Irony I. Was (1) Marx & Justice (2)lefter-than-thou-ness

Chuck Grimes cgrimes at
Sun Mar 14 17:20:52 PST 1999

digloria[kelley] wrote:

> yeah but catherine y'all get the kewler status of having dossiers
> kept on you about your activities trying to smuggle irony across the
> borders when you visit the states.

I must confess that despite many years study of Irony I have never quite been able to understand it, at least to my own satisfaction, and I was never able to define it so my students could fully understand it. Perhaps some of the participants in this discussion (which began I believe with Marx on justice)can fill in the gaps in my understanding and correct my errors.

Carrol ---------------

The reference from Kelley to Catherine is an inside joke from another list. Several members on that list responded to tongue-in-cheek posts as if these were serious discussions. Another member took these posters to task over their irony-deficiencies and concluded that irony itself as a commodity was not allowed to enter US markets. It was theorized that a universal import ban had been imposed by the erstwhile Treasury Department, and further that State had issued advisories warning US citizens of dangerous encounters in their travels abroad.

But Carrol, I agree and disagree with this:

"And this is why irony (except for the kind of strictly friendly irony illustrated by Booth) is a deadly sin in political discourse, except among admitted political elites. I use "elite" positively here -- for example it applies to all those who claim to understand *Capital* or to have read the *Grundrisse*. Members of that elite clearly must talk to each other -- but they must also clearly prepare to speak to others who are not and never will be readers of the *Grundrisse*. And irony is usually fatal to the latter task, for the reason given in the Thesis III."

In a bourgeois society absolutely dominated by conceptual and spiritual materialisms of such vast comprehension, where else do the intelligencia retreat to lick their wounds but in the realms of meta-irony? Yet, at this point in history that retreat has fallen from from its romantic heights, descending like a soul into hell, to end in the vacuous circle of what is merely camp, and thereby degraded in sensibility to become a foolish game under the misleading title of postmodernism. But the true irony is that of history wherein, a new generation who no longer share familiar ground with that tradition, arrive fresh to confront that same turn of a tradition against itself, and take on these convolutions for the height of a political critique. This is what Paz, in Children of the Mire called, the closing of the circle or the twilight of the avant garde. It can be and often is dismissed or trivialized as exhaustion.

Can you retrace these endless circles for others? My answer is yes. It is through the arts where a lack of self-knowledge or nativity can co-exist with ironic detachment which doesn't become cruel or destructive, but instead, performs a kind of miracle of growth in sensibility and political awareness at the same time. I wish I could have thought of this during the thread on art and revolution, because in a sense the development and articulation of that sort of awareness is the revolutionary potential of the arts.

In any event, it was a good post. Stumble through some more on irony. Those movements in and out of an apparently dissembling collage are fascinating.

Chuck Grimes

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