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By Lilian R Furst

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The systematisation that is the aim of these codified universal grammars is the linguistic counterpart to that ordering of all knowledge that was the ideal of the Grande Encyclopidie. As the validity of objective knowledge came to be questioned, so too were the bases of language. Displaced from its previous almost automatic representative function, the word made a startling new appearance as 'enigmatic raw material'. 54 The growing scepticism and speculation through the eighteenth century about the efficacy of pre-established and received meanings and also about the assumptions underlying expression and communication is another pregnant manifestation of the wider crisis of authority characteristic of this 'pivotal period'.

Its domain lies within the realm of 26 Fictions of Romantic Irony philosophy: 'Die Philosophie ist die eigentliche Heimat der Ironie' 9 ('philosophy is the true homeland of irony'). Far from being just a literary device, it is endowed with 'philosophisches Vermogen' 10 ('philosophical capacity'). This means not merely that Schlegel's conception of irony has its origins in philosophy; rather it denotes the capacity of irony to confront and, ideally, to transcend the contradictions of the finite world.

Here, then, we have irony. (p. 278) On balance, however, Kierkegaard's posture in The Concept of Irony is itself ironically ambivalent. He is further from Hegel than at first seems: he takes Hegel to task for discussing irony in a tone of indignation and with contempt, specially in regard to Schlegel; yet he also emphasises that his criticism does not imply either that Hegel erred in his judgement of Schlegel, or that the Schlegelian perception of irony was not gravely flawed. Nonetheless he ends closer to Schlegel than is generally supposed, although his interest shifts increasingly from the concept of irony onto the persona of the ironist.

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