Fictions of Romantic Irony in European Narrative, 1760–1857 by Lilian R Furst

By Lilian R Furst

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The philosophical stance implicit in this authentic irony has aesthetic manifestations too, perceptible in the relationship between the artist and his work. In the arts authentic irony is the equivalent to the cognitive organ that it was to Schlegel in his apprehension of the universe. The concrete forms of irony are here grounded in a distinctive ideological substructure; they are secondary to its philosophical capacity, serving not as a technical device but for the exposition of a cosmic vision.

There is no doubt that he posited irony as a manifestation of supreme independence that represents a path to self-transcendence. Whether irony could in practice fulfil these expectations is another matter. Schlegel's inability to realise his aims in his novel The Metamorphosis of Irony 29 Lucinde ( 1799) can be attributed more to his own shortcomings as a creative writer than to flaws in his theory. But his conception of irony is a two-edged sword. For though irony may spring from the yearning for transcendence, 25 the shortfall from that desired state can induce a damaging sense of negativity.

Irony establishes nothing, for that which is to be established lies behind it. It is a divine madness which rages like a Tamerlane and leaves not one stone standing upon another in its wake. Here, then, we have irony. (p. 278) On balance, however, Kierkegaard's posture in The Concept of Irony is itself ironically ambivalent. He is further from Hegel than at first seems: he takes Hegel to task for discussing irony in a tone of indignation and with contempt, specially in regard to Schlegel; yet he also emphasises that his criticism does not imply either that Hegel erred in his judgement of Schlegel, or that the Schlegelian perception of irony was not gravely flawed.

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