Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The cinematic present tense

You know how when you are retelling the story of a movie you've seen, how you kind of naturally fall into the present tense?  Is there a name for that phenomenon?  Besides the one I've just made up?

Yes, this query is related to my essay grading.  I have a very consistent example of the use of the "cinematic present tense" right here.  (But I can't show you.)

7 comments:

  1. It's standard practice in literary studies (and the same is true with film) to use the present tense.

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  2. Interesting! Has anyone discussed this choice?

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  3. It is a literary device to use the progression of tense to show progress: 'He gathered his forces, marched them across the country, and there he stands face to face with the foe'. The present tense - the here and now - is the point of focus.

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  4. The fault I am calling the cinematic present tense is not nearly so subtle. All the verbs go into the present tense. I am sure that this is not what literary studies and film studies people do.

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  5. That's the historical present tense, isn't it?

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  6. I thought it was called the present historic. Or that's what I've been telling my students for the last twenty years... 'If it happened in the past, use a past tense' is my stock phrase.

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  7. In Latin it's called the dramatic present and was a legitimate stylistic choice. I'm not convinced about it in English, but I have seen the phrase `historic present tense' for it. I think I like `cinematic present' better, but it will date, alas.

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