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Seriousness, irony, and the mission of hyperbole.

Carrithers, M. (2012) 'Seriousness, irony, and the mission of hyperbole.', Religion and society : advances in research., 3 (1). pp. 51-75.


Seriousness is achieved when a speaker effectively moves the audience according to his or her intentions. But seriousness is fragile and subject to countless vicissitudes, as illustrated in an encounter with the television evangelist Oral Roberts. I interrogate one of the means used to counter such vicissitudes-hyperbole. Hyperbole may include exaggeration and amplification of all kinds, and may be manifest in deeds as well as words. I first follow hyperbole through 9/11 and the competing ideologies of Salafi jihadists and the Bush administration to show how 'absolute metaphors' are enlisted hyperbolically. I examine too how epic narratives are created as a similar form of hyperbole. Finally, I show how sacredness, another allied form of hyperbole, is attributed to the Holocaust in present-day Germany. Throughout I argue, and illustrate, how anthropological writing is of necessity ironic, such that irony is better than 'cultural relativism' as an understanding of the anthropological enterprise.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedited version of an article published in Religion and society : advances in research. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Carrithers, M. (2012) 'Seriousness, irony, and the mission of hyperbole.', Religion and society : advances in research., 3 (1). pp. 51-75 is available online at:
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:23 May 2013
Date of first online publication:2012
Date first made open access:No date available

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