Eco on Time

Bodleian MS. Laud Misc. 570

The previous post reminded me of this part from Eco's book about an author's ability to slow down or speed up his/her reader's experience of time, purely by means of discourse:

They tell me that in Hollywood, when a producer is listening to the story or plot of a film that is being proposed and finds that there is too much detail, he calls out 'Cut to the chase!' And this means: don't waste time, drop the psychological subtleties, get to the climax.

He continues:

On the other hand, we do find, in the old manuals of sexual casuistry which so delighted Huysmans' Des Esseintes, the notion of delectatio morosa, a lingering conceded even to those who urgently feel the need to procreate. If something important or gripping is going to take place, we have to cultivate the art of lingering.

A good author does as the situation demands.

In a wood, you go for a walk. If you're not forced to leave it in a hurry to get away from the wolf or the ogre, it is lovely to linger, to watch the beams of sunlight play among the trees and fleck the glades, to examine the moss, the mushrooms, the plants in the undergrowth. Lingering doesn't mean wasting time: frequently one stops to ponder before making a decision.

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