Sources on irony
April 7, 2006 10:05 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for writing on or examples of "irony"/hipsterism and taste/authenticity/postmodern self-consciousness, etc., or alternatively, historical writing on atomization and society.

For the former, I'm pretty open to anything, though I'm particularly interested in theory or examples. Feel free to list your favorite relevant TV shows, novels, movies, Hermenaut articles, etc. To give you an example, some of the things I'm looking at right now are: Dan Clowes comics, absurdist humor (Will Ferrell, Family Guy, Sarah Silverman), Vice Magazine, the Kunkel book, Dave Eggers, Tom McCarthy's Indecision, DFW, post-avant poetry, Arrested Development, "Irony's Edge," and so on.

For the latter, I'm looking for something a little bit more empirical, like Bowling Alone (which I haven't read but heard is awful). I've bought "Culture of Narcissism," but I'm open to work that's more recent or in different subject areas, like architecture.
posted by kensanway to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Final Irony, from The Guardian.
posted by youarenothere at 10:14 AM on April 7, 2006

In terms of examples of pomo media, are you familiar with Stella? They had a long run of mixed-media stand-up shows, and a show on Comedy Central last year.
posted by youarenothere at 10:24 AM on April 7, 2006

If you want to talk about culture in the eighties, I'd look at Spy Magazine, Less Than Zero, by Brett Easton Ellis. That kinda thing.
posted by lilboo at 10:36 AM on April 7, 2006

Also, since you mentioned "Irony's Edge," here's Linda Hutcheon's Irony, Nostalgia, and the Postmodern. Ok, I'm done.
posted by youarenothere at 10:44 AM on April 7, 2006

Not sure if it's exactly what you're looking for, but there was an article a month ago in Harper's by the inventor of the "flash mob" phenomenon that talks about his intentions and inspirations for the project.

There's also the book that at the time was seen to be the couter-point to Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius--For Common Things, by Jedediah Purdy. Note that Purdy turns up in one of the graphics accompanying the Harper's article.

I'm wracking my brain, but nothing on hipster architecture currently comes to mind. Maybe Rem Koolhaas, and Delerious New York, but that came out in the 70's. Given the inherent ephemeral nature of hipsterism, I think you'll be looking more at "paper architecture" or theoretical writings than actual built work. Robert Venturi's work in the 70's might work too--he put a fake gold antenna on top of a senior housing project because "old people like to watch TV".
posted by LionIndex at 10:50 AM on April 7, 2006
posted by dydecker at 11:27 AM on April 7, 2006

There's Dave Eggers' email rant in response to a Harvard Advocate interview a few years back, which is worth a read whether you're an Eggers fan or not.
posted by pineapple at 2:27 PM on April 7, 2006

I'd recommend the architecture section from Fred Jameson's Postmodernism for examples of ironic pomo architecture.
posted by subtle-t at 3:26 PM on April 7, 2006

MTV's The State in the early 90's was groundbreakingly ironic and hilarious to my teenage ears.

I like Frederic Jameson's discussion of pastiche in "Postmodernism and Consumer Society."

He writes: "Pastiche is, like parody, the imitation of a peculiar or unique style, the wearing of a stylistic mask, speech in a dead language: but it is a neutral practice of such mimicry, without parody's ulterior motive, without the satirical impulse, without laughter, without that still latent feeling that there exists something 'normal' compared to which what is being imitated is rather comic."
posted by Aghast. at 3:27 PM on April 7, 2006

I tend to think Warhol's an important context for some of this stuff. If you're at all interested in the aesthetics of dead-pan, ironic distance or affectlessness, I can highly recommend this.
posted by Sonny Jim at 7:21 PM on April 7, 2006

This is such a great question - Thank you! I didn't think "Culture of Narcissism" lived up to its title (or my own preconceived ideas of what it would discuss), possibly because it is older.

Also, have you seen the adult swim cartoon "Home Movies?" It didn't run for that long on cartoon network, but it absolutely my favorite show ever, I think because it combines irony, subtlety and this incredible authenticity in a way that I haven't seen done anywhere else.
posted by larva at 12:28 AM on April 8, 2006

My friend Rob wrote the The Hipster Handbook. He also wrote Food Court Druids, Cherohonkees and Other Creatures Unique to the Republic and is coming out w/ a political book this fall.
posted by lannanh at 1:42 PM on April 8, 2006

Check out the short story "Kierkegaard Unfair to Schlegel" by Donald Barthelme. I read it as part of a unit on post-modernism in a short story class (in which Eggers was also mentioned), and it's an interesting and enjoyable meditation on irony, amongst other things.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:37 AM on April 9, 2006

Hey everyone--thanks for the suggestions. I'd heard of a lot of these things before, but it's nice to have the links again. Also, I ordered the Frank book, thanks!

I guess to be more specific:

Can you guys think of any recent theoretical work on this? How does authenticity/irony differ from concerns about alienation that typified modernism?

Also, what about sociological/anthropological work? Should I read Bowling Alone?

Jameson: I was just re-reading this recently for this project! It's amazing how dated the book seems, but the part on pastiche is dead-on.
posted by kensanway at 1:14 PM on April 10, 2006

Also: this Barthelme story is great!

Youarenotthere, I've only seen one episode of Stella, but it looked exciting. I wish I knew more about all these post-Kids in the hall shows. That article you link to is cool: I like how it historicizes nostalgia. I found the same link when I bought Irony's Edge.

Larva, what's home movies about?
posted by kensanway at 8:21 PM on April 10, 2006

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