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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