Irony, Course Notes in Stylistics

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  • Topic: Word, Contextual
  • Pages : 2 (564 words )
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  • Published : May 23, 2013
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In all previously discussed lexical SDs we dealt with various transformations of the logical (denotational) meaning of words, which participated in the creation of metaphors, metonymies, puns, zeugmas, etc. Each of the SDs added expressiveness and originality to the nomination of the object. Evaluation of the named concept was often present too, but it was an optional characteristic, not inherent in any of these SDs. Their subjectivity relies on the new and fresh look at the object mentioned, which shows the latter from a new and unexpected side. In irony, which is our next item of consideration, subjectivity lies in the evaluation of the phenomenon named. The essence of this SD consists in the foregrounding not of the logical but of the evaluative meaning. The context is arranged so that the qualifying word in irony reverses the direction of the evaluation, and the word positively charged is understood as a negative qualification and (much-much rarer) vice versa. Irony thus is a stylistic device in which the contextual evaluative meaning of a word is directly opposite to its dictionary meaning, So, like all other SDs, irony does not exist outside the context, which varies from the minimal - a word combination, as in J. Steinbeck's "She turned with the sweet smile of an alligator," - to the context of a whole book, as in Ch: Dickens, where one of the remarks of Mr. Micawber, known for his complex, highly bookish and elaborate style of speaking about the most trivial things, is introduced by the author's words "...Mr. Micawber said in his usual plain manner". In both examples the words "sweet" and "plain" reverse their positive meaning into the negative one due to the context, micro- in the first, macro- in the second case. In the stylistic device of irony it is always possible to indicate the exact word whose contextual meaning diametrically opposes its dictionary meaning. This is why this type of irony is called verbal irony. There are very many cases, though,...
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