An ambitious theoretical work that ranges from the age of Socrates to the late twentieth century, this book traces the development of the concepts of irony within the history of Western literary criticism. Its purpose is not to promote a universal definition of irony, whether traditional or revisionist, but to examine how such definitions were created in critical history and what their use and invocation imply.
Joseph A. Dane argues that the diverse, supposed forms of irony--Socratic, rhetorical, romantic, dramatic, to name a few--are not so much literary elements embedded in texts, awaiting discovery by critics, as they are notions used by critics of different eras and persuasions to manipulate those texts in various, often self-serving ways. The history of irony, Dane suggests, runs parallel to the history of criticism, and the changing definitions of irony reflect the changing ways in which readers and critics have defined their own roles in relation to literature.
Probing and provocative, The Critical Mythology of Irony will appeal to a broad spectrum of critics and scholars, particularly those concerned with the historical basis of critical language and its political and educational implications.