Chapter 31. Vulgar hermeneutics

In Goethe’s Götz von Berlichingen one can find – assuming one has the explicit version – one of German literatures most famous quotes: 

„Mich ergeben! Auf Gnad und Ungnad! Mit wem redet Ihr! Bin ich ein Räuber! Sag deinem Hauptmann: Vor Ihro Kaiserliche Majestät hab ich, wie immer, schuldigen Respekt. Er aber, sag’s ihm, er kann mich im Arsche lecken!“

He can lick in my ass, Götz says at last. It is Goethe’s rim job, so to speak, which refers not only to a colloquial Swabian term, but also to the intimate zone and the vulgar game between center and periphery. To kiss or lick someone’s ass commonly means that the addressed person’s opinion is insignificant for the actions of the speaker. 

But to lick in the ass evokes a more erotic flavor an after-taste of language. Not for everyone the rim job is a sexual and erotic practice to give and receive pleasure. Hence there is also no need to understand Götz’s choice of words other than as a local variation of the common catchphrase of ignoring the other. Instead, it is more inviting as it should be. The phrase allows to imagine hygienic discourses as well as questions of performing body and gender: what if it is meant to be an invitation. The context males it clear, that it is not. Still the sentence vibrates an erotic dimension, a relation to jouissance one can say. Pleasure in degrading and disrespecting the other – especially in the framework of patriarchal heterosexual anxiety of being passive –, is also readable in the phrase as well as the oral drive. 

Freud’s determination of anal and oral phases also resonates within the phrase: it is the childlike but still brutal and undecided form of language which is in play. Regarding Julia Kristeva’s dualism of semiotic and symbolic levels of language one can say, that Götz speaks at the rim of the semiotic traversing the symbolic order of language, the language of power and adulthood. 

His vulgar language provides an access point for Dark Hermeneutics to be vulgar itself but in a more radical sense. Vulgar does not mean to be mean to others, but to join and enjoy the rim in its controversial dimensions. It is also regarding McKenzie Wark a form of writing and reading.1 To write vulgar, to speak and to read vulgar transform the hermeneutic agenda: one does not search for the true meaning, but uses the tactic of detournement to redirect the power of language, which is enclosed. Enclosed by whom? By all the noble interpretations: being noble and elegant leads to a blindness towards language. Still, this is not an account of enlightenment even if this text sheds light where the sun does not shine. 

Götz knows that he cannot use the language of those in power, if he wants to overthrow them. He needs to speak a different language and he does. Hence, he opens the opportunity for change. But his choice itself would be a language of power destruction, if there wasn’t the word in. The in engages in an intimate relation to the power revealing a vulnerable body part to the tongue, the organ of language. Vulnerable because it can be penetrated.  

In terms of Paul B. Preciado one can speak of a form of contra-language (as Preciado talks about contra-sexuality, contra-productivity and contra-discipline.)2 Götz ‚knows‘: “Workers of the anus are the new proletarians of a possible countersexual revolution.”3 Preciado continues: “[…] the anus—like its public extension, the mouth—is a “universal” erogenous center situated beyond the anatomical limits imposed by sexual difference, where roles and registers appear universally reversible. […] Second, the anus is an area of primordial passivity, a center of arousal and pleasure production that is not listed among the points prescribed as orgasmic. Third, the anus constitutes a technological workspace; it is the countersexual postprocessing facility.”4 

Hence Götz’/Goethe’s choice of words becomes a significant political zone of fucking the system. Those words relate to the sensitive and receptive dimension of language and its interconnection to the body which human beings have and share. 

It provides also a form of vulgar language which hacks in the symbolic code of power always already on the verge of becoming the brutal language of power itself. That is the dangerous part of hacking the symbolic order: dying as a hero or becoming the villain – as Hollywood cinema has told us. Is Götz hacking the verbal code of power? No, he does not and still it happens: He refuses to surrender to the captain and his order, but still accepts the imperial majesty. But the code is cracked by being short-circuited through the word in

Don’t forget: Götz is a ‘technobarroque’ cyborg himself: his artificial arm, his prosthesis is more than just an arm replacement. It marks the dildotectonical5 politics of the anus not only by resembling with a phallic prosthesis but also by becoming a techno-social zone of intimacy just like fist-fucking in “the gay, lesbian, and trans cultures beginning in the 1970s6. Götz’s arm and his language is related: they are both countersexual and therefore political.

If not something else Dark hermeneutics tries to channel the vulgar energy of those rims of the symbolic order to hacking the code of power and to attune for the sensible zone of the semiotic sphere.  

Cite this blog post
Martin Bartelmus (2023, January 29). Chapter 31. Vulgar hermeneutics. Dark Hermeneutics. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from

  1. Capital Is Dead: Is This Something Worse? Verso, 2019 []
  2. Countersexual Manifesto 2018 []
  3. Preciado 2018, 30 []
  4. Ibid. []
  5. Ibid., 42 []
  6. Ibid., 30 []

By Martin Bartelmus

Martin Bartelmus is a Postdoctoral Scholar of German Literary, Media, and Cultural Theory at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf. He studied German Literature, Philosophy, Political and Social Studies at Julius Maximilians University Würzburg and received his PhD in Media and Cultural Studies as part of the DFG graduate program “Materiality and Production” from Heinrich Heine University. His PhD-Thesis is entitled Cultural Born Killer: Poetics of Killing around 1900. Before joining the department of German Literature at Heinrich Heine University for his current postdoctoral position, he worked as a curator for the Museum of Natural History of the Benrath Palace and Park Foundation and as a freelancer for the Julia Stoschek Collection. He is interested in Animal and Plant Studies, killing in literature and film, French theory, Object-Oriented Ontology, and literature without humans.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search