Analepsis and Prolepsis

RELATED TERMS: Tragic theatre - Aristotle;

A Greek tragedy usually starts with a ‘flashback’ or analepsis, a recapitulation of the incidents of the story which occurred prior to those which were selected for the plot. The reader is plunged in medias res (‘into the middle of things’), and earlier incidents in the story are introduced artfully at various stages in the plot, often in the form of retrospective narration. (Selden, Widdowson and Brooker, 2005: 34)

It is analepsis which allows for prolepsis, or ‘flash forward’, to various other moments in the narration by means of which the story is unfolded through the plot.

In the design of narrative environments, such plot movements back and forth in time against a (pre-existing) story timeline may be parallelled or contradicted by the spatial movements of the body against the contours of a (pre-constructed) place, to reinforce or to unsettle the the deictic centre of the narrative environment world by playing with the narrative and spatial parameters of orientation, dis-orientation and re-orientation, as an articulation of storyworld, world of the story, the spatial processional and the embodied experiential worlds of imagination, logic and emotion.


Selden, R., Widdowson, P. and Brooker, P. (2005). A Reader’s guide to contemporary literary theory, 5th ed. Harlow, UK: Pearson Longman.