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.