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.