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Post-irony (from Latin post (after) and Ancient Greek εἰρωνεία eirōneía, meaning dissimulation (or feigned ignorance)[1]) is a term used to denote a state in which earnest and ironic intents become muddled. It may less commonly refer to its converse: a return from irony to earnestness, similar to New Sincerity. Examples of post-ironic artwork include the London based record label PC Music, South African band Die Antwoord, the British television show Garth Marenghi's Darkplace and the Werner Herzog film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.[2] Noted surreal humor comedian Tim Heidecker portrays a man living a post-ironic lifestyle in The Comedy.[3]

In literature, David Foster Wallace is often described as the founder of a "postironic" literature. His essays "E Unibus Pluram" and "Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young" describe and hope for a literature that goes beyond postmodern irony.[4] Other authors often described as postironic are Dave Eggers,[5] Tao Lin, and Alex Shakar.[6][7]


Whereas in postmodern irony something is meant to be cynically mocked and not taken seriously and in new sincerity something is meant to be taken seriously or "unironically", post-irony combines these two elements by either having something absurd taken seriously or be unclear as to whether something is meant to be ironic.[2] Over the years, it has become an increasingly common form of rhetoric on imageboards such as Reddit, iFunny, 4chan, 8chan, Krautchan, Ylilauta, and Mintboard.

One example given is the film The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans:

The film contains what a Snakes on a Plane-style irony-fest should: hokey plot, bad acting, and deliciously over-the-top glorification of sex and drug use. But the film does much more than revel in its genre’s campy history—The Bad Lieutenant is gorgeously shot and contains pervasive, incisive commentary on everything from race relations to police corruption and the definition of finding success in America.

— Matthew Collins, The Georgetown Voice[2]


This term has become increasingly popular[8] and has some detractors:

...there are a number of misconceptions about irony that are peculiar to recent times....the eighth is that "post-ironic" is an acceptable term – it is very modish to use this, as if to suggest one of three things: i) that irony has ended; ii) that postmodernism and irony are interchangeable, and can be conflated into one handy word; or iii) that we are more ironic than we used to be, and therefore need to add a prefix suggesting even greater ironic distance than irony on its own can supply. None of these things is true.

— Zoe Williams, The Guardian

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Liddell & Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, v. sub εἰρωνεία.
  2. ^ a b c Collins, Matthew (March 4, 2010). "Post-irony is real, and so what?". The Georgetown Voice.
  3. ^ "The Comedy reigns as king of the Flyover Film Festival [Movies]". June 10, 2012.
  4. ^ Wallace, David Foster. "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction", Review of Contemporary Fiction 13(2), Summer 1993, pp. 151-194.
  5. ^ Jensen, Mikkel. 2014. "A Note on a Title: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" in The Explicator, 72:2, 146–150. [1]
  6. ^ Hoffmann, Lukas (2016). Postirony: The Nonfictional Literature of David Foster Wallace and Dave Eggers. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag. ISBN 978-3-8376-3661-1.
  7. ^ Konstantinou, Lee (2016). Cool Characters: Irony and American Fiction. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0674967885.
  8. ^ Williams, Zoe. "The final irony", The Guardian, June 27, 2003.

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