Flashback and flashforward, as well as analepsis and prolepsis in the terminology of Gérard Genette, belong to some of the few almost undisputed concepts in narrative theory. But if we dig deeper into their original definitions, we come to realize that they appear either vague or as an oversimplification of a more complex issue. In order to add precision to narrative theory’s efforts to analyze time shifts, I propose a distinction between dramatized analepsis, which is synonymous with flashback, and undramatized analepsis, which is not. Dramatized analepsis and flashback are synonyms because each involves an enactment of the past, while undramatized analepsis refers to past events but does not involve a real shift from one space-time to another. After looking at how this distinction can illuminate some paradigmatic cases in film and graphic narrative, I consider how these distinctions apply to verbal narratives. In addition, I discuss “fading effects” in verbal narratives, effects that follow from the progressive transition from one space-time to another. Finally, I suggest how these tools can illuminate the handling of temporality in Guy de Maupassant’s The Signal. More generally, this essay contributes to narratological understanding of the intersequential organization of narratives by adding greater precision to Genette’s discussion of analepsis by means of the distinction between dramatized and undramatized analepsis. Methodologically, the essay shows the value of transmedial comparisons, since my case about verbal narrative follows from work on narrative in visual media.


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pp. 311-329
Launched on MUSE
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