Monday, December 1, 2014

Best of John Kennedy Toole Scholarship #7

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. I think that with #7, we are finally past the tie for #2, so this article is not part of that group. Here it is:

Citation: Kline, Michael. "Narrating the Grotesque: The Rhetoric of Humor in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces." Southern Quarterly 37, no. 3-4, (1999): 283-291.

Annotation:This article explores the mechanisms within Confederacy that generate its humor. Kline argues that the grotesque elements are not enough to carry the “extended narrative humor” (284). He uses the concept of metonomy, which he describes as the figure "responsible for the reader's perception of referential relationships of causality ..." (285) He then outlines the different narrative threads of the novel and shows how they interact. Humor is generated by the reader’s inability to foresee unusual plot connections—metonym mismatches—which are breaks in the causal chains. The reader’s pleasure comes from the balance between the dynamic plot and its grotesque disruption (288). Ignatius, he points out, is responsible for each mismatched situation. He identifies four disruptive operators: disproportion, decontextualization, irony, and inconsequentiality (289). He sees the ending as less a happy ending than “a problematic mythos of Spring …” (286). Like Clark, he points out that Ignatius has a limited understanding of Boethius, and that the narrative itself refutes Ignatius’s limited view with a deeper understanding of Boethius (287). I find Rowan Atkinson’s theory of physical comedy (in the documentary called “Funny Business,” 1992) to be more useful in discussing the novel’s humor, so while I do not agree entirely with his theory of the mechanism of the humor, this is a solid article that touches on many good points.