Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/11569
A Confederacy of Dunces and the picaresque: generic considerations
The main purpose of this essay is to situate the novel A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole within the genre of picaresque fiction. Although the title of the book is taken from an essay by Jonathan Swift and its structure supposedly based on Boethius’ Consolations of Philosophy, its style and its content are generally recognized as being picaresque. However, while a great deal has been written about that genre, there are conflicting and often confusing ideas about what precisely is meant by the term picaresque and how accurately it may be applied to novels to a wide range of novels from Thomas Nashe Unfortunate Traveller (1594) to Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger (2008). This essay contextualises A Confederacy of Dunces within this generic discussion, first by examining the origins and etymology of the terms picaro and picaresque and then by looking at the social circumstances which gave rise to it. One of the central questions dealt with here is whether A Confederacy of Dunces can really be said to fit any definition of the genre. For readers who are not familiar with the novel, I have included two appendixes for reference. Appendix I is a list of the novel’s characters along with a short description for each. Appendix II contains a brief outline of the plot.