Plots: Literary Form and Conspiracy Culture
Aims & Synopsis:
This edited collection of essays will contribute to the study of conspiracy culture by analysing the literary categories that have shaped the articulation, reception, and transformations of conspiracy theories. In his seminal essay for conspiracy studies, Richard Hofstadter writes that the conspiracy theorist “constantly lives at a turning point,” an aesthetic formulation of history that relies on something like the denouement of a literary work, or an individual life. Conspiracy theories are narratives, and their narrative form provides the affective structure within which their “readers” situate themselves, attaching feelings of dread, excitement, cynicism, or even joyful optimism to interpretations of world or local history. To borrow Hayden V. White’s term, the “emplotment” of conspiracy theories involves the coordination of history with literary form, and this concept can assist an analysis of the structure and organization of conspiracy culture. By examining plots as plots, with narrative, rhetorical, and symbolic characteristics, this volume will be the first systematic study of how literary form has shaped conspiracy culture in American and European history.
Call for Contributions:
We welcome chapter proposals that examine the power (and limitations) of a literary analysis of the conspiracy theories’ and cultures’ explanations of the world. These could be from researchers working in a range of disciplines (not limited to history, literary studies, economics, philosophy). Questions that chapters might address include:
- What are the modes of emplotment characteristic of conspiracy narratives?
- Are the plots of conspiracy theories associated with identifiable patterns of argumentation or ideological attitudes when analyzed as narratives? Hayden White believed satiric emplotment to be associated with liberalism, and organicist arguments with conservatism; do conspiracy theories reveal similar correspondences?
- Do historical examples of conspiracy narratives’ passage between fiction and world description (for instance the plagiarism of European literature by the author of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but also more recent instances such as the reception of Houellebecq's Submission) show the transposition, or alteration, of rhetorical modes and semiotic articulations?
- Do contemporary or historical conspiracy cultures involve reading the world as a literary text, for example allegorically or deconstructively?
- What modes of conspiratorial emplotment can be compared with literary realism? In other words, what techniques make their readers feel the narrative real even though they realize that its argument is unverifiable?
- What developments in print culture informed the forms and distribution of conspiracy culture? How were existing anxieties (e.g. of crime or invasion) narrated in various historical new media?
- What (recurrent) tropes of conspiracy culture articulate the nostalgia for a grand narrative?
Please send chapter abstracts of approximately 350 words to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration by 15 May 2018. Any enquiries should also be directed to this address.