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Mise en abyme has several meanings in the realms of creative arts and literary theory. The term is originally from the French and means, "placing into infinity" or "placing into the abyss".In Western art "mise en abyme" is a formal technique in which an image contains a smaller copy of itself, the sequence appearing to recur infinitely. The term originated in heraldry, describing a coat of arms which appears as a small shield in the center of a larger one. See Droste effect.In film, the meaning of "mise en abyme" is similar to the artistic definition but also includes the idea of a "dream within a dream". For example, a character awakens from a dream and later discovers that they are still dreaming. Activities which are similar to dreaming, such as unconsciousness and virtual reality, are also described as "mise en abyme". This is seen in the film eXistenZ where the two protagonists never truly know whether they are out of the game or not.In literary criticism, "mise en abyme" is a type of frame story, in which the main narrative can be used to sum up or encapsulate some aspect of the framing story. The term is used in deconstruction and deconstructive literary criticism as a paradigm of the intertextual nature of language, the way language never quite reaches the foundation of reality because it refers in a frame-in-frame way to other language, which refers to other language, etc.