The 30th anniversary of John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “A Confederacy of Dunces,” was celebrated at Loyola University New Orleans during the 2010 new student orientation.
Loyola’s ties to the novel go back to the days when it was an unpublished work. While teaching in the English department at Loyola in 1976, noted Southern author Walker Percy was approached by the mother of a young, local writer who had committed suicide seven years earlier. The mother explained to Percy that in his career, her son had failed to find a publisher for his manuscript. After some persuasion, Percy read and saw promise in the piece and later used his influence to reintroduce it to publishers. As a result, “A Confederacy of Dunces” was published in 1980, and Toole was awarded a Pulitzer Prize posthumously in 1981. The novel also won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in ’81, alongside Percy’s novel, “The Second Coming.”
Administrators and faculty at the university felt it only fitting that Loyola commemorate this masterpiece of New Orleans fiction in its anniversary year. In July, all incoming first-year students received a copy of the novel as part of Loyola’s First-Year Summer Reading Program. The distribution of the book to Loyola students was made possible by a generous donation from Loyola’s College of Law under the deanship of the late Brian Bromberger. The novel was a favorite of Bromberger’s.
“This book is a fitting choice for many reasons, including its connection to Loyola. Southern literature is known for its connection to place, and no book better represents a place than this one,” states a letter to the students signed by the deans of Loyola’s College of Business, College of Music and Fine Arts, College of Humanities and Natural Sciences and College of Social Sciences.
Beginning Aug. 23, 2010, the J. Edgar and Louise S. Monroe Library featured an exhibit, “Confederacy of Dunces Abroad,” showcasing different publications of the book from all over the world. The exhibit will be on display in Special Collections, located on the third floor of Monroe Library, through Oct. 15, 2010. The original exhibition, held April 21 through July 31 in Hill Memorial Library on the LSU campus, was organized by the LSU Press and the LSU Libraries' Special Collections division.
Book-inspired events were planned for new students at Loyola, to complement students’ reading experience. As traditional with past new student orientation events, students and their families were offered guided bus tours of New Orleans by Loyola faculty or staff during the morning hours, but this year, the tours included stops at some of Ignatius Riley’s favorite haunts throughout the city.
Later that day, faculty and staff from all colleges held more than 25 small group book discussions in several locations across Loyola’s campus. In these groups, students were able to express their thoughts about the themes presented in the novel.
The day’s events were wrapped up with free Lucky Dogs for the campus community served up by Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., Ph.D., university president; Marcia L. “Cissy” Petty, Ph.D., vice president for student affairs; and Judith Hunt, Ph.D., associate dean of Loyola’s College of Humanities and Natural Sciences.
For more information, contact Sean Snyder in Loyola’s Office of Public Affairs at email@example.com or call 504-891-5882.