Ever since Alanis Morissette released her song "Ironic," people have started buzzing about the true
Irony confuses, and like the two p's and satire, which will be addressed momentarily, it depends somewhat on the intention of the writer or speaker.
Irony requires an opposing meaning between what's said and what's intended. Stop. Think about that for a long moment. Even the definition is somewhat head scratching, so if you often find yourself confused by irony, you're in excellent company. One of the confounding factors of irony isn't just that its definition is a bit, well, complex, but also the sheer number of possibilities for correct usage. It's bad enough that irony is hard to grasp, but now add to that fact that there are, in fact, a multitude of definitions for different forms of irony, including verbal, dramatic, and cosmic. The sheer plethora of ways ironic can be used meaningfully suggests that is something of a "catch all" for a situation that seems odd, upsetting or amusing. Enter Ms. Morissette...
1. VERBAL IRONY: when a speaker or writer is intentionally using words that literally convey the opposite of their true beliefs, generally for comic emphasis (sarcasm). In fact, there is a strong overlap between sarcasm and comic irony. Example: Saying "Oh, that's just fantastic," when the situation is really poor. OR Dimmesdale's sermons about how sinful he is, and how he deserves disgust resulting in the congregation loving him and following him even more.
2. SITUATIONAL IRONY: A sharp divergence between expectations or perceptions and reality. Expectations, of course, often differ from results, but to rise to the state of irony, the gulf between them should be vast and the contrast sharp. See the wedding example above with Ms. Morissette's song breakdown.
3. DRAMATIC IRONY: Perhaps the easiest to understand as its use is so specialized. The device in which the reader or audience is tipped off to a crucial fact still unknown to one or more of the characters. Example: The audience and friar know that Juliet isn't really dead, but Romeo doesn't.
5. HISTORICAL IRONY: Some things become ironic with time. If the passage of years creates an amusing juxtaposition between a historical event or claim and what has happened since to contradict it. Example: Isn't it ironic that the inventor of the machine gun thought his new weapon would end war?" Answer: YES! It is, in fact, historically ironic. :)
6. SOCRATIC IRONY: The pretense of ignorance used to draw an opponent into slipping up or revealing flaws in their argument. Example: She used socratic questioning in order to poke holes in his emphatic argument.
How's that for confusing? If that isn't enough, irony is only one way to bring in humor or thought-provoking elements in literature. There are also parody, pastiche and satire....Buckle up, here we go!
PARODY: An imitative work created to mock, comment on or trivialize an original work, its subject author, style or some other target, by means of imitation. Example: The movie "Airplane" is a parody of 1970's disaster movies. AND Most everything created by Weird Al Yankovic.
PASTICHE: A work of visual art, literature, or music that imitates the style or character of the work of one or more other artists. Unlike parody, the intention of pastiche is to celebrate rather than mock. Example: Many modern artists seek to produce works of impressionism in homage to Renoir and Monet, who are very much beloved.
SATIRE: A genre of literature and art in which the vices, follies, abuses and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations or society, itself, into improvement. Although funny, its intention is to shame or offer constructive social criticism. Examples: The Daily Show, most political cartoons
Just for fun, the definition of cynicism, or cynical, is an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest. It is a form of skepticism that often leads to the production of satire.
There you have it! Here's to understanding the various ways authors, speakers, poets and artists humor us, pay homage to us, and humiliate us in all sorts of creative and confounding ways!
1. Did you find any examples of true irony in the Morissette song? Give me an example of irony in something you have heard or read. What type of irony is it? Why?
2. What are each of the funny little videos an example of and why?
3. Which of the previous definitions confused you the most? What literary device do you find most confusing?
Alanis Morissette: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jne9t8sHpUc
Tim Hawkins Video #1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5R8gSgedh4
Tim Hawkins Video #2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO2eh6f5Go0