Motherhood in Ferrante's The Lost Daughter: A Case Study of Irony as Extraordinary Reflection

Philosophy and Literature 41 (1):185-200 (2017)
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In A Case for Irony, Jonathan Lear aims to advance “a distinguished philosophical tradition that conceives of humanity as a task” by returning this tradition to the ironic figure at its origin — Socrates. But he is hampered by his reliance on well-worn philosophical examples. I suggest that Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter illustrates the mode of ironic experience that interests Lear, and helps us to think through his relation to Christine Korsgaard, arguably the greatest contemporary proponent of the philosophical tradition at issue. Lear needs a central idea from Korsgaard’s model of practical thinking in order to characterise the phenomenology of ironic experience, but he also needs to jettison her idea that reasons for action come from an agent’s “practical identities” if he wants to follow through on his claim that irony is a form of radical and committed reflection.

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Melissa M Merritt
University of New South Wales


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