irony, figure of speech in which what is stated is not what is meant. The user of irony assumes that his reader or listener understands the concealed meaning of his statement. Perhaps the simplest form of irony is rhetorical irony, when, for effect, a speaker says the direct opposite of what she means. Thus, in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, when Mark Antony refers in his funeral oration to Brutus and his fellow assassins as "honorable men" he is really saying that they are totally dishonorable and not to be trusted. Dramatic irony occurs in a play when the audience knows facts of which the characters in the play are ignorant. The most sustained example of dramatic irony is undoubtedly Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, in which Oedipus searches to find the murderer of the former king of Thebes, only to discover that it is himself, a fact the audience has known all along.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Irony: Selected full-text books and articles

Claire Colebrook.
Routledge, 2004
Irony's Edge: The Theory and Politics of Irony
Linda Hutcheon.
Routledge, 1994
Humorous Texts: A Semantic and Pragmatic Analysis
Salvatore Attardo.
Mouton de Gruyter, 2001
Librarian’s tip: "Irony" begins on p. 110
On Our Mind: Salience, Context, and Figurative Language
Rachel Giora.
Oxford University Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Irony"
Talk Is Cheap: Sarcasm, Alienation, and the Evolution of Language
John Haiman.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "Sarcasm and Irony" begins on p. 20
The Word Irony and Its Context, 1500-1755
Norman Knox.
Duke University Press, 1961
The Politics of Irony in American Modernism
Matthew Stratton.
Fordham University Press, 2014
Irony in the Work of Philosophy
Claire Colebrook.
University of Nebraska Press, 2002
Age of Irony
Purdy, Jedediah S.
The American Prospect, No. 39, July-August 1998
Rhetoric and Irony: Western Literacy and Western Lies
C. Jan Swearingen.
Oxford University Press, 1991
Divine Irony
Glenn S. Holland.
Susquehanna University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: This is about irony in the Bible
Irony on Occasion: From Schlegel and Kierkegaard to Derrida and de Man
Kevin Newmark.
Fordham University Press, 2012
A Grammar of Motives
Kenneth Burke.
Prentice-Hall, 1945
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of irony begins on p. 511
No Billionaire Left Behind: Satirical Activism in America
Angelique Haugerud.
Stanford University Press, 2013
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Irony, Humor, Spectacle"
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