Friday, August 1, 2014

Best of John Kennedy Toole Scholarship #6

As I said in June 2013, I would like to offer an annotated bibliography, one citation at a time, of the best of the scholarship on Toole's Confederacy that is findable via MLA Bibliography (as opposed to obscure).

In August of 2013, I offered #2, admitting that there is a small crowd, all of which could be #2. My pick for #6 is part of that group. Here it is:

Citation: McNeil, David. "A Confederacy of Dunces as Reverse Satire: The American Subgenre." Mississippi Quarterly 38, no. 1 (1984): 33-47.

Annotation: This is a solid article. McNeil shows that Toole used a technique in Confederacy of satirizing a satirist which he calls reverse satire. “Unlike conventional satire, reverse satire does not point to a right while ridiculing the wrong; it points to the human fallibility of naively trusting in right over wrong, or in reformative schemes” (40). Ignatius decries the consumerism of his society, but he “epitomizes the very perversions against which he rages” (35). Others have criticized this article, because it waffles between seeing Confederacy as ultimately positive and ultimately negative. Indeed, McNeil says that Confederacy is “truly comic in a positive and celebratory sense” (46), but that it “teeters on the brink of unredeemable pessimism” (47). He sees the entire reverse satire genre as deriving comic energy from a merry-go-round existence. He compares Confederacy to Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in detail and to Cook’s Sotweed Factor briefly. He calls Ignatius “a debased caricature of St. Ignatius Loyola” (43). He lists other practitioners of reverse satire such as Jonathan Swift. He does not seem to be aware of the theoretical discussion of the use of what amounts to reverse satire in the genre of parody in contrast to straight satire (for example, Linda Hutcheon, A Theory of Parody, p. 16). This lack of awareness of the parody and the carnival dimension of Confederacy is criticized effectively by Karen Williams (190). McNeil mentions that Confederacy is an hegelian dialectic, but he doesn't say what theme it handles dialectically.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Just trying to make an honest living

The fine folks at scribd.com are selling copies of my paper, "Evidence of Influences on John Kennedy Toole's 'A Confederacy of Dunces', including Geoffrey Chaucer," for a mere $8.99. This despite the fact that I give away the paper free on my website. This behavior reminds me of the accounting firms that sell copies of the IRS publication 17, which happens to be free from the federal government. Please do not follow this link to buy my paper:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/145971576/H-Vernon-Leighton-Evidence-of-Influences-on-John-Kennedy-Toole

Follow this one instead to get the free copy:

http://course1.winona.edu/vleighton/toole/Leighton_Toole_Chaucer.html

P.T. Barum would be proud of them.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

New version of Evidence of Influences on John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces

My website for John Kennedy Toole Research moved to a new location. Because my "Evidence of Influences on John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces" paper includes within itself its own URL, I decided it was time to create a new version of the paper. Version 2.1 includes references to MacLaughlin's Butterfly in the Typewriter, as well as an acknowledgement of my other work, such as my "Dialectic of American Humanism" paper. I have removed version 1.3 from the server and have kept a copy of version 2.0 there for download. I will try to keep a copy of 2.0 available, because it is the version that has been cited in the literature.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ideas for Papers on John Kennedy Toole, the Occasional Series, Part 20

Thesis #20: Toole and Rowling's Casual Vacancy

J.K. Rowling's recent novel Casual Vacancy appears to use elements from the Frazer dying god / Saturnalia tradition: sausages and obesity (Howard Mollison), a scapegoat (Fats Wall), death associated with regeneration (Krystal and Fats having sex near Barry's grave), gender ambiguity (Sukhvinder), a mask-like obsession with looking youthful and sexy (Samantha), and a withered woman who is grotesquely sexual (Maureen). Confederacy of Dunces also shares such elements: Clyde the king of sausages, Ignatius as a mock scapegoat with gender ambiguity, Mrs. Levy's mask-like appearance, and the withered Trixie.

One huge difference is the sense of collective responsibility in Casual Vacancy. People do die in that book, and others share blame. Many people could have saved Robbie's life, but they were too wrapped up in themselves to take action. There are evil people, such as Obo, and unscrupulous ones, such as Simon Price. Fats as scapegoat takes on the sins of the community, and there are a lot of them. By comparison, Confederacy is a carnival romp with a largely happy ending.

Thesis: Compare the tragic use of Saturnalian themes in Rowling's Casual Vacancy to the comic uses thereof in Confederacy of Dunces. See if you can fit in some concepts from Marsilio Ficino (you can).

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Best of John Kennedy Toole Scholarship #5

As I said in June 2013, I would like to offer an annotated bibliography, one citation at a time, of the best of the scholarship on Toole's Confederacy that is findable via MLA Bibliography (as opposed to obscure).

In August of 2013, I offered #2, admitting that there is a small crowd, all of which could be #2. My pick for #5 is part of that group. Here it is:

Citation: Pugh, Tison. "‘It’s Prolly Fulla Dirty Stories’: Masturbatory Allegory and Queer Medievalism in John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces." Studies in Medievalism 15, (2006): 77-100.

Annotation: Pugh focuses in on the gender boundary transgressions in Confederacy (87-95). Pugh uses “queer” to mean simply any distortion of traditional sexual norms, and not necessarily a homosexual orientation. His thesis is, first, that "sexual desires disrupt normative constructions of identity and allegorical meaning within its fictions," and second, that “Ignatius's medievalism, as it estranges him from the social world around him, also models for the reader the sheer pleasure of queering medievalisms” (77). Confederacy is an allegory of perversion and a perversion of allegory. Pugh compares Ignatius to Ignatius Loyola in detail and Christ and Cain briefly. He briefly compares Confederacy to Dante’s Inferno and to Arthurian quests for a grail. While I disagree with Pugh’s ideas about Ignatius’s own motivations (I prefer those by Patteson and Sauret), he defends them well. Well done.

Friday, April 25, 2014

John Kennedy Toole Research has moved

Due to a reworking of the www.winona.edu website, I have moved my John Kennedy Toole Research html pages to a different campus server. The pages are now available at: http://course1.winona.edu/vleighton/toole/Default.html Vernon

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Frazer's Dying God found Dead (or Alive)

Okay, this blog post is not directly related to Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, but it is related to the theory of Carnival that I believe Toole was using.

In 2014, the PBS series NOVA aired an episode called "Ghosts of Murdered Kings." The show discusses corpses that have been found buried in peat bogs in northern Europe. Careful study demonstrates that the bodies are of high-status individuals, possibly local kings, who were intentionally killed. Not only were they killed, they were subjected to several different kinds of fatal attack. One might have been drowned, then hung, then severely stabbed. That style of multiple death is called "overkill."

The evidence suggests that these kings were culturally Celtic. In that culture, if there was a serious failure of crops the king was taken to the local fertility goddess's sacred spot (possibly in a bog) and was overkilled to appease her.

That NOVA episode could have been written by James Frazer for his 1890s book, The Golden Bough. His work, which eventually stretched to 12 volumes in the third edition, was all about a local person being designated as the representative of a fertility god, and that person being sacrificed as the god died, in order for the god to be born again to allow the crops to return. Frazer was very influential in the early 20th century, among writers such as T.S. Eliot and James Joyce.

The URL to the NOVA epidsode is: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/ghosts-murdered-kings.html

This relates to Confederacy because one theory of Carnival is that it is derived from Saturnalia, a Roman festival with some similarities to these Celtic rites. In Saturnalia, a Lord of Misrule, a representative of the god Saturn, was killed to restore the fertility of the land. Ignatius in Confederacy can be seen as a scapegoated Lord of Misrule. His almost being killed by the streetcar is a type of mock death.