Conspiracy in American Culture and Politics

History 103D.004

Fall 2006
Instructor (text): 
210 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
Th 12-2

This course will explore the history, culture and politics of conspiracy and paranoia, conspiracy theory and countersubversion in the United States from slave revolts to the war on terrorism. Beginning with the Puritan's fear of the beasts of the woods to the battles over labor strikes and union rights, from Cold War anti-communism to the 9/11 attacks, fear of conspiracies - both real and imagined - have been a permanent feature of American political, legal and cultural life. We find this fear of conspiracies everywhere in American politics, operating at the very center of political power (in McCarthyism and the presidency of George W. Bush) as well as animating the outer fringes of American culture in what historian Richard Hofstadter named ";the paranoid style in American politics."; Consequently, Americans' fascination with conspiracy has become the subject of a substantial body of political thought, literary and visual art, as well as popular culture. This course will use a range of primary and secondary sources including works by historians Richard Hofstadter and James Green, political theorists Theodor Adorno, Michael Rogin and Corey Robin, novelists Jack London, Thomas Pynchon and Don Delillo, films by Alan Pakula and Oliver Stone, painting by Marc Lombardi, and essays by Emma Goldman, Sigmund Freud, V.I. Lenin, Fredric Jameson and the 9/11 commission. The course will require one presentation, one short paper and a final paper 12 to 15 pages in length.