/flash"bak'/, n.
1. a device in the narrative of a motion picture, novel, etc., by which an event or scene taking place before the present time in the narrative is inserted into the chronological structure of the work.
2. an event or scene so inserted.
3. Also called flashback hallucinosis. Psychiatry.
a. the spontaneous recurrence of visual hallucinations or other effects of a drug, as LSD, long after the use of the drug has been discontinued.
b. recurrent and abnormally vivid recollection of a traumatic experience, as a battle, sometimes accompanied by hallucinations.
[1910-15; 1965-70 for def. 3; n. use of v. phrase flash back]

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▪ cinematography and literature
      in motion pictures and literature, narrative technique of interrupting the chronological sequence of events to interject events of earlier occurrence. The earlier events often take the form of reminiscence. The flashback technique is as old as Western literature. In the Odyssey, most of the adventures that befell Odysseus on his journey home from Troy are told in flashback by Odysseus when he is at the court of the Phaeacians.

      The use of flashback enables the author to start the story from a point of high interest and to avoid the monotony of chronological exposition. It also keeps the story in the objective, dramatic present.

      In motion pictures (motion picture), flashback is indicated not only by narrative devices but also by a variety of optical techniques such as fade-in or fade-out (the emergence of a scene from blackness to full definition, or its opposite), dissolves (the gradual exposure of a second image over the first while it is fading away), or iris-in or iris-out (the expansion or contraction of a circle enclosing the scene).

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Universalium. 2010.