“After Irony: Discourse, Forms of Life and Politics”
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid – May 25-28, 2015
This international meeting aims at exploring the many senses of irony as a rhetoric figure and existential tone, and its relevance for the study of social and political experience. During four days, scholars form various fields in the Humanities (Philosophy, Cultural and Literary Criticism, History of Ideas, Psychoanalysis) will be debating on the many ways to understand irony and its meaning in different historical periods. From Antiquity and Renaissance to Modernity and Postmodernity…and beyond. Philosophers like Socrates, Plato, Hegel, Kierkegaard, William (and Henry) James,
Freud, Leo Strauss, Vlastos, Nehamas, Derrida Rorty and Lear will be revisited on the issue of irony, but also earlier and modern classics like Cervantes, Montaigne, and Shakespeare, and contemporary writers as Penelope Fitzgerald and Nabokov, Pynchon and Foster Wallace, Kundera and Piglia.
Irony seems contrary to sincerity, engagement, truthfulness and the justification for each one’s way of life and beliefs; but irony has also to do with self-examination, caring and tolerance needed to live a life with less violence and cruelty. These topics will open further discussions on some decisive drifts in the political sensitivity and thinking since the 1990s. What happened to the ironic, yet socialdemocratic committed citizen that Richard Rorty so highly praised? Why did such a Neo-Nietzschean as Sloterdijk want to paint the rortyan democrat as the successor of Nietzsche’s “last man”? What is the difference between cynicism à la Baudrillard and the new political sensibilities? How does Žižek really distinguish between irony, sarcasm and cynicism? Can we still be ironic in our time –a time of destruction, endless violence and permanent horror? Should we vindicate the virtue of irony over again? Or should we rather say farewell to irony?
We will have the special participation of Professor Richard J. Bernstein (New School for Social Research in New York), among whose books there are titles as influential as Hannah Arendt and the Jewish Question (1996) Freud and
the Legacy of Moses (1998), Radical Evil: A Philosophical Interrogation (2002), The Abuse of Evil: The Corruption of Politics
and Religion since 9/11 (2006) and most recently Reflections on Violence. Thinking Without Bannisters (2013). Professor Bernstein will give a special lecture on the actuality of Socratic irony and the art of living, He will also contribute with a presentation on his departed friend Richard Rorty and Jonathan Lear’s A Case for Irony. He is currently preparing a new book on the idea of irony in the philosophical tradition.
Download the conference poster for After Irony.