Irony in Literature


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 in Literature: Selected full-text books and articles

Irony By Claire Colebrook Routledge, 2004
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics By Roland Greene; Stephen Cushman; Clare Cavanagh; Jahan Ramazani; Paul Rouzer Princeton University Press, 2012 (4th edition)
Librarian's tip: "Irony" begins on p. 731
The Politics of Irony in American Modernism By Matthew Stratton Fordham University Press, 2014
Shakespeare's Craft: Eight Lectures By Philip H. Highfill Jr Southern Illinois University Press, 1982
Librarian's tip: Chap. 1 "Irony and Its Interrelatedness in Shakespeare"
Tragedy and the Tragic: Greek Theatre and Beyond By M. S. Silk Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian's tip: Chap. 27 "Ironies in Serious Drama," Chap. 28 "Tragic and Homeric Ironies: Response to Rosenmeyer"
Imperfect Sense: The Predicament of Milton's Irony By Victoria Silver Princeton University Press, 2001
Divine Irony By Glenn S. Holland Susquehanna University Press, 2000
Librarian's tip: This is about irony in the Bible
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