Summary and Keywords
From a functional point of view, metalepsis can be defined as the shift of a figure within a text (usually a character or a narrator) from one narrative level to another, marking a trangression of ontological borders. This procedure makes the reader or addressee aware of the fictional status of a text and ensures the maintenance of a specifically aesthetic distance, thereby counteracting any experience of immersion in the literary work. At the same time, it can be used as an effective instrument for producing enargeia (vividness), and through its sudden and surprising character it can also create strong effects of pathos as well as comedic effects. Thanks to the specific demands of a culture poised between orality and literacy, ancient literature knows primarily “smooth” metaleptic transitions, that is, ones that do not involve a strong sense of “jolt.” As procedure for transgressing borders between narrative levels, it has many manifestations in antiquity; as a literary motif, however, it appears rather seldom. The study of metalepsis in classical literature started with de Jong’s fundamental article of 2009.
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