Sunday, January 6, 2013

Victoria Emma Pagán's "Conspiracy Theory in Latin Literature"

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.

Pagán applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Conspiracy Theory in Latin Literature, and reported the following:
Or in this case, page 91:
Suspicion and its opposite, trust, bring us to the heart of conspiracy theory, for these twin acts of mind are social and epistemic at their core. Both are human responses to a ‘perennial epistemological gap.’ When faced with uncertain or unknowable outcomes, one attempts to map the available clues so as to minimize the risk of a wrong decision. For instance an emperor conducts an unusually large number of treason trials one year; as a result, a certain senator is unsure whether he will be prosecuted. In the face of uncertainty, he can extend to the emperor either trust or suspicion so as to secure for himself a purchase on the future. Should he trust the emperor and plan on seeing his children grow up, or should he go ahead and deposit his will with the Vestal Virgins? In deciding, the senator risks his reputation, his relationship with the emperor, and even his life. Such a decision must be made carefully and prudently.
As a classicist I strive to expose the fine edge between the strange world of far away and long ago and the familiar world of here and now. When we are most like the Romans, in say the exercise of suspicion and trust, we are also most unlike them: our prerogatives were not theirs. So in my study of conspiracy theory, I am at pains throughout the book to leave intact the particular circumstances of any given conspiracy theory, while at the same time developing a framework in which to understand the production and consumption of conspiracy theory.
Learn more about Conspiracy Theory in Latin Literature at the University of Texas Press website.

Writers Read: Victoria Emma Pagán.

--Marshal Zeringue