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LostInParadise's avatar

Are we living in an age of irony?

Asked by LostInParadise (29757points) June 6th, 2009

Consider the word “postmodern” that is often thrown around to describe our era. How can anything be beyond modern? The term is a good example of the prevailing attitude. It is as if nothing is meant to be taken seriously.

In pre-industrial times, people looked to the past as a guide to how to live. Tradition was extremely important. Then industrialism came and people looked to the future. I think that feeling is no longer present, replaced by a kind of cynicism. If I have to point to a specific transitional point, it would be the death of John Kennedy. I do not mean to aggrandize him, but there was a certain symbolism that centered around Kennedy that has been lost.

One can say that artistically the change happened earlier, with the Dadaists and those who came after. This may be true, but art is always ahead of the general populace.

Nobody much mentions it, but Barack Obama resembles Kennedy in many ways, only it is not quite the same. It is not Obama’s fault. The times have changed. The vision of Camelot or anything vaguely resembling it is gone.

If we are living in an age of irony, will we ever move beyond it? And just what would this new age be like? An age of sincerity? No, to even suggest that is itself ironic.

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6 Answers

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

It’s hard to judge an age from the present. Did the renaissance artists in the 14th Century call themselves renaissance artists? No, that came later. Our present age, if it is indeed the age of Irony, will only become so when those people in the future look back and give it a name to separate it historically from the other specific ages.

There is plenty to take seriously in this age. It just depends where you look. The problem is that the explosion of instant communication and technological advances in this time period makes things seem more ‘busy’ and even ‘light-hearted’ than previous ages. If we as humans would have had computers 300 years earlier thanks, Dark Ages, for nothing things would be very interesting indeed. Good Question.

mattbrowne's avatar

Irony is part of the history of the universe and the Earth. Because God plays dice there are galaxies instead of black holes everywhere or a boring soup of gas. Because mammals were such cowards creating underground burrows compared to the strong and majestic dinosaurs they survived. So much for survival of the strongest. If you look at the history of human ancestors you will also discover a lot of irony. They developed language because they had to get down from their trees and leave the paradise for uncharted territory.

And today the irony continues…

LostInParadise's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra , Renaissance artists did call themselves Renaissance artists. Of course, in doing so they misunderstood what they were doing. They were thinking in terms of a rebirth of ancient wisdom when in fact what they were doing was breaking the links to antiquity.

tinyfaery's avatar

Postmodern is more of a philosophical/literary term that is based on deconstructing past modes of thinking, based on enlightenment ideas, and artistic creation based on those modes.

I believe we have actually moved past the age of irony and into the post ironic. There are books and such about the post ironic. A great book of fiction is The Savage Girl.

I think it is erroneous to say we are living in a postmodern world. Postmodern is not even the newest discourse.

LostInParadise's avatar

Can we be ironic about being ironic or deconstruct deconstructing? Are we post-postmodern? Is this the age of Facebook? My head spins. Maybe I should read the book.

alive's avatar

the term “modern” refers to a particular period. for example in philosophy “modern” is the age of the enlightenment (descartes, berkley, kant, etc – 1600’s-ish). in European (well i guess just french) history it refers to the time following the french revolution (1800’s-ish). in literature we would be talking about the 1900’s-ish.

so first of all, depending on which discipline “modern” can mean many different things.

“post-modern” is usually a term used in philosophy and lit theory (which is essentially philosophy) so in this sense post modern is a reference to how philosophy is conceived of, with a critical view of the modern period.

instead of universals philosophers become concerned with particulars. but i do not agree with your claim that post modern means nothing is to be taken seriously. it is more concerned with the claim that there are no universal truths. some take it as far as there are no truths, but that is something to be taken seriously.

also it depends on what you mean by irony. irony is not necessarily good or bad. it is a tool that can be used for an outcome that the ironist may or may not have control over.
( The Concept of Irony by Søren Kierkegaard )

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