A Tale for the Time Being: Temporal Stuttering

Ruth’s typographical representation of what she deems “temporal stuttering” on pages 227-229 is a really interesting manipulation of the media at her disposal. She attempts to articulate her impatience with waiting for the Professor’s email response: “her impatience grew. This agitation was familiar, and paradoxical as though some force was at once goading her and holding her back…A temporal stuttering, an urgent lassitude, a feeling of simultaneous rushing and lagging behind…It was a horrible, stilted, panicky sensation, hard to put into words” (227). Even though Ruth has a difficult time expressing this sensation, I know exactly what she’s talking about. Going down the internet rabbit hole is like nothing else. The internet conditions us for such immediate gratification that when this immediacy is disrupted or deferred, we’re left in a state of uncomfortable inertia. The screen conditions us to be active, to keep Googling, Youtubing, etc. while we wait for an email response, but something feels wrong when we have to wait too long.

Pages 228 and 229 illustrate this sensation with variations in font size, boldness, italics, capitalization, and spacing. It exemplifies the edginess of sitting in front of the computer screen, and how our moves online do not accord with regular, organized time. Some instants blur into the next, while other instants are louder – you can almost feel the dopamine coursing through your brain. And these instants accumulate without punctuation, continually building on each other and creating a run-on experience of internet consumption. She ends this segment with a full blank page and then “stops” is typed in small text at the bottom right corner of 229. I missed it at first, and I’m still not sure what to make of the sudden, isolated stop. Is it the moment when you close your browser window? Can the stuttering only stop for Ruth when she receives the long-awaited email from the professor? Does it stop when you look away from the computer and recognize your presence in the material world?

I also wonder, can this sensation be represented through language? Do we have tools at our disposal to depict temporal stuttering, or is it one of those feelings that can only be felt?

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