Monday, October 16, 2006

Students and Irony

I'm teaching a course where the New Yorker is our primary text. Nay, it is our only text, our model, our muse. It's a little bit of a canned idea, but it exposes students to readings that they'll be able to continue to access even after class. One of the reasons I went to grad school is so that I could have people direct me toward readings. The New Yorker, as conservative and cheeky as it can be, serves as a good bridge from interest in yourself to interest in the world.
As my students turn in their "Shouts & Murmurs" and their "Talks of the Town" I find something so off about them. They're generally written well and the students try to reach for erudition and SAT vocabulary. But what their pieces lack is any sense of irony whatsoever. When they review, they loved it. When they self-reflect, they mean it. Earnestness runneth over. How do you teach irony? Should you even teach students the cynicism that irony requires?


Dr. Write said...

I like to model the cynicism and let the students pick up on it that way. In a funny side note, I used the convention of the movie review to start my class. I asked who had seen a movie they hated recently. Luckily a guy in the back had seen "Snakes on a Plane." Then we talked about how he might make his argument for why it was a bad movie. Maybe make them pick movies they hated?
And you could always use the Foley example of, like, irony. But maybe you should IM them to make it, like, even more ironic.
I do recall, however, when I didn't really get sarcasm. Those days are over baby. But I'm not sad to see it go. Isn't there a New Yorker essay on irony?
Now that would be ironic.
(if there isn't you should write one. . . )

Nik said...

We worked on it today--perspective I tried to convince them. I also took too many aspirin so I asked them to compare not apples and oranges but apples and oranges and tortillas--you know something interesting. Oh yeah, I've got their irony right here.
(I can't even word verify on my own blog.)

middlebrow said...

You can't teach sensibility.

The New Yorker conservative? You've only been out of Utah a couple months and already your perspective is warped. Come back to Zion and ye shall know conservatism.

Nik said...

You know, conservative as in "find a plan and stick to it." I know they're a member of the liberal media :) But they're no "Workers World."

Lisa B. said...

I think irony often does come with age. Maybe point it out as you see it?

Is irony necessarily cynical? I'm just asking.

Nik said...

I don't think irony is cynicism but that to understand irony, you have to understand cynicism.