A Rhetoric of Irony by Wayne C. Booth

By Wayne C. Booth

Probably no different serious label has been made to hide extra floor than "irony," and in our time irony has come to have such a lot of meanings that on its own it potential nearly not anything. during this paintings, Wayne C. sales space cuts during the ensuing confusions by way of reading how we be capable to proportion fairly particular ironies—and why we frequently fail after we try and achieve this. How does a reader or listener realize the type of assertion which calls for him to reject its "clear" and "obvious" which means? and the way does any reader be aware of the place to prevent, as soon as he has launched into the detrimental and exhilarating course of rejecting "what the phrases say" and reconstructing "what the writer means"?

In the 1st and longer a part of his paintings, sales space bargains with the workings of what he calls "stable irony," irony with a transparent rhetorical reason. He then turns to meant instabilities—ironies that withstand interpretation and eventually result in the "infinite absolute negativities" that experience obsessed feedback because the Romantic interval.

Professor sales space is usually paradoxically conscious that not anyone can fathom the unfathomable. yet by means of taking a look heavily at volatile ironists like Samuel Becket, he indicates that a minimum of a few of our commonplaces approximately meaninglessness require revision. ultimately, he explores—with the aid of Plato—the wry paradoxes that threaten any uncompromising statement that every one statement should be undermined by means of the spirit of irony.

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2. "The Theme of Ulysses ," Kenyon Review 18 (Winter 1956) : 36. See my The Rhetoric of Fiction, pp. 325-26, and passim, for examples of controversy about such matters. 47 ~ - I Stable Irony Is It Ironic? " by one prospective victim to other prospective victims. 3 It is sometimes assumed that the effort to clarify or to rule out false interpretations is somehow anti-literary because it is against the spirit of irony. I shall work on the contrary assumption unproved: that with certain kinds of irony the mind's irrepressible desire to be clear is the very source of whatever pleasure or profit is to be found .

Even if a reader felt that he had not been keeping up events closely enough and had missed the "war," he has only to to the library to see what did , in fact, happen in August 1951. But will do so only if he has developed the habit of thinking critically historica·l fact. Jgrl{;j To talk of historical "fact" is leading. Any piece of knowledge is useful to the stable ironist (and 13. , 1954), p. 412. 58 14. " Irony in itself opens up dOub ts as SOon as its possibility enters our heads, and there is no inherent reason fOr discontinuing the process of doubt at any point short of infinity.

Stable Irony we see if we try to prove that in the poet's view the lovers if! fact very well. It is clear that if the final voice triumphs, then we have here s' the reverse of "advance warning" (clue no. 1 above). A very great portion of ironic essays could be said to have this essential structure (a) a plausible but false voice is presented; (b) contradictions of voice are introduced; (c) a correct voice is finally heard, repudlati all or most or some of what the ostensible speaker has said. Logically there is one further possibility in any conflict of facts claims to fact: both voices may be false.

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