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Durham e-Theses
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Derrida and a Theory of Irony: Parabasis and Parataxis

LONG, MAEBH (2010) Derrida and a Theory of Irony: Parabasis and Parataxis. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis presents a theory of structural irony gleaned from the irony theorised and performed in the texts of thinkers whose works operate on the border of the (non)propositional: Plato, Friedrich Schlegel, Maurice Blanchot, Paul de Man, Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida. While focusing on the irony performed in the texts of Jacques Derrida, and using his engagements with these thinkers as a frame, this is not a theory of “Derridean” irony, but an irony (primarily) elaborated through a deconstructive approach and vocabulary. Structural irony is seen to take the form of the transgressive step/counter-step of parabasis and the non-hierarchical disorder of parataxis. It is an anacoluthic force/weakness, and exhibits the conjunctive/disjunctive trait of hyphenation. It is neither of cynical, aesthetic distance nor humorous, parodic engagement, but is a productive movement of (impossible) negotiation between terms. Irony is an expression of the beyond, within, and this reworking of borders and limits is performed in the fragment/aphorism. The (ir)responsible step taken in Derrida’s texts is understood as a mode of structural irony, and it is proposed that the stylistic changes that occurred in Derrida’s “later” texts were in part due to the autoimmunity caused by an overexposure to the “laws of the interview”. Throughout the thesis styles that manipulate the unmasterable excesses of irony are investigated, and each chapter ends with a reading of one of Derrida’s more “literary” or “performative” texts, while recognising and playing with the falsity of such generic makers or divisions. Inscribing Derrida within a tradition of thinkers of the non-thetic both extends readings of that tradition and of irony itself, while affording a valuable way of approaching the “structures” within Derrida’s texts. Irony is not presented as the transcendental signifier of deconstruction, but as a profitable way of understanding deconstruction and its relation to other writers.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2010
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 Mar 2011 12:56

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