Question #7 reads, "After Romantic Irony is defined (p. 354), examples of it arise in the novel several times. Paraphrase the definition, then cite one example and discuss its effectiveness."
This one tends to give students trouble. Perhaps it's because the term itself is made up of two terms that we tend to understand alone. Who among you hasn't had the definitions for the three types of irony pounded into you since 9th grade? So, you understand irony, in general. But what does that "romantic" have to do with it? Remember, unless your book club is discussing romance novels, we will not be equating the term "romantic" with romantic love. Romanticism refers to a literary/philosophical movement (see page 342 in SW).
Alberto tells Sophie (354) that romantic irony is when a writer reminds his reader that it is he who manipulates the fictional universe. Reread that page from the top for a clearer understanding of why and how such a thing came about in the first place.
To recognize these moments once you understand what R.I. is, is fairly simple. When does the Major "butt in?" When do you, as the reader, realize that the author's voice is present (as opposed to the character's voice)? Do you ever "hear" Gaarder's voice? How many authors are there? (And who is the reader????).
This concept is connected to the levels of reality question also. Just who is who in this story? We could ask the same about our existence on this planet, in this universe. Who is who? I think that Gaarder is very clever in the way he writes this novel to illustrate philosophical questions/projects. Oh, hey, isn't that what question 7 is all about? Ms. Hogue must have had some purpose in devising these devious questions beyond just making us work during the summer. Hey, is she trying to get us to think and make connections???
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