This thesis explores irony and existential commitment in response to the condition of Absurdity. More specifically, it considers three different treatments of irony and ironic understanding, how these permit multiple modalities of being in the world, and how students might be assisted as they learn about, and practice, their existential freedom with some measure of humility, commitment and responsibility regarding that which they encounter. The first section explores Camus’ Absurdity and how it impacts our many sociological, philosophical and existential commitments. The notion of ‘self’ is itself excavated, with an eye towards describing an agonistic process of self-selection vis-à-vis surrounding cultural, historical and ideological forms. Never shying away from practical and political moral considerations, including those impacting schools, we arrive at ‘The Existential Bind’ as our human, all too human condition, a confounding situation of freedom which is both infinite and not, of self which is for itself yet not of or by itself, of moral and just action that is both necessary and impossible, and of a longing towards the unity of truth that is to be rejected even while fervently desired. The second section is an exploration of irony as a profitable response to our irresolvable human predicament. Here, three ‘movements’ of irony based on the works of Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche and, perhaps incongruously, Kieran Egan are engaged, permitting us to speak of irony as negation, creation and imagination. Rather than feel obliged to prefer one treatment or another to the exclusion of its alternates, developing a sophisticated and fluid ironic posture will enable us to enjoy irony’s many intellectual, ethical and aesthetic benefits. The final section outlines a pedagogical model stemming from the ideas presented in earlier sections. Here, readers will encounter the notion of “idea-centered space” shaped around the elements of differentiation, relation and ironic disruption. Following from this, we return to the matter of existential freedom, the appropriate role of suffering in pedagogy and existential becoming, and the various responsibilities of the educator – this educator included – in rebellion and solidarity with students.
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Thesis advisor: Blenkinsop, Sean
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