EGMT 1510: Meaning and Saying

Fertile gaps between meaning and saying can exist in all sorts of verbal expression. Poets, satirists, and all of us in ordinary life sometimes have to speak or write with double or hidden meanings in order to communicate the truth as we understand it. Critics sometimes call this gap between meaning and saying irony. We might think that irony is a way of being sarcastic, or saying the opposite of what you believe. (An example in two words: yeah, right!) These things are, however, only a small part of irony. Irony can also reflect disappointed expectations, conflictedness, even a sense of humility about our ability to say what we mean at all. Ultimately, irony is a way of approaching the world and ourselves that affords unique possibilities for self-criticism and reflection. We’ll work together to understand how we can both use and appreciate the rifts between meaning and saying that irony creates. We’ll read poetry and essays from James Baldwin, Frederick Douglass, Robert Frost, Jonathan Lear, Audre Lorde, Marianne Moore, Susan Sontag, Oscar Wilde, and others. Course members will also work throughout our seven weeks to develop and curate their own anthologies of irony, with examples carefully selected from their reading, listening, and viewing beyond class. These anthologies introduce us to the pleasures and problems of curating a collection of texts and explaining why they belong together.