A Rhetoric of Irony

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University of Chicago Press, 1974 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 292 pages
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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 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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Contents

II
1
III
3
IV
8
V
14
VI
19
VII
21
VIII
27
IX
33
XXII
137
XXIII
141
XXIV
150
XXV
152
XXVI
169
XXVII
175
XXVIII
176
XXIX
179

X
37
XI
39
XII
43
XIII
47
XIV
49
XV
76
XVI
91
XVII
94
XVIII
101
XIX
105
XX
120
XXI
123
XXX
185
XXXI
193
XXXII
196
XXXIII
221
XXXIV
222
XXXV
227
XXXVI
233
XXXVIII
240
XXXIX
253
XL
279
XLI
285
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About the author (1974)

Wayne C. Booth (1921–2005) was the George Pullman Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. His many books include The Rhetoric of Fiction, A Rhetoric of Irony, The Power and Limits of Pluralism, The Vocation of a Teacher, and For the Love of It, all published by the University of Chicago Press.