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July 1995, Week 1


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 6 Jul 1995 08:58:02 -0600
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Mark Pizzato writes:
"Anyone also interested in my question about the non-diegetic "chora"
(image/sound womb) of film and theater?  Or is that question also unclear?
(Sorry for misspelling your name, Don Larsson.)  To clarify, I'm questioning
whether a non-diegetic sound track and uncanny imagery (cf. Zizek on Hitchcock)
is actually outside the diegesis, or rather at its communal core--especially if
the allure of the diegetic world is thus increased?  (This might be done either
to draw us towards an unconscious horror, as with Artaud/Hitchcock, or to repel
us with more conscious incongruity, as with Brecht/Godard.)
Does such a comparison of theater and film seem valid to the members of this
This is an interesting question that bears further thought.  Strictly speaking,
the "diegesis" of any narrative is one that is mainly reconstructed by the
reader/viewer in any medium, but extradiegetic elements--as some have noted
earlier--can be quite ambiguous at times.  Since the chorus originally evolved
out of the practices that Aristotle labled "mimetic" (in drama) as opposed to
the "diegetic" means of telling stories (eg. Homer's epics), it does make the
use of the term somewhat problematic.
If we take "diegetic" as the "imagined story-world" of the narrative, in
theater we can see distinctions.  The chorus in OEDIPUS THE KING is made of
citizens of Thebes and interacts (as it often does in Greek tragedy).  On the
other hand, the Chorus of Shakepeare's HENRY V is not a part of the action
but seems to function as a kind of narrator/presenter of the material,
encouraging us to widen our imaginations beyond the confines of the Globe
theater to go to Agincourt, etc.  In OUR TOWN, on the other hand, the
Stage Manager fulfills a similar kind of chorus/narrator function, but from
time to time interacts with the characters in the diegesis as well.
What, then, do we make of the "chorus" that begins and ends Kurosawa's
THRONE OF BLOOD?  It sets a scene and delivers the "argument" of the piece for
us and concludes it with a moral, but exists only as a set of disembodied
voices.  In Robert Bolt's original play of A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, several
minor characters are played by a single actor, representing a kind of
Everyman.  This multiple role was dropped in the film with Paul Scofield,
though I believe it was maintained in the TNT production with Charlton
At the least, "diegetic" and "nondiegetic" are--like so many of the categories
we use to discuss these things--separate boxes, but boxes with permeable walls.
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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