English Seminar: Rethinking Dramatic Irony with John Williams’s Stoner
Lucas Thompson, ‘Rethinking Dramatic Irony with John Williams’s Stoner’
John Williams’s recently rediscovered post-war American classic Stoner (1965) — virtually unknown until its republication in 2003 — has received widespread public and critical acclaim. But since the entire plot is told in capsule form on page one, why do readers keep reading? What do they want to know, since they already possess far more knowledge than the central character? Such questions offer a useful starting point for reconsidering the role of dramatic irony in fiction. My argument is that far from being some rare and strange feature that only certain texts possess, this form of irony (traditionally confined to theatre) is present in countless novels. The curious thing is that we do not always perceive or acknowledge it, though with the right sort of attention it can be detected at the level of style, tone, characterization, and narration. Via a detailed reading of Stoner, along with examples from Anne Brontë, George Eliot, and Davis Grubb, and by thinking alongside the critical claims of Stanley Cavell, Toril Moi, and Wayne Booth, I want to show why we need a richer account of the presence and function of dramatic irony in fiction.
Lucas Thompson is a lecturer in the English Department. His current book project, titled Metaphors We Read By, from which this paper is drawn, proposes a metaphorical approach to reading that offers new ways of understanding literary experience and interpretation. This project takes up several lively current critical debates around postcritique, character, aesthetics, and ordinary language philosophy approaches to literature.
This event will be held online via Zoom.
Contact: Liam Semler (firstname.lastname@example.org).