Wednesday, March 1, 2017

John Kennedy Toole Scholarship #15: Hardin (though not necessarily the best)

I have been offering periodic reviews of articles in the mainstream scholarship ("mainstream" defined as indexed in the MLA International Bibliography). I have focused on the articles and theses that I thought were the best. However, some scholarship is influential and therefore important even when it is not IMHO among the best scholarship. Below, I review an article by Michael Hardin. I do not consider it among the top articles on Confederacy of Dunces, but it is influential because of its pathbreaking aspects. While I do not find his overall thesis as compelling as those of other critics, Hardin's article should be cited by other scholars because of his unique observations. So here I offer my critique.

Citation: Hardin, Michael. "Between Queer Performances: John Kennedy Toole's The Neon Bible and A Confederacy of Dunces." Southern Literary Journal 39, no. 2 (2007): 58-77.

Annotation: Hardin makes the case that the protagonists of both of John Kennedy Toole’s novels have queer (and specifically homosexual) identities. He reviews the same gender ambiguity that Pugh and Gatewood have reviewed, but he views it as an indication of a repressed gay identity rather than general gender transgression. He is critical of the (IMHO strong) claims of Clark and Miller that Ignatius displays infantilism. The article has some pluses: Hardin was the first critic to find several likely double entendres in Confederacy (for example, at the gay rally, Ignatius asks the crowd if they would turn their backs on their fellow man), and the comparison with Neon Bible is useful. Because it was the first to make some observations, if one writes about the queer aspects of Confederacy, one should read and cite this article. However, its thesis is not as compelling as those of Clark, Pugh, Gatewood, or Patteson and Sauret.