9780820313092 / 0820313092

The Critical Mythology of Irony


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Publisher:Univ of Georgia Pr, 1991



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About the book:

A theoretical work that ranges from the age of Socrates to the late 20th century, this book traces the development of the various concepts of irony within the history of Western literary criticism. Its purpose is not to promote a universal definition of irony, whether traditional or revisionist, but to examine how such definitions were created in critical history and what their use and invocation implies. It is Joseph Dane's premise that the diverse, supposed forms of irony - Socratic, rhetorical, romantic, dramatic, to name a few - are not so much literary elements imbedded in texts and awaiting discovery by critics as they are notions used by critics of different eras and persuasions to manipulate texts in various, often self-serving ways. Dane contends that the history of irony cannot by strictly chronological. Socratic irony as understood today is heavily influenced by theories of romantic irony and by earlier ideas originating during the Renaissance. Chaucerian irony, he says, has less to do with Chaucer than with critical concepts that developed between the late 1800s and the advent of New Criticism in the late 1920s and 1930s. And dramatic irony, despite the critical insistence on its origins in Sophocles, is best understood as a product of such 19th-century commentators as Adam Muller and Connop Thirlwall. The history of irony, Dane suggests, runs parallel to the history of criticism, and the changing definitions of irony reflect the changing ways in which readers and critics have defined their own roles in relation to literature. Probing and provocative, "The Critical Mythology of Irony" should appeal to a broad critical audience, particularly those literary scholars concerned with the historical basis of critical language and the political and educational implications of that language. Joseph A. Dane is the author of "Res/Verba: A Study in Medieval French Drama" and "Parody: Critical Concepts vs. Literary Practices, Aristophanes to Sterne".

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