The Problems of Irony: Philosophical Reflection on Method, Discourse and Interpretation

Journal for Cultural Research 12 (4):349-363 (2008)
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This article provides a broad overview of the problem of irony to contemporary hermeneutics. It offers a thematic account of the effects of irony on interpretation, and argues that the problems of irony are embedded within the relation between the free play of irony and the regulative role of interpretative discourse. It argues, against hermeneutic theories such as that of Hans‐Georg Gadamer, that the “problems” which irony poses for interpretation can be seen as symptomatic of irony's identification: that irony is, essentially, problematic. It argues that any account of irony needs to account for the value of irony as a problem, rather than subsuming such problems into larger models of understanding. The article explores this notion by looking at the interpretative “discourse of irony” and noting its thematic features. It is argued that the account of irony as a negation of meaning is intrinsically tied to the construction of a sovereign economy in response to the excesses of ironic possibility, but that such a construction is determined only by the stepping‐away from the initial ironic possibilities which enabled its construction. Using the work of Gadamer as an example, the article argues that this in itself does not close irony, but produces yet more irony which frustrates the interpretative act while lending itself to interpretative possibility.



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Tom Grimwood
Lancaster University

Citations of this work

Irony and Sarcasm in Ethical Perspective.Timo Airaksinen - 2020 - Open Philosophy 3 (1):358-368.

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References found in this work

Truth and Method.H. G. Gadamer - 1975 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 36 (4):487-490.
Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity.Richard Rorty - 1989 - The Personalist Forum 5 (2):149-152.
A Rhetoric of Irony.Wayne C. Booth - 1975 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 8 (2):123-129.
Aparté: Conceptions and Deaths of Søren Kierkegaard.Sylviane Agacinski, Kevin Newmark, John Vignaux Smyth & John D. Caputo - 1991 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 29 (2):113-122.
Anatomy of Criticism.Northrop Frye - 1958 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 16 (4):533-534.

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