Thursday, December 1, 2011

Revision of the Obscure bibliography

I have revised my Critical Annotated Bibliography of Obscure Scholarship
on John Kennedy Toole and A Confederacy of Dunces
. It is now on version 1.4.

The main addition is the work by Julija Potrc. But I have gone through and added links to WorldCat for most of the texts.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Occasional Series of Ideas for Papers on John Kennedy Toole, Part 10

Tennessee Williams and Toole

In the Toole papers, there is only one mention of Tennessee Williams in the papers from pre-1963. In an undergraduate assignment (see Evidence of Influences version 2.0, page 11), when Toole discussed Chaucer's Wife of Bath, he compared her to Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Joel Fletcher, a college friend of Toole and confidant to Thelma toward the end of her life, argued in his memoir that Confederacy parodies A Streetcar Named Desire (Ken and Thelma, p. 26). In a critical essay, Robert Siegel argued that in Williams's work, the flesh and the spirit "seek, test, and do battle with each other" ("The Metaphyics of Tennessee Williams," in Magical Muse, 2002, page 112+). In Roger Boxill's Tennessee Williams (1987), Brick is described as "a child in a world of adults" (117).

Castration is also a theme common to Williams and Toole (to say nothing of Walker Percy's The Moviegoer). Boxill sees a castration theme in "Three Players" (115), a short story which represents an early draft of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Castration is a theme in the symbolism of the planetary god Saturn and in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which Young claims was a predecessor to New Orleans Carnival.

In Confederacy, Ignatius spouts Boethian ideals while clearly himself being very carnal. He is also treated and acts like a child, though he is thirty.

Thesis: Compare the carnal/spiritual split in Toole and Williams, and the issues of immaturity and castration.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Occasional Series of Ideas for Papers on John Kennedy Toole, Part 9

Gore Vidal again, Greek this time

In the Toole Papers, Faust's bibliography of Toole's library includes Gore Vidal's Thirsty Evil (see Evidence of Influences version 2.0, page 42). That short story collection was discussed in Thesis #3. In this thesis, I want to draw attention to the story called "The Ladies in the Library." According to Robert Phillips essay called "Gore Vidal's Greek Revival" (Notes on Modern American Literature, 6, no. 1, item 3), Gore's story is a comtemporary version of Virgil's Aeneid. The Parker sisters are in fact the Parcae, or the Fates. Walter's sister "Sybil is the Cumaean Sibyl who guided Aeneas in his descent to the underground" (1). Phillips explains why a contemporary author would write such a modern allegory: "The parallels raise the story from the particular to the universal, and the story becomes not only that of the misfortune of Walter Bragnet, or of Aeneas, but of all men" (2).

As I have argued in Evidence of Influences, Ignatius displays Saturnine qualities, both in his role as an agent of disorder and in his role as a Saturnalian Lord or Misrule.

Thesis: Compare Toole's use of classical symbolism to Gore's use of the same. Was Toole motivated by the need to distill the universal into the particular, as Phillips claims Gore was, or by some other motivation?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Update to Annotated Bibliography of Obscure Scholarship on John Kennedy Toole

Yesterday, I uploaded version 1.3 of the Critical Annotated Bibliography of some of the more obscure scholarship on John Kennedy Toole and the novel A Confederacy of Dunces.

I am now scraping pretty close to the bottom of the barrel. Previously, I had included all of the theses that were listed in Dissertation Abstracts (DA). This time, I have added annotations to theses that were cataloged in WorldCat, but which were not in DA. I also added annotations to other works that gave brief or tangential references to Toole. One good item added was Giddings's thesis. That thesis was good enough to cause me to come out with version 2.0 of Evidence of Influences. The essay by Simpson is a critique of Confederacy, but it does little to explicate details of the text. de Caro and Jordan discuss Toole's work in their investigation of the use of folklore by literature. It is neither criticism nor interpretation, but it had enough substance to include it.

One source that I reviewed and did not include was Lupack's Insanity as Redemption. That book does mention Toole and Confederacy, but only in passing, and the little that she said indicates that she did not read Confederacy very carefully.

On reviewing this blog, I see that I failed to announce version 1.2 of this same bibliography. That version added annotations for the theses of Kunze and Perkins. One could argue that Kunze is not obscure because it is freely available on the Internet, but it is not in DA and I have not seen it discussed in the scholarly literature. I liked Kunze, and I did not like Perkins. The annotations explain why.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Occasional Series of Ideas for Papers on John Kennedy Toole, Part 8

Falstaff and Ignatius

[This could be a large paper.] In many of the reviews of Confederacy and even in Percy's introduction, Ignatius is described as "falstaffian." In the Toole Papers, there is a college assignment that establishes that Toole was familiar with Falstaff in Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 1 (Evidence of Influences version 2.0, 12-13). Barber's Shakespeare's Festive Comedy (Princeton 1959) investigated the connection between Shakespeare's plays and Saturnalian ritual (see especially pages 205 and 206, which connect Falstaff to Frazer's Golden Bough). From 1900 to 1917, one of the Krewes of New Orleans Carnival season was called The Falstaffians (Perry Young, Mistick Krewe, 1931, p. 265).

Thesis: Investigate the connection between Ignatius and Falstaff, especially at the level of both being a Saturnalian Lord of Misrule. There is no evidence that Toole was familiar with Barber's work, but even if he did not read it, the ideas could have been discussed in Toole's circle. Note in Henry IV Part 2 that Falstaff courting Doll is referred to as Saturn courting Venus (II, iv). Note also that Barber ties this theme to Freudian psychology, and there is evidence in the Toole Papers for his knowledge of Freudian psychology and literary criticism. (To pursue this point, you would have to visit Tulane and study the Toole Papers.) Tie them all to New Orleans Carnival, of course. What are some reasons why the parallel might not be actual influence?

Friday, July 1, 2011

New edition of Evidence of Influences, version 2.0

A new edition of the Evidence of Influences paper has been posted. There were several reasons for this update. First, I had read two more studies of Confederacy, by Simpson and by Giddings respectively, and I wanted to add them. For Giddings, I had added a section on the picaresque novel. Also, I had earlier shoved some oblique references into a large footnote. I have now pulled the discussions of Spenser, Milton, Melville, and T.S. Eliot into the main text. I have also shortened some of the long-winded discussion of the literature. I have suggested to the reader how to skip what has turned into a catalog of the Toole Papers. Finally, I have had another paper tentatively accepted at a peer-review journal, and in that article, I want to cite the most recent version of Evidence of Influences.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Occasional Series of Ideas for Papers on John Kennedy Toole, Part 7

Education of Philosopher-King

In the Toole Papers at Tulane, there is a folder of college assignments from Philosophy (in 2009, it was box 2, folder 8). There is an assignment there dated 9 January 1956 submitted by Toole to Dr. Ballard in Philosophy 101. Leaf two of the assignment discusses the proper education of Plato's Philosopher-King. At age 17, the future king should engage in a ten-year study of geometry, solid geometry, astronomy and harmonics. At age 30, the student should have mastered mathematical forms and be ready to rationalize and not depend on the visible. In Confederacy, Ignatius, who is 30 years old, has toiled for many years as a student in isolation, and the plot of the novel shows him trying to go out into the world and take action.

Thesis: Discuss Ignatius as a parody of a budding Platonic Philosopher-King.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Occasional Series now a fixed web page as well as in blog

I noticed that, going on a year, no one has been following this blog, so I decided to create a version of the occasional series as a fixed web page. I published the page on the Web on April 6th, and just today (April 18th) Google found it, without me having placed a link to it in this blog. It is Ideas for Papers or Term Papers on John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, the Occasional Series.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Occasional Series of Ideas for Papers on John Kennedy Toole, Part 6

Angel in the Wardrobe

In #4 of this series, I suggested that Toole may have gotten some of his ideas about the theory of Carnival from Robert Tallant's book Mardi Gras. Another Tallant book may have also influenced Toole’s writing of Confederacy. Ken Owen, the Louisiana Specialist at Tulane University’s Louisiana Research Collection, suggested that Confederacy can also be seen as a parody of Tallant’s melodramatic novel called Angel in the Wardrobe, also published in 1948. Whereas Tallant’s Mattie Lou receives advice from an angel in her wardrobe, Irene accepts advice from Angelo Mancuso. Whereas Tallant’s reclusive child molester, Sylvester, is committed to a mental hospital at the end of Angel, Toole’s bestial onanist, Ignatius, narrowly escapes commitment at the end of Confederacy.

Thesis: Compare the two books. There are many parallels, and the claim that Confederacy is a parody is not far-fetched.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Occasional Series of Ideas for Papers on John Kennedy Toole, Part 5b

More Milton

Another theme that relates Milton to Confederacy is New Orleans Carnival. The first major Krewe of Carnival is the Krewe of Comus. It is named after a court masque that Milton wrote as a young man. In that masque, Comus uses magic to turn people into monsters who are half-human, half-beast. Those transformed people cannot see their beastliness, and see themselves as god-like.

Thesis: Compare Milton's Comus masque, New Orleans Carnival, and Ignatius in Confederacy.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Occasional Series of Ideas for Papers on John Kennedy Toole, Part 5a

John Milton and Ignatius In Confederacy, Ignatius mentions that he should end his Miltonic isolation and become engaged with the world (chapter 5, section 4, page 109 in the 1980 edition). In Samuel Johnson’s essay on Milton in his Lives of the English Poets, he makes fun of Milton. Milton makes a grand claim that he needs to return to England because he has to participate in the revolution against Charles I. But when he gets to England, he simply gets a job teaching at a private boarding school. For example, Johnson wrote: "Let not our veneration for Milton forbid us to look with some degree of merriment on great promises and small performance, on the man who hastens home, because his countrymen are contending for liberty, and, when he reaches the scene of action, vapours away his patriotism in a private boarding-school" (page varies with edition).

Thesis: Compare Milton’s big talk and small walk to the same pattern in Ignatius’s behavior.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Occasional Series of Ideas for Papers on John Kennedy Toole, Part 4

Theories of Carnival

As the new footnote to Evidence of Influences indicates (see posting below), several earlier critics have approached Confederacy’s use of Carnival with theories of carnival that are currently fashionable among critics. However, neither the theories of Bakhtin nor Stallybrass and White were available to Toole when he wrote Confederacy. I argue that he was likely influenced by the theory of carnival fashionable in his youth: that of James Frazer’s Golden Bough. Because the Williams, Lambert, and Gatewood theses are difficult to obtain, the most accessible discussions of carnival are in Lowe and Gillespie. Lowe discusses Bakhtin briefly.

Thesis: Compare the effectiveness of two theories of carnival for interpreting Confederacy: the Bakhtin theory of carnival as discussed in Lowe’s essay and the Frazer theory of carnival as discussed in either Tallant's book or di Palma’s book. (See Evidence of Influences for full references to these texts.) There is at least one major aspect of Frazer’s theory that Ignatius fulfills that is not discussed in Bakhtin’s theory.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Minor revision to Evidence of Influences

Yesterday, I revised my online paper called Evidence of Influences on John Kennedy Toole’s "A Confederacy of Dunces," Including Geoffrey Chaucer. The reason for adding W. Bedford Clark's endorsement of the paper to the PDF version was that Google Scholar did not link to the HTML page that leads to the PDF; instead, it linked directly to the PDF. So the HTML cover page can no longer act as a definitive part of the paper that can hold the current list of endorsements.

While I was editing the paper, I decided to also add a footnote regarding New Orleans Carnival. I have been working away on a new paper regarding Ignatius Reilly as a child of the planetary god Saturn. Originally, I had planned to make the connection to Carnival and Saturnalia part of that next paper, but as the paper evolved, the point about Carnival seemed to be less newsworthy and more worthy of appearing in a footnote. The footnote also caused me to add three texts to the list of references. By reducing the font size of the references and the list of changes, I have kept the paper to forty pages, but the long footnote has thrown off the pagination of the text after page 27. My apologizes to anyone who quotes from an earlier version of the paper.

Here is the text of the added footnote:

Another connection between Saturn and chaos is the New Orleans tradition of Carnival. Numerous critics have discussed the carnival elements present in Confederacy. While some have used currently popular theories of carnival such as Bakhtin (Williams chapter 5, Lowe 160, Lambert 20) and Stallybrass and White (Gatewood), Toole himself was more likely to have drawn on the popular books about the history of New Orleans Carnival published during his boyhood which reference Frazer’s Golden Bough and identify carnival with Roman Saturnalia, the feast of Saturn (Tallant 85, di Palma 14). Neither Tallant nor di Palma appears in the Toole Papers.