Unlike rain on your wedding day
September 29, 2008 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Someone, somewhere--some cultural critic, I think, someone who has yet to die, or who was alive within the last half-century (but I could be wrong there), once said something along the lines of "Irony is the laughter of the slave." Do you know who that was?

I have searched, although I could have searched more thoroughly (i.e. physically removed myself from my chair and gone to the library). I might have rewritten Andrei Sinyavsky in my head; he wrote: "Irony is the laughter of the superfluous man." But he also wrote: "Irony is the faithful companion of unbelief and doubt; it vanishes as soon as there appears a faith that does not tolerate sacrilege..." Which is a different sentiment.

I have found these: "Sentimental irony is a dog that bays at the moon while pissing on graves." (Karl Kraus); "Irony in writing is a technique for increasing reader self-approval." (Jessamyn West [the dead one]); "We are all tourists in history, and irony is what we win in wars." (Anatole Broyard). But I'm still looking for the source of the laughter of the slave.
posted by ftrain to Religion & Philosophy (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
First off, I don't know. Secondly, continued searching seems to put me in the general orbit of Cynthia Willett who is a cultural critic and writes about irony comedy and slavery in ways that seems to triangulate on your quotation althought I've been unable to find a direct link. Do you know of her work? Is it possible you read some of it? A few links to show you what I mean: 1, 2. So I sort of feel that if you don't have any luck here, dropping her an email might solve your problem.
posted by jessamyn at 2:47 PM on September 29, 2008

Thank you, Jessamyn. I just read through some of the Willett and while it is syntactically very close it doesn't match with my memory. I remember this quote as originating from a dry Eastern European--a Zizek-type; the "slave" was not a literal slave. Come to think of it, the usage "slave" was probably ironic.
posted by ftrain at 3:23 PM on September 29, 2008

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