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IRONY AND EVALUATION A trivial study for serious people.

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1 IRONY AND EVALUATION A trivial study for serious people.

2 …A brief introduction…  This group work aims to explain and analyse what irony and evaluation are by using the skills we acquired during previous years.  Using definitions and examples found in various given texts, we try to explain what irony and evaluation are and how they work and combine.  The text we chose is a classic of the English literature: “The Importance of Being Ernest” by Oscar Wilde, a well-known “comedy of irony”.

3 Three Definitions of Irony From The Oxford Dictionary:  The expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.  Example: ‘Don’t go overboard with the gratitude,’ he rejoined with heavy irony

4  A state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often wryly amusing as a result.  Example: “There's plenty of irony in seeing one monopoly accuse another monopoly of restricting users' choices.”

5  (Also dramatic or tragic irony) A literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character’s words or actions is clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.  Example: The old-fashioned respect for the young is fast dying out. Whatever influence I ever had over mamma, I lost at the age of three.

6 Verbal and Situational Irony  On the grounds of the above definitions, we distinguish two basic kinds of irony i.e. verbal irony and situational irony. Verbal irony involves what one does not mean. When in response to a foolish idea, we say, “what a great idea!” it is verbal irony. Situational irony occurs when, for instance, a man is chuckling at the misfortune of the other even when the same misfortune, in complete unawareness, is befalling him.

7 Evaluation: how does it work?  The making of a judgement about the amount, number, or value of something; assessment: the evaluation of each method  Language is a mean of evaluation: when we talk we usually assess something or someone, except in very simple and straightforward exchanges of information, as in: What time is it, Sir? It is nine o’clock.

8 Irony and Evaluation  Evaluation is often related to irony: irony is used as a subtle way to mock or offend someone who might be unaware of it. Irony usually implies a negative evaluation, as in the following extracts from “The Importance of Being Earnest”:  JACK That, my dear young friend, is the theory that the corrupt French Drama has been propounding for the last fifty years. ALGERNON Yes; and that the happy English home has proved in half the time. (First Act, Pag.20)

9 The Importance of Being Earnest: the plot  Jack and Algernon are wealthy gentlemen. Jack (known to Algernon as Ernest) lives a respectable life in the country providing an example to his young ward Cecily. Algernon lives in luxury in London and has invented an imaginary invalid friend (Bunbury) whom he visits in the country whenever an unappealing social engagement presents itself. Jack has also invented a character - a wayward younger brother called Ernest whom he uses as pretext for going up to London and enjoying himself.  Jack wants to marry Algernon’s cousin Gwendolen, but must first convince her mother, Lady Bracknell, of the respectability of his parents. For Jack, having been abandoned in a handbag at Victoria station, this is quite a difficult task.

10  Algernon visits Jack’s house in the country and introduces himself to Cecily as Ernest, knowing that Cecily is already fascinated by tales of Ernest's wickedness. He further wins her over and they become engaged. Shortly after, Jack arrives home announcing Ernest’s death. This sets off a series of farcical events. Cecily and Gwendolen have a genteel stand-off over which of them has a prior claim on ‘Ernest’.

11  Jack and Algernon vie to be christened Ernest. Eventually, Jack discovers that his parents were Lady Bracknell’s sister and brother-in-law and that he is, in fact, Algernon’s older brother, called Ernest. The two sets of lovers are thus free to marry.  During these events the characters of Canon Chasuble and Cecily’s governess Miss Prism have also fallen in love, and in the best tradition of the well-made play the story ends with all the loose ends tied up and everyone set to live happily ever after.

12 The Author’s Purpose  The whole play is built on witty dialogues, amusing puns, misunderstandings and paradoxes which help deal with the complexity of social and personal identification; the title is a pun in itself: the name Earnest (misspelling for “Ernest”) evokes the adjective “ earnest, honest and sincere”, while none of the characters is truthful.

13  The characters, used by the playwright to criticize the Victorian prudery and exaggerated seriousness, exist only because they take part in conversation. What is important to them is not what they say, but how they say it; thus Wilde’s social satire comes from the ironic use of a solemn language in situations that are utterly ridiculous and frivolous. In this sense irony is a dominant feature of the play rather than mere decoration.

14  LinguaIngleseIII-Irony-Extract.docx LinguaIngleseIII-Irony-Extract.docx

15 

16 Bibliography and Webliography  R. Carter; The Routledge History of Literature in English: Britain and Ireland; London; Routledge; 2001  R. Carter, A. Goddard, D. Reah, K. Sanger, M. Browring; Working with Texts. A core book for language analysis; London; Routledge; 1999  A.Stevenson and C. Soanes; The Oxford Dictionary of English; Oxford; OUP Oxford; 2010.  O. Wilde; The Importance of Being Earnest; London; Penguin Classics; 2000.

17  M. Spiazzi; M. Tavella; Only Connect…New Directions; Bologna; Zanichelli; 2009. 

18 Federico Fabbri Michela Fortuna Matilde Maffei Eleonora Paggetti

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