Metalepsis

In the processes of metalepsis, the boundaries or borders between narrative and of environmental levels, spheres or ‘worlds’ are transgressed, so that one level or sphere or world, which does not seem to belong there, emerges or appears within another in a disruptive manner.

Marie-Laure Ryan (2006) argues that is is useful to define two main types of metalepsis: rhetorical, as discussed by Genette; and ontological, as discussed by Brian McHale.

edited 20 March, 2016 by Allan Parsons

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Associated Practices

Metalepsis means moving from outside to inside a diegesis (or vice versa). In narrative environments it is usually used to refer to the process by which the narratee moves (is moved) from the extradiegetic to the intradiegetic position. This is typically caused by eliciting participation/performance/performativity in the story, commonly through interaction between the visitor and the space or objects within a narrative environment. This interaction can be through digital technology, but not necessarily so.  The fact that in a Narrative environment the narratee is typically physically inside the physical storyworld – it is then a short step to draw their mind into the storyworld too; thus metalepsis is a very powerful tool and it can evoke a heightened emotional state, so it needs to be handled with care.

Referencing narratology: Genette (1980) didn’t like metalepsis: ”The most troubling thing about metalepsis indeed lies in this unacceptable and insistent hypothesis, that the extradiegetic is perhaps always diegetic, and that the narrator and his narratees – you and I – perhaps belong to some narrative” (Genette, G. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method.  Trans. Jane E. Lewin.    Ithaca: Cornell UP (1980) page 236).

This doesn’t bother us: in a sense, we pretty much consider this to be the case in narrative environments, where the diegesis typically is constituted of things that exist in the real world.

Here’s an example of metalepsis in a short film: as the narrator walks along, elements from the story he’s telling appear on the side of the path. The Man Who Walked Around the World

For further discussion of metalepsis see my essay: Louis, Mr Dog and Rabbit: metalepsis in an interactive narrative. Originally published in: R. Aylett et al. (Eds.): ICIDS 2010, LNCS 6432, pp. 248–251, 2010. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

Stuart Jones

edited 4 September, 2018 by Allan Parsons

Metalepsis

in Narratology

Genette (1980) defines narrative metalepsis as an intrusion by extradiegetic elements into the diegesis (and vice versa). He recognises that anyone or anything can slip from one diegetic level to another if the boundary between the levels is porous, and he doesn’t like it: ”The most troubling thing about metalepsis indeed lies in this unacceptable and insistent hypothesis, that the extradiegetic is perhaps always diegetic, and that the narrator and his narratees – you and I – perhaps belong to some narrative”. This, in a sense, is pretty much what we consider to be the case in narrative environments, where the diegesis typically is constituted of things that exist in the real world.

See Genette, G. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method.  Trans. Jane E. Lewin.    Ithaca: Cornell UP (1980) page 236.

edited 6 April, 2016 by Admin