On Irony

What is irony? Is it good? Bad? Does it matter? Why do we engage in irony? What does it say, if anything, about a culture? These are just some of the questions we will be addressing. Below you will find an essay, some articles, and a song (I'm sure you know which one) that will hopefully guide our conversation.

The decision to choose this topic is rooted in an essay written by David Foster Wallace in 1993 entitled "E Unibus Pluram", in which he argued that irony is ruining our culture. You can read the whole thing here: http://goo.gl/vWbqk5. It's massive so if you if you don't have time, take in the quote provided at the end of this description. The following three articles from Salon.com (no relation to Oslo Salon) build off of Wallace's essay and are a hell of a lot easier to read. 

What David Foster Wallace got wrong about irony: Our culture doesn’t have nearly enough of it: http://goo.gl/2yXNdW

David Foster Wallace was right: Irony is ruining our culture: http://goo.gl/xhwbJm

What everybody gets wrong about Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic”: http://goo.gl/rQf7Xj


Quote from E Unibus Pluram: “All U.S. irony is based on an implicit "I don't really mean what I say." So what does irony as a cultural norm mean to say? That it's impossible to mean what you say? That maybe it's too bad it's impossible, but wake up and smell the coffee already? Most likely, I think, today's irony ends up saying: "How very banal to ask what I mean." Anyone with the heretical gall to ask an ironist what he actually stands for ends up looking like a hysteric or a prig. And herein lies the oppressiveness of institutionalized irony, the too-successful rebel: the ability to interdict the question without attending to its content is tyranny. It is the new junta, using the very tool that exposed its enemy to insulate itself...This is why our educated teleholic friends' use of weary cynicism to try to seem superior to TV is so pathetic.”

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