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?