Irony in the Age of Empire

Irony in the Age of Empire

Comic Perspectives on Democracy and Freedom
Cynthia Willett
Distribution: World
Publication date: 07/09/2008
Format: Paperback 1 b&w photos
ISBN: 978-0-253-21994-7
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Comedy, from social ridicule to the unruly laughter of the carnival, provides effective tools for reinforcing social patterns of domination as well as weapons for emancipation. In Irony in the Age of Empire, Cynthia Willett asks: What could embody liberation better than laughter? Why do the oppressed laugh? What vision does the comic world prescribe? For Willett, the comic trumps standard liberal accounts of freedom by drawing attention to bodies, affects, and intimate relationships, topics which are usually neglected by political philosophy. Willett's philosophical reflection on comedy issues a powerful challenge to standard conceptions of freedom by proposing a new kind of freedom that is unapologetically feminist, queer, and multiracial. This book provides a wide-ranging, original, thoughtful, and expansive discussion of citizenship, social manners, and political freedom in our world today.

Author Bio

Cynthia Willett is Professor of Philosophy at Emory University, where she currently serves as the chair of the department. She is author of Soul of Justice and Maternal Ethics and Other Slave Moralities.


“While comedy has been historically dismissed as a lower form of art (perhaps only good for the masses), tragedy has been generally associated with a stoic and grandiose form of consciousness that discloses to us the gravitas of freedom. Cynthia Willett challenges this venerable and joyless tradition and claims that comedy and irony educate us about the corporeal and psychic dimension of freedom. This is an original and profound book that grapples with the political power of laughter, and this is no laughing matter, ever.”
 — Eduardo Mendieta, SUNY Stony Brook

“[E]xtremely witty, provocative, and timely. . . . It should appeal to anyone interested in American studies or American philosophy. —Mary Magad”
 — Ward, Middle Tennessee State University

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Table of Contents

Prologue: On Truthiness
1. Laughter against Hubris: A Preemptive Strike
2. Laughing to Keep from Crying: Cornel West, Pragmatism, and Progressive Comedy
3. Authenticity in an Age of Satire: Ellison, Sartre, Bergson, and Spike Lee's Bamboozled
4. Engage the Enemy: Cavell, Comedies of Remarriage, and the Politics of Friendship
5. Three Concepts of Freedom