Büchner und Butler: Das Pferde-Narrativ in den Woyzeck-Entwürfen und die Handlungsfähigkeit des postsouveränen Subjekts

Martin Wagner


This article’s analysis of the horse-imagery in Georg Büchner’s play Woyzeck pursues the question whether the title character is predominantly a subject of social determination or autonomous agency. First, Woyzeck’s supervisor associates him with a horse. This association is a process of naming, a performative speech act that constructs Woyzeck as a horse and justifies his exploitation. While the standard interpretations stop here, this article argues that Woyzeck subsequently takes up this role of the horse himself so that it becomes a part of his own agency. This newly constructed agency allows him to develop a sense of responsibility for his son (whom he carries like a horse) and to escape the authority of his supervisors (arguing that he is driven by nature as a horse is). These later actions presuppose the naming by his supervisors as a horse, but transcend their original intention. Woyzeck takes up the semantic alternatives in the word “horse” to subvert the original call of the authorities. In this sense, and within the framework of Judith Butler’s study Excitable Speech, the agency of the subject is both dependent on the call from outside and yet beyond it in the irreducible polyvalence of language. (WM; in German)

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