I can’t say that I have often thought about the agency inherent in punctuation. However, computers and writing has asked me to spend sometime considering the ellipsis as a trope of composition (especially in regards to digital composition), and the word that continually surfaces in my thinking is agency. I visited the academically suspect, but highly useful, Wikipedia for a glimpse of the popular definition of ellipsis… here’s what I found (in two parts) and what it sparked:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (PART ONE):
Ellipsis (plural ellipses; from the Ancient Greek: ἔλλειψις, élleipsis, “omission” or “falling short“) is a series of dots that usually indicate an intentional omission of a word, sentence or whole section from the original text being quoted, and though necessary for syntactical construction, is not necessary for comprehension.
When employing an ellipsis as an omission of quoted material the author has absolute control, deciding what is valuable for the reader, what is important for the piece being written, and what best supportes the style of the piece. Ellipsis of quoted material implies a level of trust, or at least good faith, that the quoted material has been represented truthfully.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (PART TWO):
Ellipses can also be used to indicate an unfinished thought or, at the end of a sentence, a trailing off into silence (aposiopesis), example: “But I thought he was . . .”. When placed at the beginning or end of a sentence, the ellipsis can also inspire a feeling of melancholy or longing.
Ellipses as silence or partial thought seems to transfer the agency of the text or author to the imagination of the reader. The …’s allow the reader to fill in the blank, to imagine what the characters are thinking, but not saying. The author and the audience co-construct the meaning of the ellipsis together. The author provides the context, and then transfers the agency to the reader who constructs the content, ambiance, or mood that remains unspoken.