Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Letter To the English Department

Letters beget more letters. So it was written in the Book of Numbers.

Dr. Robin L. Inboden
Chair - English Department
Wittenberg University
P.O. Box 720
Springfield, OH 45501

Dear Dr. Inboden,

Hello, how are you? I'm fine. You would be so proud of me. I started writing this letter and the little Microsoft Office paperclip asked if I needed any help, but I clicked "cancel"! I graduated from the English department at Wittenberg University; I don't need any help writing a letter! Plus, I'm an adult now so I can make all the mistakes I want and nobody can stop me (such as using punctuation outside of quotation marks). USA! USA!

The reason I'm writing you is to ask a question that has caused me shame long enough. I feel a little stupid having to come back to you to ask this, but can you please explain to me what irony is? I've always sort of thought I knew the right answer, but in the back of my head I've always felt like I was wrong afterwards. Kind of like when I voted for Obama.

I'll give you some context. I recently wrote a letter to the man in charge of grapes (the fruit, not the computer programming environment), and while I wrote it I was eating a banana. I thought to myself, "This is ironic!" Then later I felt remorse and shame, because I didn't think it was really ironic at all. How can I be so stupid?! This is why I haven't been published yet!

Naturally I went online to look up the definition. I had to because I sold all of my old text books to pay my internet bill. I learned that "Verbal irony is a disparity of expression and intention: when a speaker says one thing but means another, or when a literal meaning is contrary to its intended effect," ("Wikipedia"), but I don't think that works. I meant everything I said to the Head of Grapes.

I also don't think it was dramatic irony, because I knew what the letter meant (I was asking him why my grape bag had a zipper that didn't work). To be honest, I think the whole thing was closest to Socratic irony, because I asked a bunch of  questions about grapes. In the end, it will be he who teaches me (think about it). But then how does the banana fit into everything?

Anywho, if you could write me back with an explanation I would really appreciate it. I'd even be down for coming into one of your classes and helping teach some current English majors all about it. I'm going to be on campus soon anyway to help plan a new major with President Erickson (he knows what it's about, I wrote him a letter).

In Calibri,

The Correspondent

Works Cited

"Irony." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 18 Nov. 2008 21:45 UTC. 
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 10 Aug. 2004. 


Anonymous said...

Dr. Iboden was the prof who decided to start calling me Betsy (without ever asking if my nickname was Betsy), which in turn prompted all other Engish profs to ask if they really should be calling me Betsy instead of Elizabeth.

Tom said...

At least you included a Works Cited. Job well done, English major.

Tom said...

Also, I think it's good to hold our institutions of higher learning to certain standards and express to them how they have let us down