In the first chapter to her book Irony, Claire Colebrook writes, “We live in a world of quotation, pastiche, simulation, and cynicism: a general and all-encompassing irony. Irony, then, by the very simplicity of its definition [of saying something contrary to what is meant] becomes curiously indefinable.” This year’s conference proceeds from the assumption that it is irony’s very indeterminability that makes a central consideration in every act of interpretation. Because of this, acts of interpretation necessarily reflect the anxiety burrowed between understanding and misunderstanding, and meaning remains unsettled. The power of irony is that it skirts meaning, says what it does not mean, and means what it cannot exactly say. As a result, irony remains an illusive and adumbrated literary trope that requires an uneasy acknowledgement that “something” is going on that does not have clear definitions, limits, or guidelines.
We invite papers from all disciplines that focus on works from any period that explore the way irony functions as a trope in art, literature, film, or society. Some questions we seek to address include, but are in no way limited to:
-How does irony as rhetoric, trope, technique, and hermeneutic serve as the mirror-image of a world out of joint?
-Does irony as a self-reflective literary mode necessarily place all subjectivity, autonomy, and self into question?
-What role do ironic characters play in literature, film, or art?
-How does irony explore the representational limits of language?
-How does the definition of irony change throughout history or between cultures?
-Does irony as a technique that constantly reminds us of our linguistic contingency serve as a form of ideological critique, and post-universalist, post-metphysical aesthetics?
-How does the dialectical movement of irony question the ontological status of literature and the arts?
-What role does irony play in the much overlooked humor of the modernist period?
-What is the relationship between irony and other literary techniques, including but not limited to humor?
Please submit a 300 word abstract for a 15-20 minute paper by November 1st, 2010 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Proposals should include the title of the paper, presenter’s name, institutional and departmental affiliation, and any technology requests. We also welcome panel proposals of three to four papers.
This conference is co-sponsored by the Writers’ Institute at the City University of New York Graduate Center, an un-MFA program devoted to bringing together the country’s most talented writers and today’s most celebrated editors, and by the Center for the Humanities, an interdisciplinary public forum devoted to promoting the humanities programs both for CUNY students and for all New Yorkers.
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