Irony and the ironic in classical literature

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Irony and the Ironic in Classical Literature

A conference at the University of Exeter, 1st-4th September 2009

Call for Papers

What precisely do we mean when we talk about 'irony'?

The term 'irony' is often bandied about – as a glance at the Index of any commentary or literary-critical monograph will attest. Both 'irony' and the adjective 'ironic' are frequently (perhaps too frequently?) used as catch-all terms to describe a variety of effects within literary works, including unusual shifts of tone, slippage between overt and implied meanings, transparently deceptive or disingenuous narrative strategies and other self-conscious collusions with an implied reader or audience. But what sort of a phenomenon are we actually dealing with? Is irony (as many have thought) by its very nature too subtle, subjective or elusive a concept to be theorized? And what are its broader implications, once it has been identified? These questions stimulate cross-cultural analysis, as irony may be understood differently in ancient and modern cultures. Although ironical effects, such as those outlined above, are found in abundance in ancient Greek and Roman literature, they were not theorized as such in antiquity. Instead, eirōneia and related words were used to denote a more specific and limited mode of behaviour than we associate with irony in modern thought. Indeed, given that it has been thought that an 'ironical' outlook is a peculiarly modern concept, is our application of this outlook to ancient texts fundamentally anachronistic? What is the value of the concepts of irony and the ironic from the historicist perspective?

This conference is designed to open up the debate about this challenging concept, and to stimulate discussion from a diversity of perspectives. It is anticipated that proceedings of the conference will be published in book form. We invite papers dealing with irony in Greek and Latin literature, and we welcome also theoretical and comparative approaches to the concepts of irony and the ironic. Topics for consideration may include:

  • frameworks for understanding 'the ironic', especially ancient conceptualizations of 'the ironic'
  • patterns of irony and the ironic
  • irony and other strategies of collusion (e.g. parody, allusion, innuendo)
  • the dynamics of irony – how is it effected?
  • irony and intentionality – embedded or imported meanings?
  • irony and the reader/reading-cultures in antiquity
  • irony as a political, rhetorical or pedagogical strategy
  • the politics of irony: exclusivity and esotericism - who's 'in', who's 'out'?

Please send abstracts of ca. 300 words to one of the conference-organisers (below) by 28th February.
Matthew Wright ( Cette adresse email est protégée contre les robots des spammeurs, vous devez activer Javascript pour la voir. )
Karen Ní Mheallaigh ( Cette adresse email est protégée contre les robots des spammeurs, vous devez activer Javascript pour la voir. )

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