Monday, September 1, 2014

Ideas for Papers on John Kennedy Toole, the Occasional Series, Part 21

Thesis #21: Myrna as Leftist Humanist

My work with Toole's Confederacy of Dunces and Ficino has not caused a huge buzz of activity surrounding the topic, or at least, not a buzz that I can hear. One aspect of Confederacy and Humanism that I did not explore in the "Dialectic of American Humanism" paper, and which I had expected to appear when the chatter went viral, was the issue of more politically and socially leftist versions of 20th century humanism. I am very disappointed in all my blog followers (wait, I have no blog followers!) that I have to bring this topic up myself.

In my Dialectic paper, I discussed the influence of Paul Oskar Kristeller on John Kennedy Toole. I cited the work of James Hankins. However, Hankins also studied the ideas of Eugenio Garin, an Italian leftist, who formulated a more culturally leftist form of philosophical humanism. In Hankins's essay, "Two twentieth century interpreters of Renaissance humanism," he compares Kristeller's ideas to those of Garin. That essay is found in volume one of his opus, Humanism and Platonism in the Italian Renaissance.

Within Confederacy, Myrna and her more socially leftist worldview stands as a counterweight to Ignatius and his Neoplatonic worldview, both offering a critique of mainstream American culture. This counterweight is somewhat similar to the counterweight Garin offered to the ideas of Kristeller.

Thesis: Discuss the possibility that Myrna and her worldview are a carnivalesque version of Garin's humanism. You could even speculate on why I chose not to include Garin in my own paper on Toole's use of humanism in Confederacy of Dunces.