Beyond Literary Landscapes—Flashbacks

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This week’s column focuses on a lesser-known literary technique, namely flashbacks.

Flashbacks can be defined as incidents that “interrupt the chronological order of the main narrative to take a reader back in time to the past events in a character’s life.”  This type of literary technique or device is often used “to help readers better understand present-day elements in the story or learn more about a character.”

Two types of flashbacks exist, namely “those that recount events that happened before the story started (external analepsis) and those that take the reader back to an event that already happened but that the character is considering again (internal analepsis).”

While often used in literature, it is important to note that they can also be found frequently in cinema.


Some examples of the use of flashbacks in literature include The Odyssey by Homer, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and Hopscotch (Rayuela) by Julio Cortázar.


These novels are set in ancient Greece, Democratic Republic of the Congo, England, France, and Argentina.


These works are set from the 7th century BCE to the 20th and 21st centuries.


Flashbacks as a niche literary technique may be of interest to AU English students, as well as those in the Communications Studies program, who are looking to improve their writing and storytelling techniques.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to flashbacks are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in this topic may consider CMNS 301: Communication Theory and Analysis, a senior-level, three credit course, which “is intended to provide … a grounding in the field of communication studies, a relatively new interdisciplinary field that draws many of its theoretical ideas about human communication from psychology, sociology, cultural studies, linguistics, philosophy, and literary studies.”  (No prerequisites are required for this course).

Learners may also be interested in CMNS 419: Digital Storytelling, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “explores a variety of storytelling frameworks.”  (No prerequisites are required).  Happy reading!

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