A Critical Annotated Bibliography of Obscure Scholarship on John Kennedy Toole and A Confederacy of Dunces, version 1.5.2.
Author: H. Vernon Leighton
The purpose of this bibliography is to summarize texts that might be difficult for the average scholar to obtain and to evaluate the quality of those obscure texts. Most of these are Master's theses or Ph.D. dissertations that have at least some portion devoted to a discussion of John Kennedy Toole or the novel A Confederacy of Dunces. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not represent the opinions of Winona State University.
Students and scholars who reference this bibliography should cite this page as:
Leighton, H. Vernon. A Critical Annotated Bibliography of Obscure Scholarship on John Kennedy Toole and A Confederacy of Dunces. version 1.5.2, 9 June 2014 [date viewed]. http://course1.winona.edu/vleighton/toole/Toole_obscure_scholarship.html.
Table of Contents
- Bell, Ronald W.
- Beste, Helga
- Coles, Robert, revised in version 1.5
- de Caro, Frank and Rosan Augusta Jordan, added in version 1.3
- Gardner, Carolyn P.
- Gatewood, Jessica J.
- Gibbs, John
- Giddings, Greg, added in version 1.3
- Kunze, Peter, added in version 1.2
- Lambert, M. Michele Macgregor
- Perkins, Bethany, added in version 1.2
- Potrč, Julija, added in version 1.4
- Simpson, Lewis, added in version 1.3
- Williams, Karen Luanne
- Woodland, James R.
- Other works cited
Bell, Ronald W. The Nihilistic Perspective of John Kennedy Toole. Diss., California State University, Dominguez Hills, 2000.
I have a negative opinion of this paper. Leave it at that.
Beste, Helga. 'What's that, Crazy?' Zur Funktion Verruckter Charaktere Bei John Kennedy Toole, Joseph Heller, Marilynne Robinson Und Leslie Marmon Silko. Trier, Germany: Wissenschaftlicher, 2003.
In German. This book is Ms. Beste’s dissertation from Heidelberg in 2001. Beste compares the use of madness in Confederacy, Catch-22, Housekeeping, and Ceremony.
In chapter 2, she uses as a framework for madness the theory put forward in Hope Landrine’s The Politics of Madness (1992), which uses these four criteria: 1) persons considered mad must behave other than those around them expect, 2) they must be essentially not criminal, 3) they must nevertheless be seen as dangerous or a threat by those around them, and 4) they eventually need the attention of special personnel who can return them to “normality.”
Chapters 3, 4, and 5 explore the themes of separation and confinement from Foucault’s Madness and Civilization (1965) in different contexts. In chapter 3, Beste explores how each book uses separation and confinement in space, comparing in detail how Ignatius’s isolation can be seen as a parody of Boethius’s confinement in prison (57-59). Even the book's scenes are isolated, with the location and time always changing from one to the next.
Chapter 4 examines separation and confinement in time, with Ignatius’s insistence on anachronism. Beste analyzes Toole’s representation of time closely, showing that a scene without a time reference is often placed between scenes with known time constraints, and that except for chapter 13, no scene seems to occur simultaneously with any other (99-101). She points out that no chapter lasts more than 24 hours, and she speculates on Toole’s intentional use of classical dramatic unities (103). The strict separation of physical locations from scene to scene corresponds to the strict separation in time of each scene and the strict adherence to a 24 hour unity in each chapter. Ignatius’s connection to the medieval era is both a flight from the present and something that confines him, that keeps him from participating in the present.
Chapter 5 examines Foucault’s themes in terms of communication. Beste shows that Ignatius usually does not have genuine dialog with others. His mother doesn’t really listen to his story of the bus, and he doesn’t care. He shouts at the TV and the film screen. He is only comfortable in situations where he controls the speech. Both of the crusades fail because of his lack of ability to listen and dialog: the workers abandon him when they see that he is not listening to Gonzalez, and at the gay party, he is shouted down and humiliated. The only person whose communication he compliments is Myrna (the squirrel/rat).
In conclusion, Beste sees the meaning of Confederacy as positive: “Ignatius scheint am Ende des Romans tatsächlich den Weg aus separation und confinement gefunden zu haben ... ” (174). There is an appendix from pages 203-215 with a chart of scene and time presentations (Zeitgestaltung) for Confederacy which provides evidence for Beste’s conclusions about scene separation. One disappointment in this study is that Beste does not discuss in detail the history of madness in relation to Genius. Starting with Ficino in the Renaissance, continuing with Burton in English (to say nothing of Shakespeare), and kept alive by the Romantics, there is a long tradition of associating genius with melancholy and other mental illnesses. Aside from a few references (2, 5), Beste steers away from this topic, which Toole likely knew about and which he may have been intentionally referencing or parodying. In general, a well-done analysis.
Coles, Robert, Maurice (pref ). duQuesnay, Gene (introd ). Usdin, and Thelma (reminiscence) Toole. Gravity and Grace in the Novel A Confederacy of Dunces. Lafayette: Univ. of Southwestern Louisiana, 1983. ix, 1983.(Revised in version 1.5)
Before 2012, I had described this slim brochure as a quaint record of a lecture by Robert Coles with some other comments and a reminiscence by Thelma Toole. Early in my research, I had thought that Coles had offered a unique, but not very central observation about Confederacy.
Coles was an early supporter of Confederacy as a serious text. He interprets Ignatius as the Roman Catholic Church itself, weighed down by its corruptions. Myrna represents a principled secular humanism, swooping down in the end to rescue the church. Ignatius is a holy fool. There are also some Freudian ideas. The text is rare and difficult to obtain.
I had said that the essay was not essential reading, which is still true. However, it is by far the earliest discussion of the book's use of the concept of "humanism." Anyone who has read my most recent essay on Confederacy, entitled "The Dialectic of American Humanism," will realize that I now feel that a major part of the "meaning" of the book is the contest between different types of humanism, specifically a Catholic type of humanism, and a secular type of humanism. My new perspective makes Coles's 1983 very prescient.
de Caro, Frank and Rosan Augusta Jordan. Re-Situating Folklore: Folk Contexts and Twentieth- Century Literature and Art. Knoxville, TN: U. of Tennessee P, 2004.(New to version 1.3)
I define this essay as obscure because it is not indexed in MLA Bibliography and other traditional finding aids to literary criticism. This text does not offer an interpretation or a critical evaluation of Confederacy, but discusses it briefly along with other works in the context of folklore in a chapter entitled, "Finding a sense of place: Folk ideas and the lore of place in written and visual arts texts." Though the chapter title sounds very general, the authors focus on New Orleans as a location that unequivocally has, in the folklorist sense, a lore of place. The authors see Confederacy's epigraphs as "meant to tell the reader that the author sees his novel as delimiting locality, as presenting a local American culture and identity as a distinctive reality" (221).
de Caro and Jordan see the work of Toole, like the work of Bunny Matthews and Frederick Starr, as getting a deeper sense of local New Orleans culture than is projected in symbols for tourists. Disney is a master of taking isolated fragments of culture that have "semiotic potency" (222) in order to evoke a place for tourists, but these artists work out "folk ideas of local self-recognition" (228). de Caro and Jordan define "lore of place" to be emotionally fascinating and potentially esoteric knowledge of place. They see the work of Toole, Matthews, and Starr as a reification of cultural knowledge into a self-awareness and its feelings. They argue that, to understand the artist's use of feelings about a place—in other words, the artist's use of a sense of place—one needs to know how that artist employs the lore of place. While it is not an interpretation of Confederacy, this discussion does articulate interest in the book that has been important to the publishing history of the work. Louisiana State University Press only agreed to publish Confederacy because they had a grant from the NIH to publish works that featured local New Orleans dialect, and part of the early commercial success of the book was due to local New Orleanians enjoying Toole's insider's sense of place.
Gardner, Carolyn P. Comedy of Redemption in Three Southern Writers. Diss.,Louisiana State University, 1995.
This dissertation uses the Christian Comedy theory of Ralph C. Woods (Comedy of Redemption) to study the redemptive aspects of three novels: Faulkner’s The Unvanquished, Percy’s Moviegoer, and Toole’s Confederacy. A Christian Comedy celebrates disorder and lacks a hero capable of resolving the plot. Disorder is redeemed by grace that comes not from above, but from the mundane world below. Gardner sees all three novels as having a young man and an afflicted young woman laying down their pride and receiving redemption (99). Bakhtin’s theory of Carnival is also mentioned.
The third chapter examines Confederacy. She describes Confederacy as the Monty Python version of the Divine Comedy (102). Ignatius is a holy fool. Gardner notes he is the sole source of chaos (100), and she compares him to Ignatius of Antioch, despite the profound lack of fit between the two. She explores Ignatius as a symbolic Academic. She misinterprets the references to Batman (117), arguing erroneously that Batman works within a hierarchy rather than outside of one. “What we finally see in Toole’s book is grace coming not through a hierarchy of scholars but in a confederacy of dunces” (118). She discusses Ignatius’s attitude toward women and the womb motif (125-130). Gardner points out that Ignatius does not make a Boethian attempt to be free of Fortuna’s wheel (121). She discusses Ken Toole’s own circumstances and the relation of Thelma Toole to the characters in the book (134-135). She discusses the issue of the Eucharist and the lack of feasts and meals in the book (139-141).
An interesting observation is that both Confederacy and The Neon Bible lack healthy food and sex. Ignatius and Mrs. Levy both enjoy solitary sexual pleasure, and food is often consumed alone (140); however, she unconvincingly claims that communion is the controlling metaphor for the book because it is absent (105). She sees the final page of the novel to be hopeful, with Ignatius finally feeling gratitude and receiving redemption (142-148). Flawed, but with many fine observations. Gardner’s “Midst great Laughter” article is a compact revision of chapter three except that it loses the reference to Bakhtin and the discussion of Ignatius as The Bad Academic. Unnecessary when one can obtain the article version of the text.
Gatewood, Jessica J. Decoding the Body: Meaningful Corpulence in A Confederacy of Dunces. MA thesis, Southern Illinois University, 2007.
This thesis examines Confederacy through the theoretical lens of Stallybrass and White, who use Foucault’s ideas to interpret the meaning of fat in our society. The fat body is transgressive and the Other. In our bourgeois culture, “The dominant class's ability to emotionally separate and thus regulate the body ... becomes a sort of [cultural] capital ...” (4). Democracy is politically egalitarian, but it continues elitism encoded in manners, such as controlling consumption. She argues that Toole disrupts cultural constructions of the fat body. Ignatius comes from lower class, but he aspires to high culture. His fat body betrays his cultural origin and prevents his admission to high culture, while his educated mind in turn alienates him from the lower classes.
While Gatewood makes many worthy observations of Confederacy and deserves to be read, her text is, like Ignatius, ambiguous. For example, she quotes Daigrepont extensively and apparently favorably (e.g. 46); yet, she often pushes beyond his conclusions and then (correctly) refutes them (e.g. 48). Tison Pugh covers some of the same territory (gender ambiguity and transgression), but Gatewood correctly puts these themes in the context of Carnival. She claims that Ignatius even transgresses the role of the transgressor by seeing the bourgeois as vulgar. She compares Ignatius to New Orleans itself (31). She discusses Ignatius’s relationship to fate, but she rejects Clark’s theory that the novel points to God behind the seeming chaos of fortune (38). Basically, well done.
Gibbs, John. Hyperbolic Unity : A Structural Analysis of A Confederacy of Dunces. M.A. Thesis. Stephen F. Austin State University, 1989.
From page 70 onward, Gibbs defends an interesting observation: he argues that all elements of The Novel as a genre are parodied in Confederacy. He also makes a sound observation unique in the literature: he points out that Lana is a parody of The Artist (ca page 72). Except for these points, I have a negative opinion of this paper.
Giddings, Greg. The Picaresque Element in A Confederacy of Dunces. M.A. Thesis. Wichita Falls, TX: Midwestern State University, 1993.(New to version 1.3)
This MA Thesis is a solid study of Confederacy. Although Giddings fails to mention the other critics who have described Ignatius as a picaro (Elizabeth Bell, Byrne as interviewed by Palumbo, Patteson and Sauret), none of those critics carefully investigated Gidding's thesis. Giddings uses Stuart Miller's 1967 study, The Picaresque Novel as his standard. He systematically analyses Confederacy using the set of elements that Miller found in the seminal picaresque novels of the 14th through 16th centuries. These elements include an episodic plot driven by accidents, a lack of order and a disjointed, first person narrative, a motif of underworld imagery, and the picaro as a lonely victim of misfortune, forced to disguise, dissemble, and join an immoral world he despises to keep from starving. Giddings shows that while Confederacy shares many elements with those earlier novels, it ultimately cannot be called a picaresque novel according to Miller's definition. Confederacy's plot appears episodic, but ends in comic resolution. Ignatius is not about to starve, and he uses his ornate language to belittle, not flatter. Giddings concludes that Confederacy is "a comedic novel with a picaro for its protagonist" (85). Personally, I would modify this statement to say a mock picaro. This thesis is currently only held by one library worldwide, and it is not in UMI's Dissertation Abstracts system, so it would be difficult to obtain. Nevertheless, it is a unique contribution to Toole studies.
Kunze, Peter. A Good Catholic is Hard to Find: Roamin' Catholic Sensibility in Toole, McCarthy, and DeLillo. M.A. Thesis. Web. Florida State University, 2008. (URL corrected 6/9/2014)
This Master's thesis examines these three authors--Toole, McCarthy, and DeLillo--as lapsed Catholics. Chapter one is on Toole and Confederacy. Kunze points out that changes in Catholic doctrine in the 1960s were alienating believers, and he sees that alienation playing out in Confederacy (8). He reads Confederacy as autobiographical: what happens to Ignatius was happening to Toole, and what was happening to Toole was a crisis of faith. Ignatius and Toole mourn the loss of their religion. Kunze complains that earlier critics have missed the necessary role that Catholicism plays in Ignatius's behavior. Ignatius is not just hostile to his culture, he is hostile in way that is an exaggeration of a conservative Catholic perspective. For example, Ignatius hurls specifically Catholic epithets at the movie screen (20).
The "lapsed Catholic" perspective is valuable because of Catholicism's emphasis on corporeality through the crucifix. Kunze uses Bakhtin's theory of Carnival to analyze Ignatius's struggles with his body (22-26). Kunze sees Ignatius as an inversion of Christ and Myrna as an inversion of Mary Magdalan. For example, "Toole's inversion of the resurrection shows his disenchantment with and disrespect for Catholicism, a religion which both fails to provide guidance for modern life or escape from its influence. Yet, through its few moments of grace (the way in which everyone who has been wronged is redeemed and Ignatius's rescue by Myrna), Toole demonstrates a reverence toward the 'Old God'..." (32)
Kunze correctly criticizes Gardner's positive reading of the ending of Confederacy, Hardin's examination of homosexuality without a Catholic lens, and Gillespie's too brief and cursory Catholic examination of the novel (14-15). Unfortunately, Kunze uses Nevils and Hardy as an authority with regard to Toole's religious faith (16). He compares Toole to Dreiser, suggesting an influence even though the evidence for Toole's familiarity with Dreiser dates from 1968 (17). Kunze correctly rejects Gardner's conclusion that we are laughing with Ignatius. He sees Toole's triumph in the fact that Toole implicates the reader in the laughing at Ignatius for his religious crisis. Kunze misses the fact that Ignatius acts as a scapegoat, and he sees the inversion of religion but misses the potential distance between Ignatius and Toole. Nevertheless, Kunze's point about looking at Toole through a Catholic lens is solid, as are his critiques of Gardner, Hardin, Elizabeth Bell, Gillespie, and Dunne.
Lambert, M. Michele Macgregor. Masquerading and the Comic Grotesque in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces. Diss., The University of Toledo, 1999.
This dissertation is cleanly divided into two parts, the first exploring Confederacy’s womb theme (pages 1 – 17), and the second exploring Toole’s use of New Orleans carnival in the novel. The first part is the more successful: Lambert shows not only the obvious wombs explicitly discussed in the novel, but less obvious ones, such as the office at Levy Pants and the mental hospital. The second part is, IMHO, misguided and has a false thesis. Lambert argues that Ignatius is the only character in the novel "who exhibits empathy for anyone else" and that he is alienated by the others (19). A careful reading of the text indicates the opposite: he is one of the most selfish characters in the novel and he alienates others. Lambert uses Bakhtin for her theory of Carnival. She correctly points out details of masking throughout the book (Mrs. Levy putting a wig over her dyed hair, Myrna’s fake glasses, etc.), but her conclusion is flawed. She also fails to mention all of the Carnival references, such as the mock tableau in the final pages. She does note that Ignatius becomes a scapegoat for the other characters. Good but not great.
Perkins, Bethany. A Gumbo of the Grotesque : New Orleans and A Confederacy of Dunces. M.A. Thesis. U of North Carolina at Wilmington, 2000. (New to version 1.2)
This thesis is focused on one theme, and that theme is not especially novel or explanatory. The thesis is that all of the major characters in the novel can be called grotesque, and if everyone is grotesque, then what is normal? This is a variation on the old idea that if everyone is crazy, sanity itself is open to question, which was used for example in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest and the 1966 French film The King of Hearts. One problem with this thesis is that one needs an especially plastic definition of the word grotesque. Another is that some eccentric characters, like Miss Trixie, are promoted to the major status, while others, like the thoroughly normal Mr. Gonzalez, are passed over in silence.
The good aspects of this paper: Ms. Perkins uses academic definitions of grotesque (from Phillip Thompson, The Grotesque, 1972, Wolfgang Kayser, The Grotesque in Art and Literature, in English in 1963, William O'Connor, The Grotesque: an American Genre, and Other Essays, 1962, etc.) to defend her liberal application of the term, and she provides the most thorough catalog in the critical literature of the eccentric qualities of the lesser characters in Confederacy. For example, no one else has mentioned that in addition to Ignatius, Miss Trixie, and Mrs. Levy, Lana Lee is also described by animal imagery, with her hawk eyes and bloodhound nose. Finally, the basic point is correct at least to a limited degree: many of the characters are obviously eccentric with at least some elements that could be called grotesque, and many of the characters considered by their society to be normal, such as the Levys, also have qualities that are arguably as grotesque as the others.
The problem with taking the point to the extreme that this paper does is that it blurs the qualitative difference between Ignatius and the other characters. He is profoundly grotesque. The bad aspects of this paper: the author misreads some of the passages of Confederacy, such as thinking that the pose in the porn photo has Lana sitting on top of the Boethius book. Also, she didn't thoroughly read the critical literature on Confederacy, so she failed to discuss such texts as the 1981 article by Regan, which was the first to state her exact thesis (that all of the characters are grotesque), and the 1989 article by Simmons that compares Toole's use of the grotesque to Swift's use of the same. Though she mentions that the grotesque relates to Carnival (8), she perhaps should have expanded that discussion, as it is central to the novel. This paper is difficult to obtain because it was not published commercially, and it was not picked up by Dissertation Abstracts. Conclusion: while the basic point has merit and the author competently argues the case, it is not worth trying to get the single copy from UNCW due to its lack of uniqueness and it's above mentioned flaws.
Potrč, Julija. Life as a Carnival in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunce and John Irving's The Water-method Man. B.A. Diploma. University of Ljubljana, 2004. (New to version 1.4)
Potrč herself has indicated that this paper is not of a work of mature scholarship. It was the diploma thesis for her undergraduate degree. Like others before her, unfortunately, she uses Nevils and Hardy as an authority with regard to Toole, without citing Fletcher, who explained why relying on Nevils and Hardy is not such a good idea. This paper's analysis of Confederacy is a draft version of her later article in Acta Neophilologica (Ljubljana), see below.
Potrč, Julija. "Feast of Fools: The Carnivalesque in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces."Acta Neophilologica (Ljubljana) 43, no. 1-2 (2010): 83-92. (New to version 1.4)
I include this article as an obscure resource because it does not seem that the journal is indexed in MLA Bibliography or other sources. There is even another journal of the same name published by a university in Poland. The article may be difficult to obtain. I contacted the author.
Potrč conducts an in-depth investigation of Confederacy from the point of view of Bakhtin's theory of carnival and folk humor. Several other Toole critics have used Bakhtin (Williams, Lambert, Lowe), none of which Potrč cites. Potrč accepts unquestioningly the perspective that Bakhtin's theory accurately reflects the nature of medieval folk culture and carnival (unlike Williams, who used Confederacy to criticize Bakhtin's theory). Potrč evaluates Ignatius based on Bakhtin's measure and finds that he does not fulfill the Bakhtin ideal. Specifically, Ignatius feels himself superior to those around him and violates Bakhtin's carnival equality. Though Ignatius is in touch with his lower bodily stratum when it comes to food and digestion, he fails Bakhtin's connection of that earthiness with sexuality (89). The humor in the book is also not Bakhtin's carefree carnival laughter. "The only party able to laugh is the reader, who is acutely aware of the breach between the image of himself that Ignatius maintains [...] and the way in which he is perceived by everyone else—an arrogant and pitiful lunatic" (86). Unlike Bakhtin's carnival ideal, Ignatius's verbal abuse is not affectionate. In charting the divergence of Bakhtin's theory and Toole's novel, Potrč surpasses all other critics in analysing Confederacy through a Bakhtin lens.
This disconnect between Bakhtin and Toole supports my own contention (Evidence of Influences, 30; or Ideas for Papers, Thesis #4) that Bakhtin's theory is not the correct model to use when interpreting the Carnival aspects of Confederacy. Like other critics, this author does not explore aspects of New Orleans carnival in Confederacy that bear no relation to Bakhtin's theory, such as the mock tableau. She ends the paper by evaluating the quality of the Slovene translation of the novel. Good study.
Simpson, Lewis P. "New Orleans as a Literary Center: Some Problems." In Literary New Orleans: Essays and Meditations. Edited by Richard S. Kennedy. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992, 76-88.(New to version 1.3)
I define this essay as obscure because it is not indexed in MLA Bibliography and other traditional finding aids to literary criticism. Simpson defines the phrase "great historical center of modern literature" to be a city that had an active literary community during the transition from the medieval era to the Renaissance. Naturally, by this definition, there are no such centers in the western hemisphere. He identifies Boston and New York as coming closest to that definition in the United States. When he turns his attention to New Orleans, he states that of the 19th century fiction, only The Grandissimes and The Awakening have endured. In the 20th century, he sees The Moviegoer and Confederacy as the two novels that transcend the label of "local color." He suggests that both novels are tragicomedy. Simpson offers a detailed comparison of Binx and Ignatius. Both are alienated from New Orleans, but they are alienated from different aspects of the city. Binx comes from a mercantile class, and his Aunt Emily is like a stoic philosopher. Ignatius is from the polyglot city. "Ignatius lives in alienation from the memory of what we might call the non-Vergilian Mediterranean culture" (88). Both Binx and Ignatius are alienated from Christian culture. Simpson sees "the essence of the American literary imagination" to be, first, geographic displacement from Europe and, second, psychic displacement from Christendom. Percy and Toole make New Orleans a microcosm of that experience. "More than any other Americans they yet live in the anxiety of an unresolved tension between memory and history; this is to say, they still live in the historical actuality of the modern world rather than in the illusion of a 'postmodern' world" (88). Simpson's observations about Binx and Ignatius are worthwhile, but his overall thesis is a bit suspect. Okay, but not especially good.
Williams, Karen Luanne. Images of Uneasy Hybrids: Carnival and New Orleans. Diss. Emory University, 1992.
This dissertation is a lengthy study of the relation of Carnival to New Orleans. The fourth chapter explores the use of Carnival in other New Orleans novels, and the entire fifth chapter is devoted to detailing the use of Carnival in Confederacy. Williams relies on, first, Bakhtin’s theory of Carnival, which he had articulated in works on Dostoyevsky and Rabelais first translated into English in the mid-1960s and, second, Umberto Eco’s critique of Bakhtin from the 1980s. Her main thesis is that the meaning of Carnival is ambiguous, and that it is neither as liberating as Bakhtin claimed nor as limiting as Eco claimed. She discusses abusive language and conflict, the obsession with food, and the wedding of the sacred with the profane—-of the ideal with the grotesque. While this is the most thorough study of Confederacy’s use of Carnival prior to Potrc's, it neglects to mention those references to New Orleans’ Carnival in Confederacy that do not fit into Bakhtin’s theory, such as the mock tableau at the end of the book. She effectively uses Carnival theory to criticize the conclusions put forth by McNeil and Nelson about the meaning of the novel. To Williams, Carnival gives Confederacy a more positive, celebratory meaning. Well done.
Woodland, James R. "In that City Foreign and Paradoxical": The Idea of New Orleans in the Southern Literary Imagination (Louisiana). Diss., U. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1987.
A Ph.D. dissertation of over 300 pages, this paper investigates many literary works. Early chapters discuss George Washington Cable, Grace King, Kate Chopin, Lafcadio Hearn, William Faulkner, Elizabeth Spencer, and Tennessee Williams. Chapter Seven (302) discusses and compares Confederacy with Percy’s Moviegoer and Lancelot. Woodland cites Regan’s article comparing Moviegoer to Confederacy. Both Binx and Ignatius are in the culture but not of it (308, 325). Woodland sees Ignatius Reilly as an native who is nevertheless an observant outsider like the outsider George Washington Cable’s Frowenfeld (325). Woodland also briefly compares Confederacy to Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire (324, 326). He points out that in both, ethnic diversity is comforting rather than exotic, which ties in nicely to Lowe’s study of Confederacy’s relationship to ethnic melee comedy. He compares Ignatius’s outrage about the degeneracy of the French Quarter as being like Lance’s (327). In 1968, Percy wrote that the virtue of New Orleans was the talent for everyday life. Ignatius also finds in New Orleans a source of creature comforts, the hope of small things (328). Okay, but not especially insightful as an interpretation of Confederacy.
Other works cited
Bell, Elizabeth S. "The Clash of World Views in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces." Southern Literary Journal 21, no. 1 (1988): 15-22.
Clark, William Bedford. "All Toole's Children: A Reading of A Confederacy of Dunces." Essays in Literature 14, no. 2 (1987): 269-280.
Daigrepont, Lloyd M. "Ignatius Reilly and the Confederacy of Dunces." New Orleans Review 9, no. 3 (1982): 74-80.
Dunne, Sara L. "Moviegoing in the Modern Novel: Holden, Binx, Ignatius." Studies in Popular Culture 28, no. 1 (2005): 37-47.
Fletcher, Joel. Ken and Thelma: The Story of “A Confederacy of Dunces.”. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2005.
Gardner, Pat. "Midst Great Laughter." Southern Quarterly 34, no. 2 (1996): 87-90.
Gillespie, Michael P. "Baroque Catholicism in Southern Fiction: Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, and John Kennedy Toole." In Traditions, Voices, and Dreams: The American Novel since the 1960s. Edited by Melvin J. Friedman and Ben Siegel. Newark: U of Delaware Press, 1995, 25-47.
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.
Leighton, H. Vernon. “The Dialectic of American Humanism: John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, Marsilio Ficino, and Paul Oskar Kristeller.” Renascence 64.2 (Winter 2012), 201-215. Click here for an abstract.
Lowe, John. “The Carnival Voices of A Confederacy of Dunces.” Louisiana Culture from the Colonial Era to Katrina. Ed. John Lowe. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State UP, 2008. 159-90.
McNeil, David. "A Confederacy of Dunces as Reverse Satire: The American Subgenre." Mississippi Quarterly 38, no. 1 (1984): 33-47.
Nevils, René Pol and Deborah Hardy. Ignatius Rising: The Life of John Kennedy Toole. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001.
Nelson, William. "The Comic Grotesque in Recent Fiction." Thalia: Studies in Literary Humor 5, no. 2 (1982): 36-40.
Palumbo, Carmine D. "John Kennedy Toole and His Confederacy of Dunces." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 10 (1995): 59-77.
Patteson, Richard F., and Thomas Sauret. "The Consolation of Illusion: John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces." Texas Review 4, no. 1-2, (1983): 77-87.
Pugh, Tison. "‘It’s Prolly Fulla Dirty Stories’: Masturbatory Allegory and Queer Medievalism in John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces." Studies in Medievalism 15, (2006): 77-100.
Regan, Robert. "The Return of the Moviegoer: Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces." Delta 13, (1981): 169-176.
Simmons, Jonathan. "Ignatius Reilly and the Concept of the Grotesque in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces." Mississippi Quarterly 43, no. 1 (1989): 33-43.