Flann O’Brien, Wittgenstein, and the Idling of Language

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This article examines unrecognized points of conceptual and stylistic convergence between the work of Flann O’Brien and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Though operating in quite different generic and discursive modes, both writers reject broad metaphysical systems, idealized models of language, skepticism, and the impulse to theorize. As correctives to these tendencies, O’Brien and Wittgenstein adopt similar techniques to train their readers’ attention on the zones of overlap in linguistic usage where confusion tends to arise. Finally, this comparison with O’Brien casts new light on Wittgenstein’s later work as it illuminates satirical and ironizing styles that have perhaps not been fully appreciated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLiterature and its Language
Subtitle of host publicationPhilosophical Aspects
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9783031123306
ISBN (Print)9783031123290
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • Flann O’Brien
  • Irony
  • Linguistic usage
  • Satire
  • Skepticism
  • Wittgenstein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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