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© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Irony: Selected full-text books and articles

On Our Mind: Salience, Context, and Figurative Language By Rachel Giora Oxford University Press, 2003
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "Irony"
Talk Is Cheap: Sarcasm, Alienation, and the Evolution of Language By John Haiman Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian's tip: "Sarcasm and Irony" begins on p. 20
The Word Irony and Its Context, 1500-1755 By Norman Knox Duke University Press, 1961
The Politics of Irony in American Modernism By Matthew Stratton Fordham University Press, 2014
Irony in the Work of Philosophy By Claire Colebrook University of Nebraska Press, 2002
Rhetoric and Irony: Western Literacy and Western Lies By C. Jan Swearingen Oxford University Press, 1991
Divine Irony By Glenn S. Holland Susquehanna University Press, 2000
Librarian's tip: This is about irony in the Bible
A Grammar of Motives By Kenneth Burke Prentice-Hall, 1945
Librarian's tip: Discussion of irony begins on p. 511
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
No Billionaire Left Behind: Satirical Activism in America By Angelique Haugerud Stanford University Press, 2013
Librarian's tip: Chap. 1 "Irony, Humor, Spectacle"
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