The Word Irony and Its Context, 1500-1755

The Word Irony and Its Context, 1500-1755

The Word Irony and Its Context, 1500-1755

The Word Irony and Its Context, 1500-1755

Excerpt

In the last century and a half the word irony has become one of the most complex, ambiguous, and fascinating terms in the whole arsenal of literary criticism and analysis, to say nothing of its popularity in day-to-day speech. Cosmic irony, the popular irony of Fate, dramatic irony, Socratic and Romantic irony, the ironies of tension and paradox promulgated by the New Critics -- we have only to try cataloging these and the rest to realize how complex are the meanings now available in this protean word; behind the recent notoriety is a long, involved, and sometimes important career which began in the age of Socrates. It is of some interest to have the history of such a word. G. G. Sedgewick wrote the first part of that history in a doctoral thesis presented at Harvard in 1913 when he traced the word from its first appearance in Aristophanes through Classical and medieval Latin; in the present study I attempt to continue his history by following the fortunes of the English word from the early sixteenth through the middle of the eighteenth century.

I have had a second point of view in mind. Since it is not always easy to know what Renaissance and Augustan writers meant when they used such terms as irony, a close study of them sharpens our tools for understanding these periods. Consequently I have pursued the uses of irony somewhat further than was necessary to a general history of the word and have in addition explored the meanings of banter and raillery, two other crucial words neither of which has been carefully studied before and both of which were intimately connected with irony. I had also hoped to survey two other subjects: English classical criticism of the art of ironic writing; the social and moral attitudes of the Augustans and their fore-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.