Monday 21 July 2014

AMER30381 Conspiracy Theories in American Culture

Conspiracy Theories in American Culture

Dr Peter Knight


Summer Reading


The main reading for this course will be articles available on Blackboard in September. I have listed below (in order of importance) books that it would be good to read over the summer. All of these are available from the Library, and it might be worth buying some of them (marked with *). The other thing I would recommend is surfing the web to get a flavour of the vast conspiracy subculture out there.



* Kathryn Olmsted, Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11

            (easy to read, and very useful for historical background; available in paperback)


* Mark Fenster, Conspiracy Theories

(quite difficult in style, but offers good coverage of a wide range of contemporary conspiracy thinking; available in paperback: make sure you get the 2008 second edition which is much easier than the first)


*Peter Knight, Conspiracy Culture: From the Kennedy Assassination to “The X-Files”

(covers a fairly wide range of films, novels and popular culture, useful on the theoretical approaches and some areas not covered by other writers, e.g. body panic and feminism; available in paperback)


Jovan Byford, Conspiracy Theories: A Critical Introduction

            (very useful short book, but unfortunately only available in an expensive hardback)


Jonathan Kay, Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground

            (entertaining and surprisingly thoughtful journalistic account of contemporary US   conspiracism)


Jesse Walker, United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory

            (wide-ranging non-academic book)


“We the Paranoid,”

            (this web book by American academic Peter Starr is very well put together, a good           mixture of theoretical analysis and discussion of case studies; also has the advantage            of being free)


* James McConnachie and Robin Tudge, The Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories

            (for a general overview of the main theories)


* Lindsay Porter, Who Are the Illuminati?

            (very engaging overview of the long afterlife of conspiratorial fantasies about the Illuminati)


Jon Ronson, Them: Adventures with Extremists

(humorous yet thoughtful account of this British journalist’s attempts to understand fringe conspiracy theorists by hanging out with them)


Robert Alan Goldberg, Enemies Within

(the most useful general overview of conspiracy theories in America with a wealth of research and examples; sadly not available in paperback)


And the two novels we will be reading on the course – read them over the summer!

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966); Don DeLillo, Libra (1985)



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