Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Best of John Kennedy Toole Scholarship #3

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, I offered #2, admitting that there is a small crowd, all of which could be #2. My pick for #3 is part of that group. Here it is:

Citation: Clark, William Bedford. "All Toole's Children: A Reading of A Confederacy of Dunces." Essays in Literature [ISSN 0360-7062] v. 14, no. 2 (1987): 269-280.

Annotation: A solid and important article. Clark argues that Confederacy’s main theme is the corruption of childish innocence. Santa was abused as a child and is abusive toward children, and she tells Irene that she should have beaten Ignatius more as a child. Ignatius plays the role of a grotesque, immature man-child (Daigrepont), and Santa eventually convinces Irene to have him committed to a mental ward, hoping they will abuse him. Further, Lana and George corrupt children with pornography, and Gus thinks of his company as a neglected child. In the history of Toole criticism, Clark is the first to point out that Ignatius only has a limited understanding of Fortune and Boethius, and that the narrative itself refutes Ignatius’s limited view by using the view of Boethius’s Lady Philosophy. The critic Wesley Britton, for example, would be incapable of writing: “We are not tied to Fortune's Wheel, but indeed play out our lives as part of a higher design which allows for the reality of free will ...” Another quote: “Properly speaking, we ought to view Toole's account of the punishment visited upon the child-molesters … as a deus ex machina only if we place adequate stress on the deus” (273). There are brief comparisons of Confederacy to Dante’s Divine Comedy (278)--with Ignatius and Gus headed for Purgatory--and Twain’s Tom Sawyer (275).