Document Type

Post-Print

Publication Date

2013

Abstract

The term "irony" is often applied to film, but in varied and often imprecise ways. Sometimes this slippery term is used to denote an inter-textual (or more precisely interfilmic) reference with the potential for parody; at other times it may mark a discordance between different channels (for example, between the film music and what is shown onscreen).1 I will focus on a particular type of irony, tied to undecidability, in which two alternatives are held in suspension, both present, both undeniable, and yet perfectly incompatible. A concrete example is the drawing that from one perspective seems to be of a duck, and from another, of a rabbit (Gombrich 5). The irony comes from the tension between the two, the simultaneous presence of two discordant elements. Unlike simple verbal irony where one may say something but mean its opposite, here both the statement and its opposite are equally valid. Thus it is not a matter of A or B, but rather A and B. The two elements are in play simultaneously, and the irony comes from the combination of undecidability and the tension between the two elements.

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