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Lit Terms Tuesday

In Medias Res  Latin "In the midst of things"
Odysseus and Tiresias in the Underworld. South Italian Red-figure bowl, late 5th c. BC. Lessing, Voyage of Ulysses. plate 81

We've all read those mysteries where the book starts with the critical murder, and then progresses by revealing the cause and reason for it. This literary device is called in medias res; the practice of starting a story line with the mid-section, conclusion, or an essential part of the plot. The plot can then develop by injecting a series of flashbacks (or even prolepses and flashbacks!), setting up character development and the unforeseen actions that lead up to the initial climatic mentioning. I have personally noticed that a lot of novels that use this device also pair it with foreshadowing, foreboding and allusion. The great purpose for using this literary device is to launch the reader straight into the thick of the plot to create interest and curiosity. Knowing what happens in a book, play, poem or film will urge the audience to stick it out through the end.

Some classic examples of using in medias res are seen in such greek epic poems as Homer's The Odyssey, and The Illiad, as well as my personal favorite roman epic, The Aeneid by Virgil (which can also, under different translations be considered Greek... although most of the events are in Italy and Aeneas is of Roman ancestry.)

Other more current uses of this literary technique is found in many of Toni Morrison's novels as well as Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, another favorite of mine.

In medias res is also widely used in movies and video games.

If you have any more input and/or examples of this literary term, please feel free to comment! I'd absolutely love to hear what you have to say. :)

*Favorite Books are always highlighted in orange (my favorite color.)

"in medias res".  Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 07 May. 2012

"In medias res - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 May 2012. .

"Goodreads." Goodreads. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 May 2012. .

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