paul's Biographical Amusements , published in 1796 . Previously, it was called debauchery and frowned upon, for example in Johann Christoph Gottsched's rhetoric of 1736.
In Laurence Sternes novel Life and Views of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman , which appeared in sequels from 1759 to 1767, the digressions in satirical form sometimes prevail and dominate the text. This approach found many imitators among the novelists of the 18th century. Examples of the frequent use of digressions in German literature are the works of Christoph Martin Wieland , Jean Paul, Friedrich Schlegel and ETA Hoffmann , such as his news of the latest fate of the dog Berganza . One of the most famous digressions in world literature is The Grand Inquisitor in the novel The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Michailowitsch Dostojewski .
- Hans Esselborn: Digression. In: Klaus Weimar et al. (Ed.): Reallexikon der Deutschen Literaturwissenschaft . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2007, vol. 1, ISBN 978-3-11-091467-2 , p. 363 f. (accessed via De Gruyter Online)
- Gero von Wilpert : Subject dictionary of literature (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 231). 4th, improved and enlarged edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1964, , p. 131, sv Digression.
- René Bosch: L abyrinth of Digressions. Tristram Shandy as Perceived and Influenced by Sterne's Early Imitators. Rodopi, Amsterdam / New York 2007.
- Roland Bogards: News of the latest fate of the dog Berganza (1814). In: Christine Lubkoll, Harald Neumeyer (Hrsg.): ETA Hoffmann manual: Life - work - effect . JB Metzler, Tübingen 2015, p. 24.