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Table of contents Introduction 3 Mission 4 Method 4 Theory 5

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The Postironical

Table of contents

Introduction 3

Mission 4

Method 4

Theory 5

What is irony? 5

Recognizing irony 8

Purpose of irony 9

Irony in visual arts   10

Basis of movement 11

Postmodern thinking 13

Characteristics of the Postironical literature 17

Revolt against the System 19

Understanding the Postironical 20

Theory conclusion 22

Analysis 23

Epidemic’s narrative structure 25

Motivation and narration 26

Ironic distance 28

Rules and commitment 29

Epidemic’s stylistic structure 31

Metafiction 32

A Postmodern film 33

The ending scene 34

The ironic interpretation 36

Conclusion of Epidemic 38

Breaking the Waves 40

Narrative structure 40

A melodramatic story 41

Stylistic structure and display of similarities 43

A self-conscious double strategy 45

The last scene 46

Key findings 47

Comparison 48

Perspective of Andersen’s theory 49

Conclusion 52


We see it when we turn on the TV, when we look at advertising billboards, we use it in conversation and we experience it almost every day; I am talking about irony. The reason I have chosen this particular subject is due to the seemingly increased practice of irony that subsists within Western culture. It is something we use on a daily basis for more or less comedic effect. It is an interesting device we use when we communicate with each other because at its design, we are saying or doing something, which is the exact opposite of what we mean and as such this would seemingly hinder the message. In order to avoid this, irony has to be used as a community of language and mutual understanding. However, this aspect has made me speculate the significance of irony – and to what purpose it serves. Literature of the 1960s and 70s used irony as a critical tool against the establishment, but recent postmodern literature of the 90s shows how irony has become less than that. This is argued by the American author David Foster Wallace, who furthermore states that postmodern irony of the sixties functioned as a healthy reaction against the System and a way of unmasking the conservative establishment. However, during the eighties and nineties the System changed, which also affected irony as a counter-cultural language. This meant that mainstream culture took over irony and has now become a norm in itself – thus rendering irony without critical value. Within this, the focus on irony becomes apparent and therefore also an important subject of this thesis. Moreover, this reckoning with irony has also inspired a whole new movement within contemporary culture called The Postironical, which has been coined by Danish university professor Tore Rye Andersen, who sees that several tendencies in American literature point toward a common name. However, Andersen also argues that describing The Postironical as a genuine avant-garde would be premature and only time will tell the outcome. As such this thesis is not an attempt to establish Andersen’s theory a new movement, but rather an employment of its practice. On the basis of this, the most interesting aspect of the Postironical is Andersen’s statement concerning Danish film director Lars von Trier, who he notes to demonstrate characteristics of the theory discussed.


At its point of departure, this thesis seeks to examine the concept of irony as a preliminary tool in order to analyze Andersen’s notion of the Postironical. The main focus of the analysis will examine the Danish film director Lars von Trier, who Andersen claims to exhibit strong Postironical traits. In order to do so I will to look at two of Trier’s film Epidemic and Breaking the Waves, which both contain ironic aspects.


In order to examine to the theory of the Postironical, I will apply Danish University professor Tore Rye Andersen’s argument on this subject in his essay Down With The Rebels! – David Foster Wallace and Postironical Literature (2005), where he theorizes on irony within literature as well as in film. The first part of the thesis will examine the concept and definition of irony, which will function as a basis to analyze the subject at hand. As mentioned above this thesis concentrates on the Postironical and as such I find it relevant to examine the concept which dominates the argued movement namely irony. In order to do so, I will look at Paul De Man’s theory on irony in Aesthetic Ideology (1996), in which he attempts to give a definition hereof. Furthermore, I will incorporate the theory of Wayne Booth in A Rhetoric of Irony (1974) will be taken into account due to his practical criticism of the concept. the Canadian university professor Linda Hutcheon’s Irony’s Edge – The theory and politics of irony (1994), will also be considered, given that she theorizes on the practical use of irony in everyday language and in particular the reason as to why we use it. In the theory section I will also include an inspection of Modernism as well as Postmodernism, noted by university professor Michael Rasmussen, which are the movements leading up to the notion of the Postironical. As the theory of the Postironical is mainly based on literature, I also find it necessary to include Lars Elleström who in Divine Madness (2002) theorizes on irony in visual arts, as my analysis concentrates on film. The analysis will then focus on the two films mentioned above, which will be done through a comparative Neoformalistic analysis on the basis of Analyse af billedmedier (2006) by Gitte Rose and H.C. Christiansen. The analysis will also include Torben Grodal’s Filmoplevelse (2003) who is a professor in film science and theorizes on viewer-perception in film. Along with this, the characteristics of Andersen’s theory on the Postironical will be taking into account in order to establish or deny Lars von Trier as en Postironist. Lastly, I will draw a perspective of Andersen’s theory where his statements concerning the Postironical will be discussed with reference to Hutcheon and university professor Claire Colebrook who in Irony (2004) explores a critique of Postmodern irony.
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