Dmitri N. Shalin

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Irony is the favorite tool of Russian postmodernists fighting discourse totalitarianism. They wield it like a crowbar to pry open in the simulacrum, to tear down the Potemkin portable villages built by forced discursive labor. Every new blow the ironist strikes against the official reality reaffirms his intonational freedom amidst the most coercive discourse. An ultimate weapon of the spiritual proletariat, irony proves to the intellectual that he is a subject rather than an object of discourse. Alas, ironic vigil takes its toll. The self busily disclaiming identity with itself loses track of what it really is. It knows not how to commit, empathize, make believe. Deconstructive irony is a radical epoche whose subject lost control over his destiny and no longer knows how to throw the parodic stick shift into reverse. Irony is indeed a double-edged sword: its corrosive edge cuts those who evade pathos and greets with cynicism constructive engagement. Irony can be construed as a dissimulative gesture signaling to the audience that the individual's face is but a mask, that discursive performance is not to be taken literally. Along with this gesture comes a deep aversion to direct speech. The postmodernist is someone who can't say I love you without immediately putting quotation marks around his words. He wants to distance himself from direct speech, ostensibly to protect himself from discourse's totalitarian proclivities and poshlost, but in the process he does violence to his own voice, suppresses its non-ironic modalities.


Irony; Postmodernism (Literature); Russian literature – History and criticism; Soviet literature – History and criticism


Arts and Humanities | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures | Slavic Languages and Societies