Re: Pats in the tank--waiting for next year.
posted at 9/12/2010 7:41 PM EDT
Some of my freshman students who are less mature writers make the same mistake--they mistake an intention for a trope. They'll say something crude or fatuous, and then retroactively defend it by saying "Oh, I was being ironic."
Figuration requires non-literal use of languge (please see Holman & Harmon); that is, a speaker or writer must signify in some way that their language use is not literal.
1.) None of my freshman students say anything crude. And if they did I would remove them from the classroom whether what they said was ironic or not.
2.) Your conclusion is a non-sequitur if you expect it to follow from this rather trim quote. What you extracted above is tautological, but nothing more. Stating that figuration requires being non-literal is tantamount to saying that in order for language to be abstract it must not be concrete. It isn’t incorrect, but it has zero bearing on the conversation. That is to say, in no way does it imply that a writer or speaker needs to signal that they are using non-literal language. I don’t understand how you think one leads to the other naturally. Also, even if it did state that a writer needs to use it, I would challenge it with any number of examples where something is received ironically even though there is no signal that non-literal language is being used. For instance, if I write that pigeons are flying rats on the side of a building, my language is no less metaphorical (figurative) because I failed to announce the fact that it is figurative. In an English speaking area, the sheer understanding that pigeons are pigeons and that there is no such thing as a flying rat is more than sufficient to generate friction between the two concepts.
You gave an example that was not textual, but a speech event--in that case the real time utterance is figurative. Do you see how that is not comparable to a text, which does not occur in a real life context?
3.) II understand how a speech act is not comparable to a text by virtue of the fact that it is in real time, but they are comparable in the sense that they emerge from a rhetorical situation. This rhetorical situation establishes the expectation of what is literal or figurative. In this rather obvious instance, the very fact that the writer stated that the Colts would win all of their games this season only minutes after the Colts suffered their first defeat establishes his language as non-literal. He does not need to establish his own rhetorical back-drop for his statement to be ironic, the backdrop are the recent events and shared interests that have drawn us to this board. As far as crude gestures, if a student pins a “wide-load” sign to the back of another student who is incredibly thin, it is still crude and fatuous, but it is (in fact) ironic. Moreover, it is ironic without any signal that the sign is non-literal. The disagreement between “A” (a skinny student) and “not A” the sign that identifies them as overweight provides a clear contextual environment that flags the textual language as ironic. Stating that this poster is stupid is akin to someone stating that the person who pinned the sign on the girl was dumb because they though a skinny girl was overweight. Such a person is either not paying attention to the rhetorical situation (in one case a cultural where there are reasonably homogeneous parameters for what is fat and what is thin, or in the case of the forum reasonable expectations that everyone notices the timing of posts, and everyone follows the scores of the games mentioned. If this post were a week old, it would not be so obviously ironic because neither team had any record at that point. In that case, I would not have even commented. l could cite Kenneth Burke, Aristotle, Abrahams and Harpman or a few others to support this. Examples of textual (specifically literary) irony that support this are abound. Consider how many literary texts rely on forms of dramatic irony where no language is set forth that is even figurative to express the difference between the agent and scene (or any other figures) and yet considerable ironic tension is developed by the simple difference between what the reader understands and what the character understands about the situation. Furthermore, the difference between literature and speech acts is absolutely negligible in the sense that both respond to an external context in which expectations are established and the parameters for what is figurative (fictive and metaphorical) and literal (factual or mimetic). For instance, there would be nothing ironic about this post on a forum in Dubai where people discuss the Koran. It would be nonsense because it does not refer to anything in the rhetorical situation. Here, as you can see from the other respondents, it is an ironic send-up of the posters who thought certain losses on the roster would prove insurmountable.
Writing something on a Pat's board that is indistinguishable from any other deeply stupid thing regularly posted may be stupid, or it may be bad writing, but it can't be ironic in a literary sense.
And It isn’t ironic in the literary sense, it is ironic in the rhetorical sense which is much broader and can include gestures, artwork, flavor combinations, speeches, melodies, etcetera. These fora are not literature. They are a form of media. Even if they were literature I simply cannot accept your definition. I mean, according to that, Swift's Modest Proposal (another text that elides the difference between literature, media and speech acts) is not ironic because it is merely intended as ironic and isn't specifically announced as a the trope it is.