Plumb Lines

February 13, 2009

An Alternative to Irony

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matthew Schmitz @ 3:49 pm

Last night I saw Eric Rohmer’s typically understated The Romance of Astrea and Celadon. Filled with Druids, nymphs, and not-particularly-transgressive cross-dressing, it’s a simple and strangely sincere tale of the love between a shepherd and shepherdess. One reviewer noted upon its 2007 release that the film was an attempt to “divest romance [of] politics and irony,” but even that sounds too political for what Rohmer is doing here. Before I address David’s very good response to my post, I want to pause over this implication of Rohmer’s valedictory film: While introducing irony into matters of gender is one response to the increasing politicization of sex through culture-war debates, the ideal may be to have gender, sex, and love free of irony or politics.

-Matthew Schmitz


  1. But doesn’t gender “express societal values?” How can it be free from politics while at the same time expressing political values? And while I don’t want to get all Rorty on this blog, isn’t opposition to irony really dangerous?

    Comment by David Schaengold — February 13, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

  2. A good question. When there is a sort of pre-Babel agreement on matters of value, politics recedes and appears to be a ‘non-political’ background that is assumed by all members of a community. Please do get all Rorty.

    Comment by Matthew Schmitz — February 13, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

  3. I would suggest that this pre-Babel agreement is mythical, but at the very least we haven’t seen it in European civilization since the shattering of Christendom. I do sometimes think that the Middle Ages might have achieved something like a humane, non-politicized background of value, and if so we should tremble at the beauty of that achievement, but the Middle Ages play such a complicated role in our modern political self-understanding that it’s difficult to sort through the layers of contempt and romanticization to a meaningful characterization of its culture.

    Comment by David Schaengold — February 13, 2009 @ 4:31 pm

  4. […] Alternative to Irony Filed under: Uncategorized — Keith Staples @ 3:35 pm I think what worries Matt about the idea of approaching a basic and universal social reality with “irony” is that […]

    Pingback by Re: An Alternative to Irony « Plumb Lines — February 18, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

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