Critical Insights: Conspiracies

Salem. Apr. 2020. 300p. ed. by ed. by James Plath. ISBN 9781642653731. $105. REF
Editor Plath (English, Illinois Wesleyan; Remembering Ernest Hemingway, with Frank Simons) gathers together essays from academics and literary critics on conspiracy themes in film and literature. Plath provides a general introduction and an essay on conspiracy in American life. The book is divided into two sections. “Critical Contexts” focuses on how conspiracies in film and literature have interacted with society (for instance, how The Da Vinci Code shaped views of the Catholic Church). “Critical Readings” explores how conspiracy themes play out in film and literature (the international crime syndicate S.P.E.C.T.R.E. as ultimate villain in the James Bond books and movies). Each essay has a bibliography, and there is a section of additional works (both fiction and nonfiction) on conspiracies. Plath avoids a common problem of books on conspiracies and conspiracy theory—a sensational or overwrought manner—but this seems to result from the inconsistency with which the essays address the purported subject. Some, such as an essay on conspiracy themes in YA literature, do this well; others are more interested in engaging in literary (or film) criticism, with occasional mention of conspiracy thrown in. Though the essays are solid, overall, the book will disappoint those interested in conspiracies and the cultural influence of conspiracy theory, and should be seen as analysis of the works covered.
VERDICT Recommended only for large literary criticism collections.
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