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February 11, 2007

EL312: Of Irony and Math

I can't help blogging this one... I burst out laughing while reading literary criticism, for crying out loud. That has GOT to be worth writing about. :)

So Brooks' "Irony as a Principle of Structure" really gets to the point of irony (which is something that a lot of people think they understand but don't... like Alanis Morrisette <--that's a reference for those of you who were in the "original" EL150 class, haha). Anyway, Brooks says,

What indeed would be a statement wholly devoid of an ironic potential--a statement that did not show any qualification of the context? One is forced to offer statements like "Two plus two equals four," or "The square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the two sides." The meaning of these statements is unqualified by any context; if they are true, they are equally true in any possible context. These statements are properly abstract, and their terms are pure denotations. (If "two" or "four" actually happened to have connotations for the fancifully minded, the connotations would be quite irrelevant: they do not participate in the meaningful structure of the statement. (86)

Wow, I got a kick out of that. (Maybe it's just because I've been reading academic stuff all day... The link, by the way, is to an old blog of mine that is riddled with math jokes... Enjoy.)

As for irony, here's where Brooks explains why the math stuff can't ever be ironic:

...connotations are important in poetry and do enter significantly into the structure of meaning which is the poem. Moreover, I should claim also--as a corollary of the foregoing proposition--that poems never contain abstract propositions. That is, any "statement" made is the poem bears the pressure of the context and has its meaning modified by the context. (86)

So basically, the best way to be an absolutely ridiculous poet would be to incorporate some math jargon into a poem and give it a connotation or meaning. (I'm not encouraging this, by the way. I'm not sure there's a market for math poetry... even though poetry can BE mathematical... rhythm is inherently mathematical...)

Brooks, ''Irony as a Principle of Structure'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by KarissaKilgore at February 11, 2007 7:34 PM


I can tell your Lit Crit class is a lot of fun!

Here's some ridiculous math poetry for you:


I think that poetry inherently brackets (if I may borrow a term from math) anything it likes with a context. All language does. The numerals and functions of math might be "denotative" abstractions -- but this doesn't mean that they're inherently not open to debate. Math is a philosophy, and there's always someone pressing the calculator's buttons.

Posted by: Mike Arnzen at February 12, 2007 12:05 PM

If two trees fall in the forest and knock 2 more trees over when there's nobody around to count them, are there still 4 fallen trees?

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at February 12, 2007 12:17 PM

Math incorporated into poetry sounds like some type of twisted online class we'd offer at SHU. I must admit, due to my own lack of math skills and common sense, I wouldn't be signing up lol.

Posted by: Erin at February 12, 2007 1:08 PM

Wow, thanks for the interesting comments!

Dr. A--Yes, our class is fun. I appreciate the note about math as a philosophy (since a math major friend of mine recently discussed the ambiguity that he faces in his studies... I admit that I don't look past calculus, but I can appreciate his struggles).

Dr. Jerz--Yes, there are four fallen trees. If you can tell me about these trees falling, I'm just guessing that someone was around to tell the story to you (and then you told it to me in the form of a question).

If those four trees fall on a decrepit cabin in the woods and a lawyer tells you that you own the property (thanks to the will of a dearly departed long-lost uncle), what is the probability that one (or all) of the trees knocked out the cable internet connection?

LOL, just asking a stupid question for the sake of stupid questions...

Posted by: Karissa at February 12, 2007 11:00 PM

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