WRITING AS A “SIE”: reflections on barbara köhler's odyssey cycle niemands frau

Angelaki 22 (1):289-295 (2017)

The German poet Barbara Köhler's 2007 poem-cycle Niemands Frau [Nobody's Wife] is more than a feminist response to Homer's Odyssey. In shifting the focus from the escapades of the hero Odysseus to the web of women characters that populates Homer's epic poem – Nausicaa, Circe, the Sirens, Helen, Ino Leucothea, the shades of the dead women whom Odysseus meets in Hades, and “Nobody’s wife” Penelope – Köhler also undertakes a grammatical shift: from the masculine singular pronoun “er” to the polyvalent pronoun “sie” that denotes the feminine singular, the gender-unmarked plural and the formal “you.” “Sie” acts as the “quantum linguistic particle” that transports the reader from a world analogous to that conceived by Newtonian physics into a quantum universe of plural probabilities. Köhler's work explores the difference in power dynamics that results from this transformation, generating intriguing ways of reconceiving subjectivity, relationality, rationality, and authorship. Taken at their word, the poems open up a prospect of no longer insisting on the sovereign individual subject and his linear modes of narration, inheritance, calculation and grammatical proposition.
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DOI 10.1080/0969725x.2017.1286045
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