Irony's Edge

Routledge, 1994
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Irony’s Edge: The Theory and Politics of Irony

The often “cutting” edge of irony is always a social and political edge. Arguing that irony isn’t something we have to “get” but rather something that “happens” in the tricky, unpredictable space between expression and understanding, between ironist and interpreter who share a discursive community. Using examples that range from a clever quip in conversation to a contentious museum exhibit, from Madonna to Wagner, from Anselm Kiefer to Shakespeare, this book offers a comprehensive theory of irony’s myriad forms and effects--and its politicized contexts. Building on the vast corpus of work done on irony by others in a range of fields, it examines how and why irony comes about (or doesn’t), with a particular interest in the ethical and ideological consequences of calling a work (in any medium) “ironic”.

Table of Contents

The “Scene” of Irony

Chapter One: Risky Business: The “Transideological” Politics of Irony

Chapter Two:
The Cutting Edge
I Emotions and Ethics on Edge
II The “Devil's Mark” or the “Snorkel of Sanity”?: The Contradictory Functions and Effects of Irony

Chapter Three:
Modeling Meaning: The Semantics of Irony
I Images en Route to a Definition
II Theater Goes to the Movies: Henry V

Chapter Four:
Discursive Communities: How Irony “Happens”
I The Miracle of Ironic Communication
II Provocation and Controversy: The Work of Anselm Kiefer

Chapter Five:
Intention and Interpretation: Irony and the Eye of the Beholder
I The Unbearable Slipperiness of Irony
II Eco's Echoes and Wagner's Vicissitudes

Chapter Seven:
The End(s) of Irony: The Politics of Appropriateness