Saturday, December 22, 2012

What is Victoria Emma Pagán reading?

This weekend's featured contributor at Writers Read: Victoria Emma Pagán, author of Conspiracy Theory in Latin Literature.

Her entry begins:
The University of Florida Honors College sponsors an “Uncommon Reading” program, in which faculty can propose to read a book with interested students. I recently re-read Anna Karenina with a group of nineteen women; we finished just in time for a field trip to see the new movie starring Kiera Knightly. After twenty years, I still find the novel compelling and morally baffling. This time, at least, Oblonsky was my favorite character because he is so consistently true to himself. Not a duplicitous bone in his body: he’s worthless and he knows it. Would that all worthless louts were so...[read on]
About the book, from the publisher:
Conspiracy theory as a theoretical framework has emerged only in the last twenty years; commentators are finding it a productive way to explain the actions and thoughts of individuals and societies. In this compelling exploration of Latin literature, Pagán uses conspiracy theory to illuminate the ways that elite Romans invoked conspiracy as they navigated the hierarchies, divisions, and inequalities in their society. By seeming to uncover conspiracy everywhere, Romans could find the need to crush slave revolts, punish rivals with death or exile, dismiss women, denigrate foreigners, or view their emperors with deep suspicion. Expanding on her earlier Conspiracy Narratives in Roman History, Pagán here interprets the works of poets, satirists, historians, and orators—Juvenal, Tacitus, Suetonius, Terence, and Cicero, among others—to reveal how each writer gave voice to fictional or real actors who were engaged in intrigue and motivated by a calculating worldview.

Delving into multiple genres, Pagán offers a powerful critique of how conspiracy and conspiracy theory can take hold and thrive when rumor, fear, and secrecy become routine methods of interpreting (and often distorting) past and current events. In Roman society, where knowledge about others was often lacking and stereotypes dominated, conspiracy theory explained how the world worked. The persistence of conspiracy theory, from antiquity to the present day, attests to its potency as a mechanism for confronting the frailties of the human condition.
Learn more about Conspiracy Theory in Latin Literature at the University of Texas Press website.

Victoria Emma Pagán is Professor of Classics at the University of Florida. Her books include A Sallust Reader, Rome and the Literature of Gardens, and Conspiracy Narratives in Roman History. She also edited the Companion to Tacitus.

Writers Read: Victoria Emma Pagán.

--Marshal Zeringue