An execution is an event, therefore, as is a flooding. First somebody lived, then he was dead. First we had a prosperous city, then a devastated one. In the case of an apostrophe, however, there are not two distinct situations. The one situation alters in terms of mode. Whilst remaining the same, in a sense, the situation becomes split. Consequently the turning away can be better described as a moment at which the rhetorical momentum shifts gears, and the situation becomes split.
The split is dealt with by Irene Kacandes (1994) when she explains that whereas communication theory has taught us to think about communication in terms of addresser, message, and addressee (with addresser and addressee regularly switching roles) apostrophe offers another possibility:
"Rather, apostrophe is ‘short-circuited’ communication; messages do not flow in both directions. […] Perhaps even more significantly - and bizarrely - the apostrophe bears two ‘addresses’. Overtly, a speaker sends a message to someone or something as if that being or thing could respond but will not. Covertly, an apostrophe is meant to provoke response through its reception in a second(ary) communicative circuit, received by the readers of a poem in the case of lyric or the audience in the case of oratory. […] To put it yet another way, apostrophes are messages uttered with two addressees simultaneously in mind."
The major point, here, is the double address and its simultaneity. Of course there can be much more than two addresses operative simultaneously, because communication is never simply two-directional. In many situations, many different forms of address may and will be going on. Apostrophe, in that context, nevertheless concerns the dynamic between two distinctly, and intrinsically related modes of address that operate simultaneously in a given situation. This is the reason that apostrophe especially is able to affect an audience. It works “not on the meaning of a word but on the circuit or situation of communication itself” (Culler 1981: 135).
Let me now move to the first of the two cases I want to consider in more detail, to see how this double address may work simultaneously and affectively. After that I will consider why this dual, theatrical address may be in danger today.
Note 6: For this quote, see Kacandes (1994: 330). Kacandes is inspired by the work of classical scholar Elizabeth Block, who used apostrophe to indicate the ways in which Homeric and Vergilian narrators shift address from character to audiences (Block 1982). In terms of address, subjectivity and language, Kacandes bases herself on the work of Martin Buber and Emile Benveniste. Buber explored how human beings can only exist in terms of personhood because of the “you-ness” of every “I”, that is to say of its being addressed and ability to address. Benveniste explored how in language the second person cannot exist without the first person. They can only exist because of their relation – what makes them distinct from the third person that Benveniste qualified as a “nonperson”.