Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor David L. Clark
Why have we spoken about irony so much for so long? What is at stake in the different ways it has been figured and, just as much, what is at stake in the persistence of certain figures through shifting historical contexts? This study attemts a metacritical approach to irony, one which does not so much propose a particular theory of irony or apply a particular understanding of irony to literary or cultural texts as is often done, but which takes as its object of study the discourse on irony. The lengthy history, as well as the continuing proliferation, of critical and theoretical work on irony, not to mention the frequency of its invocation in everyday discourse, invites such an approach. In particular, this work explores the relationship between irony and ideology, two terms that stand in a vexed relationship of interdependence and opposition. What this investigation establishes is that from its modern inception, the critical discourse on irony has been as much a political discourse as an aesthetic or philosophical one. I examine the ideologies underlying and informing three different attempts to theorize, or otherwise invoke and employ, the term irony; those represented by the writings of Friedrich Schlegel, Paul de Man, and Richard Rorty. On the one hand, I argue that the theory of irony partakes inextricably in the philosophy of the self, of the autonomous individual associated with a dominant tradition of liberal thought. To this extent irony can partake in the ideological construction of an imaginary realm of freedom that masks the subject's social and historical domination. On the other hand, I have persistently discovered, and argued for, the resistance to ideological enclosure within the discourse on irony, and the positing of a social and intersubjective character to irony.
Carter, Adam Thomas Coleno, "Irony and Ideology in Schlegel, de Man, and Rorty" (1998). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1190.