CLAGS (College of Liberal Arts Graduate Student Symposium)


February 15, 2013: Lisa Madura

Graduate Student, Department of Philosophy, UNR

"Authenticating the Ironist: Defining Selfhood in the Age of Irony"

9:30 - 10:30 a.m. panel

MIKC 404


Lisa Madura is a first semester Master's student in the Philosophy department with an interest in phenomenology and value theory.

I will be responding to charges levied against the current generation by Christy Wampole, Assistant Professor of French and Italian at Princeton University, who claims in her article, How to Live Without Irony, that irony is a way of evading commitment to any specific identity, rendering the current generation an inauthentic anti-culture. I will argue that ironic posturing is not the self-defeating attitude of an irresponsible generation, but is symptomatic of recognizing our own contingency. The ironist doesn’t avoid reality but acknowledges that nothing is fixed, that reality is subject to change and re-description. We are not afraid to commit, but we see the futility of commitment and so redefine what it means to lead a meaningful life. Wampole wants this generation to take a personal inventory and eliminate the parts of our lives constructed ironically, assuming that to be ironic is to be in some way disingenuous. Incorporating the ideas of Richard Rorty from his book, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, I will argue that irony is not something we can do-away with, nor is it necessarily insincere. In her conflation of irony and insincerity, Wampole assumes that the present generation’s tendencies need to be corrected in order for us to be worthy of an identity. She believes frankness to be the mark of authenticity, without which cultural progress will be stifled. It is my contention that the era of irony is not about evading the responsibility of creating an identity, but figuring out how to have an identity in a world seemingly devoid of absolutes – where what is good or bad, and what is right or wrong are no less historically contingent than what is cool or lame.