marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

A Rhetoric Of Irony

A Rhetoric Of Irony by Wayne C. Booth.

By the same author as The Rhetoric of Fiction. Probably not as useful as a how-to-write book.  Still fascinating.

He starts off with observations about the confident assertions that we will all make -- and agree on -- about ironical readings.  Like the opening of Pride And Prejudice.  If anyone said it was not ironic, we would all agree that the assertion was simply wrong.

And how do we recognize when a work is ironic -- like the opening of Brave New World, with all its loaded adjectives to point us in the right direction.

And the complexities of what actually an ironical statement means -- Swift's A Modest Proposal says that the landlords surely have best title to the children, having devoured the parents, but he clearly does not mean simply that the landlords don't have best title, which is stupid and obvious and not worth arguing against because no one would say it. 

And the complexities of reading passages with irony in them.  The opening of Northange Abbey is ironical, but we will accept without question that there are ten children in Catherine's family and they are plain.  Or, a story by Poe he cites where a stage Irishman is discussing with glee his life since he inherited a baronetcy, and we disbelieve everything -- except that he has inherited a baronetcy, which we believe instantly.

Irony is kind of complex.  This is interesting romp through some of the more complex corners.

Tags: irony, lit crit, non-historical non-fiction reviews, style

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