“Joking isn't safe”; Fanny fern, irony, and signifyin(g)

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Much about the trope of irony is confusing. However, a consideration of the similarities between irony and African American Signification can help us recognize that this confusion can empower rhetors. One rhetor who can illustrate this power is Fanny Fern, a white nineteenth‐century American newspaper columnist whose rhetoric could be described as Signification. Simultaneously praising and condemning subjects such as suffrage, Fern was able to write on subjects forbidden to many. In addition, Fern's use of Signifyin(g) ironic rhetoric illustrates that language is not as determined as many would believe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-111
Number of pages21
JournalRhetoric Society Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2001
Externally publishedYes


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