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A Rhetoric of Irony

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Perhaps no other critical label has been made to cover more ground than "irony," and in our time irony has come to have so many meanings that by itself it means almost nothing. In this work, Wayne C. Booth cuts through the resulting confusions by analyzing how we manage to share quite specific ironies—and why we often fail when we try to do so. How does a reader or listene Perhaps no other critical label has been made to cover more ground than "irony," and in our time irony has come to have so many meanings that by itself it means almost nothing. In this work, Wayne C. Booth cuts through the resulting confusions by analyzing how we manage to share quite specific ironies—and why we often fail when we try to do so. How does a reader or listener recognize the kind of statement which requires him to reject its "clear" and "obvious" meaning? And how does any reader know where to stop, once he has embarked on the hazardous and exhilarating path of rejecting "what the words say" and reconstructing "what the author means"? In the first and longer part of his work, Booth deals with the workings of what he calls "stable irony," irony with a clear rhetorical intent. He then turns to intended instabilities—ironies that resist interpretation and finally lead to the "infinite absolute negativities" that have obsessed criticism since the Romantic period. Professor Booth is always ironically aware that no one can fathom the unfathomable. But by looking closely at unstable ironists like Samuel Becket, he shows that at least some of our commonplaces about meaninglessness require revision. Finally, he explores—with the help of Plato—the wry paradoxes that threaten any uncompromising assertion that all assertion can be undermined by the spirit of irony.


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Perhaps no other critical label has been made to cover more ground than "irony," and in our time irony has come to have so many meanings that by itself it means almost nothing. In this work, Wayne C. Booth cuts through the resulting confusions by analyzing how we manage to share quite specific ironies—and why we often fail when we try to do so. How does a reader or listene Perhaps no other critical label has been made to cover more ground than "irony," and in our time irony has come to have so many meanings that by itself it means almost nothing. In this work, Wayne C. Booth cuts through the resulting confusions by analyzing how we manage to share quite specific ironies—and why we often fail when we try to do so. How does a reader or listener recognize the kind of statement which requires him to reject its "clear" and "obvious" meaning? And how does any reader know where to stop, once he has embarked on the hazardous and exhilarating path of rejecting "what the words say" and reconstructing "what the author means"? In the first and longer part of his work, Booth deals with the workings of what he calls "stable irony," irony with a clear rhetorical intent. He then turns to intended instabilities—ironies that resist interpretation and finally lead to the "infinite absolute negativities" that have obsessed criticism since the Romantic period. Professor Booth is always ironically aware that no one can fathom the unfathomable. But by looking closely at unstable ironists like Samuel Becket, he shows that at least some of our commonplaces about meaninglessness require revision. Finally, he explores—with the help of Plato—the wry paradoxes that threaten any uncompromising assertion that all assertion can be undermined by the spirit of irony.

30 review for A Rhetoric of Irony

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Turns out that rain on your wedding day is not ironic, but saying "like rain on your wedding day" definitely is.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Suzan Sarı

    Ben çevirdim, o kadar iyi bir çeviri değil.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kristina Polidano

    For his writing style -- I'll give Wayne C. a boot.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Wayne C. Booth is always worth the read. I re-read this from time to time, but haven't yet posted it here. Date listed is most recent re-read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mary Catelli

    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 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 Northanger 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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Concerned that the increasingly sprawling figural territory covered by irony will render it a useless term, one of Wayne Booth’s key arguments in his Rhetoric of Irony is this: “[I]t is clear that a spate of uninterpretable [i.e. unstable] ironies has the same effect as providing no experience in irony at all” (227). Booth focuses instead on relatively interpretable, or “stable,” ironies, taking as a given that “to achieve ironic communication is a worthwhile thing in itself” (217, emphasis adde Concerned that the increasingly sprawling figural territory covered by irony will render it a useless term, one of Wayne Booth’s key arguments in his Rhetoric of Irony is this: “[I]t is clear that a spate of uninterpretable [i.e. unstable] ironies has the same effect as providing no experience in irony at all” (227). Booth focuses instead on relatively interpretable, or “stable,” ironies, taking as a given that “to achieve ironic communication is a worthwhile thing in itself” (217, emphasis added) and foregrounding irony’s role as “the key to the tightest bonds of friendship” rather than an unstable gateway to nihilism (14). Booth in fact claims that what many theorists use as examples of unstable irony are quite stable. Samuel Beckett, for instance, demonstrates “an extremely stable commitment to absurdist views” (260), and even those of his critics who revel in the meaningless of his plays paradoxically find meaning in them (259). In short, Booth is suspicious of what are now often grouped as poststructuralist accounts of figures—histories in which irony, as well as metaphor, have “ranged from … minute oratical device[s] … to … imperialistic world conqueror[s]” (177).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Vadim

    Распознание иронии в тексте начинается с того, что у нас формируется уверенность: те или иные слова этом тексте нельзя понимать буквально и требуется прочтение, которое во многом ему противоположно. В книге "Риторика иронии" Уэйн Бут разбирает, как становится возможным понимание иронического подтекста: что для этого делает автор? как дистанцируется от буквально написанного? при помощи каких приемов распознает замысел автора читатель? Успешное перемигивание автора с читателем дадут ему больше, че Распознание иронии в тексте начинается с того, что у нас формируется уверенность: те или иные слова этом тексте нельзя понимать буквально и требуется прочтение, которое во многом ему противоположно. В книге "Риторика иронии" Уэйн Бут разбирает, как становится возможным понимание иронического подтекста: что для этого делает автор? как дистанцируется от буквально написанного? при помощи каких приемов распознает замысел автора читатель? Успешное перемигивание автора с читателем дадут ему больше, чем прямо выраженная мысль, но не неуспех чаще всего будет стоить дороже.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Randy Lemaire

  9. 4 out of 5

    Antonio

  10. 5 out of 5

    Keller

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amy Kay

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ana

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rob

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bryce

  15. 4 out of 5

    Linda Meister

  16. 5 out of 5

    Will Klutch

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kris

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rose Guingrich

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  20. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Pridham

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aurle

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anne Stevens

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elise Barker

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tim

  25. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Ann B Chambers

  26. 4 out of 5

    Liz

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alina Bu

  28. 4 out of 5

    Howard

  29. 4 out of 5

    J Earl

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

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