Wayne C(layson) Booth William Empson - Essay

William Empson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[A Rhetoric of Irony] is a good book. It quotes a number of long examples, arguing from them in detail "how we manage to share ironies and why we often do not," with mild discouragement for current follies on the subject; and the literary judgments (as apart from philosophical or historical ones) seem to me right every time…. I found it all the more extraordinary that what I had long thought "irony" to mean does not get mentioned at all.

The basic situation for the trope of irony, without which it would not have been invented, involves three people. There is a speaker, "A," an understanding hearer, "B," and a censor who can be outwitted, a stupid tyrant, "C." A successful use of the pure...

(The entire section is 1330 words.)