Saturday 17 October 2020

What Is "Romantic Irony"?

Schlegel coined the term

These days, the concept of "romantic irony" is particularly difficult to grasp for a number of reasons.  In the first place, the phrase was coined by Friedrich Schlegel, the German romanticist, who was vague and aphoristic in defining the concept.

The Meaning of "romantic"

Additionally, what Schlegel meant by "romantic" is a subject of debate.  According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

What Schlegel meant by the term “romantic” and its apparent cognate "Roman" (usually translated as “novel,” but having among the Romantics a much wider sense) has long been disputed. [ . . .], Schlegel saw the historical origins of “the romantic” in the wide mixture of forms and genres that characterized medieval literature and took it as the point of departure for a genre-transcending notion that allows even Shakespeare's plays or Dante's Commedia to be Romane.

Romantic Irony

From a present-day perspective, "romantic irony" seems a contradiction in terms. We think of romance as implying passion, emotion and intimacy.  (See Understanding Romanticism.)  Irony, in direct contradiction, is aloof, intellectual and distant. The easiest way to get a handle on "romantic irony" is to simply think of it as the concept of irony as it emerged during the Romantic period of literary history in the late 18th and early 19th century.  "Romantic irony," like all other forms of irony, is "the interruption or disruption of an established or expected discourse."  (See What is Irony?) 

The English example of romantic irony

The typical way that romantic irony interrupts a discourse is that the author signals to the reader of  a literary text that "oh, by the way, what you are reading is a fiction."  Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy is typically cited as an example of romantic irony.  These days this feature would typically be described as postmodern, which adds to the confusion about what romantic irony is.


Romantic irony and postmodernism

In fact, if you compared a "grocery list" of the typical features of postmodernism--crossing of genre boundaries, problematising of the self, challenging grand narratives, metanarrative, indeterminacy of the literary text, limitations of language to represent reality, etc--and those of romantic irony, the lists will extensively overlap.  You might even find them to be identical.


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  2. Romantic irony negates the unavoidable mainstream perspective on what Romanticism implies. In irony is the opposite side of Romanticism, receptive to judiciousness instead of feeling, to computation as opposed to assumption, to self-reflection instead of self-articulation. I don't have so much time to define more because i am worried supply chain dissertation help which is very important for me.

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  4. Romantic irony invalidates the unavoidable standard point of view on what Romanticism suggests. In incongruity is the contrary side of Romanticism, responsive to wisdom as opposed to believing, to calculation rather than presumption, to self-reflection rather than self-explanation. I don't have such a lot of time to characterize more in light of the fact that I am concerned production network exposition help which is vital for me.


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  6. Can someone give more examples about it?

  7. I understand what you are looking for and I'm afraid my answer won't be completely satisfactory. "Romantic irony" is a very broad concept. Features of romantic irony can be found in various works but it is difficult to point to one work or one feature and say "that's it." Additionally, it is a problem that when we see a modern work with various features of romantic irony we call it postmodern. It is useful to keep in mind that the original meaning of "romantic" was putting things together that had not been put together before; that is, works in Latin in the romance languages--French, Italian, etc. Today we call that mixing of high brow and low brow culture postmodern. The most common feature of romantic irony is that the author reminds you that fiction is fiction and talks about writing inside the writing. Google metafiction and Wikipedia will give you a long list of such works. It is romanic irony/postmodern when the author inserts something to make you question rather than accept as true and real what you are reading. The novel The Handmaid's Tail ends with the revelation that what you have just read was complied by a historian named Wade who chose the title as a sexist joke. The novel was supposed to be the Handmaid's diary but, in the end, you are encouraged to think "maybe it wasn't." People who saw the movie The English Patient then read the novel were probably shocked to discover that core love story presented as true in film is presented as Almasy's, the English patient's, lie in the novel. It is difficult to spot features of romantic irony in pre-postmodern works because it is difficult for us to detect the author taking us outside of work with a comment or two. No doubt there are a lot of nods and winks to the audience in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. For example, when Algernon says he plays the piano with feeling rather than skill, many people would recognize that Wilde is making fun of a current debate about the nature of art. George Bernard Shaw's play The Devil's Disciple was subtitled a melodrama, but it was intended to be a satire mocking melodrama. There are lots of in-jokes in Shakespeare's plays. Hamlet gives a speech complaining that the Globe stinks while performing in the Globe Theatre. Underlying romantic irony is the idea that language is very limited in terms of representing reality. Derrida presents this idea in the opening sentence/paragraph of Of Grammatology as it it were a completely new idea, but the idea has been around for a long time. To keep it simple: if you have never eaten an orange, how could I communicate to you the taste of an orange. Simple answer: I couldn't. Language cannot transmit reality. Writers of the Romantic period realized this. They said what could be said, but warned us that not everything could be said in language.

  8. One of the main things while watching a romantic movie is to bring along tissues. You should likewise make sure to never go alone.


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