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The Politics of Irony in American Modernism$
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Matthew Stratton

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823255450

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823255450.001.0001

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The Eye in Irony

The Eye in Irony

New York, Nietzsche, and the 1910s

(p.23) 1 The Eye in Irony
The Politics of Irony in American Modernism

Matthew Stratton

Fordham University Press

This chapter reinterprets Randolph Bourne’s essay “The Life of Irony” through the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, pragmatist philosophers including John Dewey and William James, theorists of visual aesthetics such as Lewis Hine and Alfred Stieglitz, and other sources ranging from government pamphlets to popularizing works such as H. L. Mencken’s The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. The chapter also reintroduces the work of poet and journalist Benjamin De Casseres, who represented a competing reception of Nietzsche as a theorist of political aesthetics. Bourne and De Casseres figure Nietzsche’s irony through the language of both photographic and literary aesthetics; this chapter shows how their differences reveal irony as a figure for describing and conceiving democratic action quite differently from the tradition that values private irony but banishes public irony.

Keywords:   irony, politics, aesthetics, photography, pragmatism, Randolph Bourne, Benjamin De Casseres, Friedrich Nietzsche

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