Traces a tradition of ironic and irreverent environmentalism, asking us to rethink the movement’s reputation for gloom and doom
Activists today strive to educate the public about climate change, but sociologists have found that the more we know about alarming issues, the less likely we are to act. Meanwhile, environmentalists have acquired a reputation as gloom-and-doom killjoys. Bad Environmentalism identifies contemporary texts that respond to these absurdities and ironies through absurdity and irony—as well as camp, frivolity, irreverence, perversity, and playfulness.
Nicole Seymour develops the concept of “bad environmentalism”: cultural thought that employs dissident affects and sensibilities to reflect critically on our current moment and on mainstream environmental activism. From the television show Wildboyz to the short film series Green Porno, Seymour shows that this tradition of thought is widespread—spanning animation, documentary, fiction film, performance art, poetry, prose fiction, social media, and stand-up comedy since at least 1975. Seymour argues that these texts reject self-righteousness and sentimentality, undercutting public negativity toward activism and questioning basic environmentalist assumptions: that love and reverence are required for ethical relationships with the nonhuman and that knowledge is key to addressing problems like climate change.
Funny and original, Bad Environmentalism champions the practice of alternative green politics. From drag performance to Indigenous comedy, Seymour expands our understanding of how environmental art and activism can be pleasurable, even in a time of undeniable crisis.
A Case for Irony
Jonathan Lear Harvard University Press, 2011 Library of Congress BH301.I7L43 2011 | Dewey Decimal 128
Vanity Fair has declared the Age of Irony over. Joan Didion has lamented that Obama’s United States is an “irony-free zone." Here Jonathan Lear argues that irony is one of the tools we use to live seriously, to get the hang of becoming human. It forces us to experience disruptions in our habitual ways of tuning out of life, but comes with a cost.
Chic Ironic Bitterness
R. Jay Magill, Jr. University of Michigan Press, 2007 Library of Congress E169.12.M15 2007 | Dewey Decimal 973
A brilliant and timely reflection on irony in contemporary American culture
“This book is a powerful and persuasive defense of sophisticated irony and subtle humor that contributes to the possibility of a genuine civic trust and democratic life. R. Jay Magill deserves our congratulations for a superb job!”
—Cornel West, University Professor, Princeton University
“A well-written, well-argued assessment of the importance of irony in contemporary American social life, along with the nature of recent misguided attacks and, happily, a deep conviction that irony is too important in our lives to succumb. The book reflects wide reading, varied experience, and real analytical prowess.”
—Peter Stearns, Provost, George Mason University
“Somehow, Americans—a pragmatic and colloquial lot, for the most part—are now supposed to speak the Word, without ironic embellishment, in order to rebuild the civic culture. So irony’s critics decide it has become ‘worthy of moral condemnation.’ Magill pushes back against this new conventional wisdom, eloquently defending a much livelier American sensibility than the many apologists for a somber ‘civic culture’ could ever acknowledge."
—William Chaloupka, Chair and Professor, Department of Political Science, Colorado State University
The events of 9/11 had many pundits on the left and right scrambling to declare an end to the Age of Irony. But six years on, we're as ironic as ever. From The Simpsons and Borat to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, the ironic worldview measures out a certain cosmopolitan distance, keeping hypocrisy and threats to personal integrity at bay.
Chic Ironic Bitterness is a defense of this detachment, an attitude that helps us preserve values such as authenticity, sincerity, and seriousness that might otherwise be lost in a world filled with spin, marketing, and jargon. And it is an effective counterweight to the prevailing conservative view that irony is the first step toward cynicism and the breakdown of Western culture.
R. Jay Magill, Jr., is a writer and illustrator whose work has appeared in American Prospect, American Interest, Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Policy, International Herald Tribune, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Print, amongother periodicals and books. A former Harvard Teaching Fellow and Executive Editor of DoubleTake, he holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Hamburg in Germany. This is his first book.
The Chinese Postmodern is a pioneering study of today's Chinese experimental fiction, exploring the works of such major writers as Can Xue, Ge Fei, Ma Yuan, Mo Yan, Xu Xiaohe, and Yu Hua from the perspective of cultural and literary postmodernity. Focusing on the interplay between historical psychology and representational mode, and between political discourse and literary rhetoric, it examines the problem of Chinese postmodernity against the background of the cultural-political reality of twentieth-century China.
The book seeks to redefine Chinese modernity and postmodernity through the analyses of both orthodox and avant-garde works. In doing so, the author draws on a number of theories, psychoanalysis and deconstruction in particular, revealing the hidden connection between the deconstructive mode of writing and the experience of history after trauma and showing how avant-garde literature brings about a varied literary paradigm that defies the dominant, subject-centered one in twentieth-century China.
The distinctiveness of The Chinese Postmodern is also found in its portrayal of the changes of literary paradigms in modern Chinese literature. By way of characterizing avant-garde fiction, it provides an overview of twentieth-century Chinese literature and offers a theorization of the intellectual history of modern China. Other issues concerning literary theory are explored, including the relationships between postmodernity and totalitarian discourse, between historical trauma and literary writing, and between psychic trauma and rhetorical irony. This book will appeal to readers in the fields of Chinese literature and culture, modern Chinese history, literary theory, and comparative literature.
Xiaobin Yang is Croft Assistant Professor, University of Mississippi.
Lee Konstantinou Harvard University Press, 2016 Library of Congress BH301.I7K66 2016 | Dewey Decimal 813.540918
Lee Konstantinou examines irony in American literary and political life, showing how it migrated from the countercultural margins of the 1950s to the 1980s mainstream. Along the way, irony was absorbed into postmodern theory and ultimately become a target of recent writers who have moved beyond its limitations with a practice of “postirony.”
Among the brilliant writers and thinkers who emerged from the multicultural and multilingual world of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were Joseph Roth, Robert Musil, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. For them, the trauma of World War I included the sudden loss of the geographical entity into which they had been born: in 1918, the empire was dissolved overnight, leaving Austria a small, fragile republic that would last only twenty years before being annexed by Hitler’s Third Reich. In this major reconsideration of European modernism, Marjorie Perloff identifies and explores the aesthetic world that emerged from the rubble of Vienna and other former Habsburg territories—an “Austro-Modernism” that produced a major body of drama, fiction, poetry, and autobiography.
Perloff explores works ranging from Karl Kraus’s drama The Last Days of Mankind and Elias Canetti’s memoir The Tongue Set Free to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s notebooks and Paul Celan’s lyric poetry. Throughout, she shows that Austro-Modernist literature is characterized less by the formal and technical inventions of a modernism familiar to us in the work of Joyce and Pound, Dada and Futurism, than by a radical irony beneath a seemingly conventional surface, an acute sense of exile, and a sensibility more erotic and quixotic than that of its German contemporaries. Skeptical and disillusioned, Austro-Modernism prefers to ask questions rather than formulate answers.
Dutch cinema, when discussed, is typically treated only in terms of pre-war films or documentaries, leaving post-war fictional film largely understudied. At the same time, a "Hollandse school," a term first coined in the 1980s, has developed through deadpan, ironic films like those of director and actor Alex van Warmerdam. Using seminal theories on humour and comedy, this book explores a number of Dutch films using the notion of categories, such as low-class comedies, neurotic romances, deliberate camp, and grotesque satire. With its original approach, this study makes surprising connections between Dutch films from various decades.
Irony today extends beyond its classification as a figure of speech and is increasingly recognized as one of the major modes of human experience. This idea of irony as an integral force in social life is at the center of this provocative book. The result of a meeting where anthropologists were invited to explore the politics of irony and the moral responsibilities that accompany its recognition, this book is one of the first to lend an anthropological perspective to this contemporary phenomenon.
The first group of essays explores the limits to irony's liberating qualities from the constrained use of irony in congressional hearings to its reactive presence amid widening disparities of wealth despite decades of world development. The second section presents irony's more positive dimensions through an array of examples such as the use of irony by Chinese writers and Irish humorists. Framed by the editors' theoretical introduction to the issues posed by irony and responses to the essays by two literary scholars, Irony in Action is a timely contribution in the contemporary reinvention of anthropology.
“[Niebuhr] is one of my favorite philosophers. I take away [from his works] the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away . . . the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard.”—President Barack Obama
Forged during the tumultuous but triumphant postwar years when America came of age as a world power, The Irony of American History is more relevant now than ever before. Cited by politicians as diverse as Hillary Clinton and John McCain, Niebuhr’s masterpiece on the incongruity between personal ideals and political reality is both an indictment of American moral complacency and a warning against the arrogance of virtue. Impassioned, eloquent, and deeply perceptive, Niebuhr’s wisdom will cause readers to rethink their assumptions about right and wrong, war and peace.
“The supreme American theologian of the twentieth century.”—Arthur Schlesinger Jr., New York Times
“Niebuhr is important for the left today precisely because he warned about America’s tendency—including the left’s tendency—to do bad things in the name of idealism. His thought offers a much better understanding of where the Bush administration went wrong in Iraq.”—Kevin Mattson, The Good Society
“Irony provides the master key to understanding the myths and delusions that underpin American statecraft. . . . The most important book ever written on US foreign policy.”—Andrew J. Bacevich, from the Introduction
The Irony of the Solid South examines how the south became the “Solid South” for the Democratic Party and how that solidarity began to crack with the advent of American involvement in World War II.
Relying on a sophisticated analysis of secondary research—as well as a wealth of deep research in primary sources such as letters, diaries, interviews, court cases, newspapers, and other archival materials—Glenn Feldman argues in The Irony of the Solid South that the history of the solid Democratic south is actually marked by several ironies that involve a concern with the fundamental nature of southern society and culture and the central place that race and allied types of cultural conservatism have played in ensuring regional distinctiveness and continuity across time and various partisan labels. Along the way, this account has much to say about the quality and nature of the New Deal in Dixie, southern liberalism, and its fatal shortcomings.
Feldman focuses primarily on Alabama and race but also considers at length circumstances in the other southern states as well as insights into the uses of emotional issues other than race that have been used time and again to distract whites from their economic and material interests. Feldman explains how conservative political forces (Bourbon Democrats, Dixiecrats, Wallace, independents, and eventually the modern GOP) ingeniously fused white supremacy with economic conservatism based on the common glue of animus to the federal government. A second great melding is exposed, one that joined economic fundamentalism to the religious kind along the shared axis of antidemocratic impulses.
Feldman’s study has much to say about southern and American conservatism, the enduring power of cultural and emotional issues, and the modern south’s path to becoming solidly Republican.
Published with a new preface, this innovative case study from Nova Scotia analyzes the relationship between rural communities and contemporary education. Rather than supporting place-sensitive curricula and establishing networks within community populations, the rural school has too often stood apart from local life, with the generally unintended consequence that many educationally successful rural youth come to see their communities and lifestyles as places to be left behind. They face what Michael Corbett calls a mobility imperative, which, he shows, has been central to contemporary schooling. Learning to Leave argues that if education is to be democratic and serve the purpose of economic, social, and cultural development, then it must adapt and respond to the specificity of its locale, the knowledge practices of the people, and the needs of those who struggle to remain in challenged rural places.
Most scholars and pundits today view Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy as aggressive liberal leaders, while viewing Schlesinger’s famous histories of their presidencies as celebrations of their steadfast progressive leadership. A more careful reading of Schlesinger’s work demonstrates that he preferred an ironic political outlook emphasizing the virtues of restraint, patience, and discipline. For Schlesinger, Roosevelt and Kennedy were liberal heroes and models as much because they respected the constraints on their power and ideals as because they tested traditional institutions and redefined the boundaries of presidential power.
Aggressive liberalism involves the use of inspirational rhetoric and cunning political tactics to expand civil liberties and insure economic equality. Schlesinger’s emphasis on the crucial role that irony has played and should play in liberalism poses a challenge to the aggressive liberalism advocated by liberal activists, political thinkers, and pundits. That his counsel was grounded in conservative insights as well as liberal values makes it accessible to leaders across the political spectrum.
Martin E. Marty argues that religion in twentieth-century America was essentially shaped by its encounter with modernity. In this first volume, he records and explores the diverse ways in which American religion embraced, rejected, or cautiously accepted the modern world.
"Marty writes with the highest standards of scholarship and with his customary stylistic grace. No series of books is likely to tell us as much about the religious condition of our own time as "Modern American Religion."—Robert L. Spaeth, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"The wealth of material and depth of insight are beyond reproach. This book will clearly stand as an important meteorological guide to the storm front of modernity as it swept Americans into the twentieth century."—Belden C. Lane, Review of Religions
"Whatever one thinks about Marty's theological or philosophical position as a historian, the charm of his friendly circumspective approach to American religious history is irresistible."—John E. Wilson, Theological Studies
"Marty attempts to impose historical order on the divergent ways a century of Americans have themselves tried to find order in their worlds. . . . [He] meets the challenge deftly. . . . It is a book relevant to our time. . . . Engages the heart and mind jointly."—Andy Solomon, Houston Post
Davíd Carrasco draws from the perspectives of the history of religions, anthropology, and urban ecology to explore the nature of the complex symbolic form of Quetzalcoatl in the organization, legitimation, and subversion of a large segment of the Mexican urban tradition. His new Preface addresses this tradition in the light of the Columbian quincentennial.
"This book, rich in ideas, constituting a novel approach . . . represents a stimulating and provocative contribution to Mesoamerican studies. . . . Recommended to all serious students of the New World's most advanced indigenous civilization."—H. B. Nicholson, Man
"Like J. Eric Thompson, Carrasco has applied an informed imagination to identify some of the ways that ideas could lie behind material form."
- American Anthropologist
"A must for both professional and serious non-professional students in Mesoamerica. Those who are interested in complex society and urbanism in general, as well as students of comparative religion, will find it stimulating. Most importantly, for anyone interested in the history of ideas, the book illuminates the tremendously powerful impact and role of a complex deity/mythico-historical figure in shaping one of the world's great pristine civilizations."
- Queen's Quarterly
A Rhetoric of Irony
Wayne C. Booth University of Chicago Press, 1975 Library of Congress PN56.I65B66 | Dewey Decimal 809.9338
Perhaps no other critical label has been made to cover more ground than "irony," and in our time irony has come to have so many meanings that by itself it means almost nothing. In this work, Wayne C. Booth cuts through the resulting confusions by analyzing how we manage to share quite specific ironies—and why we often fail when we try to do so. How does a reader or listener recognize the kind of statement which requires him to reject its "clear" and "obvious" meaning? And how does any reader know where to stop, once he has embarked on the hazardous and exhilarating path of rejecting "what the words say" and reconstructing "what the author means"?
In the first and longer part of his work, Booth deals with the workings of what he calls "stable irony," irony with a clear rhetorical intent. He then turns to intended instabilities—ironies that resist interpretation and finally lead to the "infinite absolute negativities" that have obsessed criticism since the Romantic period.
Professor Booth is always ironically aware that no one can fathom the unfathomable. But by looking closely at unstable ironists like Samuel Becket, he shows that at least some of our commonplaces about meaninglessness require revision. Finally, he explores—with the help of Plato—the wry paradoxes that threaten any uncompromising assertion that all assertion can be undermined by the spirit of irony.
Truth and Irony
Terence J. Martin Catholic University of America Press, 2016 Library of Congress B785.E64M333 2015 | Dewey Decimal 199.492
Tapping into selected works of Erasmus of Rotterdam, this book offers a series of philosophical meditations designed to retrieve and deploy a distinctively Erasmian manner of thinking - one that is capacious in its perception, agile in its judgments, and unsettling in its irony. In purpose, it takes a philosophical route, addressing perennial questions of self-knowledge - what we can know and how best to communicate what we take to be true, what we ought to do or how we should live, and what we might hope for or what would offer us fulfilment. In method, however, this work taps into the various strategies of irony at play in the works of Erasmus, looking for guidance in handling these age-old questions. What readers will find in Erasmus is a knack for playfully reversing appearances and realities, a penchant for pushing disturbing questions relentlessly to the limit, and a skill for juxtaposing oddly matched opposites. Again and again, Erasmus presses readers to rethink these fundamental questions with dexterity and nuance, ever ready to appreciate the surprising and unsettling upshot of ironic insight.