Guide to Literary Terms

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Digression

Digression - a passage or section of writing that departs from the central theme or basic plot, usually within the framework of the piece of writing rather than added at the end or prefaced at the beginning. It is used extensively in storytelling.

The term is taken from the Latin digressus, which was formed by combining dis, meaning “apart,” and gradi, “to step.”

Laurence Sterne famously used the digression throughout his work Tristram Shandy (1759) to produce a startling unconventional narrative form; the story begins with a description of the title character’s conception, but the event of his birth is delayed for some 200 pages of asides and anecdotes.