from Big Book of Irony, Winokur
First know use of “irony” (in Plato’s Republic, 360 BC) is used to describe the sly dissimulation of the Greek philosopher Socrates, an eiron who feigns ignorance in order to confound [& trap] his enemies.
Ten years later (350 BC) Aristotle refers to irony, eironia, in Nichomachean Ethics.
Kierkagaard’s Concept of Irony (1841)
Nietzsche Human, All Too Human (1878) notes alienation of German people evidenced by increasing use of irony:
“Irony is appropriate only as a pedagogical tool, used by a teacher interacting with pupils of whatever sort; its purpose is humiliation, shame, but the salubrious kind that awakens good intentions and bids us offer, as to a doctor, honor and gratitude to the one who treated us so. The ironic man pretends to be ignorant, and, in fact, does it so well that the pupils conversing with hium are fooled and become bold in their conviction about their better knowledge, exposing themselves as they are—until the rays of the torch that they held up to their teachers face are suddenly reflected back on them, humiliating them.
Where there is no relation between teacher & pupil, irony is impolite, a base emotion. All ironic writers are counting on that silly category of men who want to feel, along with the author, superior to all other men, and regard the author as the spokesman for their arrogance.
Incidentally, the habit of irony, like that of sarcasm, ruins the character; eventually it lends the quality of a gloating superiority; finally, one is like a snapping dog, who, besides biting, has also learned to laugh.”
(2000) Douglas Coupland proposes bumper sticker: HONK IF YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN IRONY & SARCASM
Earlier, whatshername proposed: HONK IF YOU KNOW THE D|FFERENCE BETWEEN PARODY & SATIRE
David Foster Wallace, E Unibus Plurum, Supposedly Funny…
“In an age drenched with irony, sincerity is often rejected out of hand.”
~ Eric Larsen, American Enterprise Online
“irony is a refuge for the insecure. We retreat into our irony cages when we feel threatened by our difference from other people.”
~ Charlie Bertsch, “The Spirit of Irony” Bad Subjects, bad.eserver.org