Apostrophe’s Double


  • Sabine I Gölz University of Iowa




“Apostrophe’s Double” is part of a larger research project studying the (often subliminal) strategies by which literary language writing controls its readership. Part I of the essay argues that the rhetorical trope “apostrophe” functions as one such interpellative apparatus that partitions our world and splits our practices. The trope’s operational distinction between authorized speakers / readers vs. ‘dummy’ addressees / targets sets in motion a hierarchical and divisive logic that empowers some and disqualifies others. Part II argues that there is a second version (or ‘turn’) of the figure of apostrophe that has been neglected altogether, one in which the ‘target’ responds not by turning to the interpellation but by turning away instead. This turn away is key to the poetics of certain strong women poets. Ingeborg Bachmann’s poem “Anrufung des großen Bären” (“Invocation of the Great Bear”) provides a lucid model of the transition from one to the other. Apostrophe is thus double: one establishes the apparatus, the other deconstructs it. Part III contrasts two radically divergent uses of language corresponding to these turns: Bachmann’s “Frankfurt Lectures” enact the radical change towards which her poem leads us. Jonathan Culler’s seminal article “Apostrophe” exemplifies the relation to language Bachmann frees herself from. Two subject positions emerge in the wake of this double apostrophic, each with its own constraints: one is empowered by the apparatus yet must remain subservient to it. The other reclaims sovereignty as a living being from the apparatus, on the condition of radically unrepresentable.

Author Biography

Sabine I Gölz, University of Iowa

Sabine I. Gölz is Assoc. Prof. of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Iowa, where she teaches courses on literature, literary theory, translation, as well as interdisciplinary courses on Urban Semiotics (“City as Text / Text as City”) or the history of Writing Systems (“The Invention of Writing: Cuneiform to Computers”).  Her scholarly work centers on modern European literature and theory, specifically the fundamental role of gender and figurative language. She is the author of The Split Scene of Reading: Nietzsche / Derrida / Kafka / Bachmann (1998) and numerous articles. She is also the founder of CASSANDRA, a university-wide initiative on writing systems at the University of Iowa. Her signature style often includes the analysis of both texts and images, as in her articles on Moscow’s pedestrian bridges (Public Culture, 2006), or on manuscripts by Karoline v. Günderrode, Walter Benjamin, or Franz Kafka. Gölz’s photographs have been exhibited in Moscow, Paris, and various locations in the U.S.  Since 2000, Gölz has been filming, producing, directing, and editing documentary films (with Oleg Timofeyev): Frautschi (2008, 49 min.), Take Off One Ear! (2010, 22 min.), Mrii pro mynule: Early Music in Ukraine (2011, 57 min.), The Cantor of Swabia (2016, 106 min.), and Sorabji in Iowa (2017, 35min. 35 sec.).  She is Executive Director of IARMAC, a 501(c)3 organization she co-founded in 2004. Gölz has been a visiting scholar at the Russian State University for the Humanities (2001/2), and at Kyiv Mohyla University (2011).




How to Cite

Gölz, S. I. (2019). Apostrophe’s Double. Konturen, 10(1), 22–53. https://doi.org/10.5399/uo/konturen.10.0.4509