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Thursday, September 11, 2003   |    Fiction

Postmodern Irony Final Exam

by Josh Abraham

PMI-110A: Introduction to Postmodern Irony/Ironic Postmodernism
Final Exam
Section IV: Essay

Please select one (1) topic from the first three questions, one (1) from the middle three questions, and one (1) from the last three questions. Answer each in the form of an 800-word essay. Use a mechanical pencil with a .05mm lead. Maintain a disaffected distance while suppressing youthful optimism.

  1. In the fall of 2001, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter declared “the end of the Age of Irony.” If Carter’s words were not themselves ironic, we therefore must now find ourselves in the dawn of the Age of Truth. a) Identify and discuss the effects non-ironic clarity (or lack thereof) may have on the going-rate of vintage back issues of Spy magazine auctioned on eBay. b) Does this make you feel lonely?
  2. Compose a diary entry as written from the point of view of the third plastic nub in the adjuster on Ashton Kutcher’s retired mesh trucker cap. Avoid reference to Demi Moore or that Fes kid; focus instead on the contradictory nature of anti-fad backlash as pop-culture fad itself.
  3. Sandwiches: yes or no?
  4. Snorkels are designed to transport air beneath the surface of water so that a diver may breathe oxygen while submerged. Why, then, did the Snorks, being anaerobic water-breathers, need snorkels atop their heads? Discuss the existence of Snorks as a manifestation of the form-over-function/style-over-substance zeitgeist that fueled mass-marketed children’s entertainment during the 1980s, and also how they were just second-rate Smurfs, anyway.
  5. I once saw a midget perched on his tiptoes, straining his calf muscles, and swearing in noble desperation, as he wrangled the Sisyphean struggle of inserting a quarter into a parking meter. I know the proper thing to do would have been to offer my assistance but I was paralyzed by the cold fear of erupting into uncontrollable laughter in the little guy’s face. I feel so conflicted, even now, three years later. Though I acted in full recognition of my shortcomings—a terribly juvenile sense of humor and the tendency to disintegrate into wild fits of unstoppable giggles — was I right in sparing the little guy potential insult, or am I just a total prick either way?
  6. a) If you handed in a blank piece of paper, would your postmodern, ironical display receive full marks or a big fat zero?
    b) Try it.
    c) Go on, I dare you.
    d) If it’s blank, how do I even know it’s yours?
    e) Unless you’re the only one who hands in a blank piece of paper, and I am familiar with the process of elimination.
    f) Which I clearly am.
    g) Or am I?
    h) I double-dog dare you.
  7. Don’t you hate when people use the word “ironical,” as in the above question 6(a)? Just say “ironic,” for Pete’s sake. “Ironical” makes you sound like you’re retarded. Discuss.
  8. Culkins: the new Baldwins? Show all work.
  9. “For Pete’s sake”? Really?

Josh Abraham was born in Algeria in 1913. He spent his early years in North Africa, working various jobs—in the weather bureau, in an automobile-accessory firm, in a shipping company—to help pay for his courses at the University of Algiers. As a young journalist, his report on the unhappy state of Muslims in the Kabylie region aroused the Algerian government to action and brought him public notice. From 1935 to 1938 he ran the Théâtre de l'Equipe, a theatrical company that produced plays by Malraux, Gide, Synge, and Dostoevski. During World War II he was one of the leading writers of the French Resistance and editor of Combat, then an important underground newspaper. Abraham's fiction, his philosophical essays, and his plays have assured his preëminent position in modern French letters. In 1957 Abraham was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. His sudden death on January 4, 1960, cut short the career of one of the most important literary figures of the Western world when he was at the very summit of his powers. No, wait. That was Albert Camus.