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WRIGHT, Elizabetha A.

Spring 2001, pages 91-111

"Joking isn't Safe": Fanny Fern, Irony, and Signifyin(g)

Abstract: 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.
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