"The most comprehensive and clear summary of the conspiracy theme yet available . . . and a useful scholarly resource. Coale is to be commended for grappling with the mass of writing, critical and creative, that both responds to and perpetuates the theme."--Joseph Tabbi, author of Cognitive Fictions
From the Inside Flap
In Paradigms of Paranoia, Samuel Chase Coale argues that contemporary culture--a landscape characterized by doubt, ambiguity, fragmentation, information overload, and mistrust--has fostered a radical skepticism so pervasive that the tendency to envision or construct conspiracies often provides the best explanation for the chaos that surrounds us. Conspiracy as embodied in narrative form provides a fertile field for explorations of the anxiety lying at the heart of the postmodern experience. Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, Don DeLillo's Underworld, Toni Morrison's Jazz and Paradise, Joan Didion's Democracy, Tim O'Brien's In the Lake of the Woods, and Paul Auster's New York City Trilogy are some of the texts Coale examines for their representations of isolated individuals at the center of massive, anonymous master plots that lay beyond their control. While conspiracies make comprehensible a world of contingency, their great irony, Coale shows, is that the endless possibilities or interpretation of those conspiracies leave even more uncertainly in their wake. Samuel Chase Coale is Professor of American Literature and Culture at Wheaton College in Massachusetts and author of Mesmerism and Hawthorne: Mediums of American Romance and The Mystery of Mysteries: Cultural Differences and Designs.