By Theodore Ziolkowski
Fascination with the arcane is a driver during this accomplished survey of conspiracy fiction. Theodore Ziolkowski lines the evolution of cults, orders, resorts, mystery societies, and conspiracies via quite a few literary manifestations—drama, romance, epic, novel, opera—down to the thrillers of the twenty-first century.
Lure of the Arcane considers Euripides’s Bacchae, Andreae’s Chymical Wedding, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, between different seminal works. Mimicking the genre’s quest-driven narrative arc, the reader searches for the importance of conspiracy fiction and is rewarded with the author’s cogent reflections within the ultimate bankruptcy. After a lot research, Ziolkowski reinforces Umberto Eco’s idea that the main robust mystery, the magnetic heart of conspiracy fiction, is in truth "a mystery with no content."
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Extra resources for Lure of the Arcane: The Literature of Cult and Conspiracy
Paradoxically, while the wealth of the order both in the West and Outremer (its territories “beyond the sea”) rapidly expanded, its actual military accomplishments, while often spectacular, were not politically significant. The Second Crusade of 1148–49 was a failure despite acts of great heroism by the Templars: courageous but often foolhardy, they were accused by their critics of acting rashly and taking risks simply for the sake of glory and booty. Although they acquired a number of castles in Jerusalem and Syria extending from Gaza to Antioch, their reputation was tainted by growing accusations of pride and avarice.
As in The Bacchae it is persuasive to see Lucius’s physical and spiritual metamorphoses as an argument against undue curiosity: first into the machinations of the Thessalian witch Pamphile and later into the mysteries of the cult of Isis. The first causes him to lose his humanity, the second to forsake his worldly possessions and individuality and to put his forensic talents at the ser vice of the cult. In neither case do we have reason to believe that he learns any true secrets— certainly the reader does not.
5: coniurationes coetusque nocturni) involve some betrayal or danger to the state. 2-3: numquam tantum malum in re publica fuit). Rewards are offered for all information leading to the arrest of initiates, whose number according to Livy amounted to some seven thousand men and women. Those who did not flee were arrested and either executed or imprisoned. Hispala and Aebutius were rewarded handsomely for their information, which had brought the actions of the Dionysiacs to public attention. The fierce repression of the cults and the denial of official veneration did not, however, preclude the popularity of Dionysus/Bacchus as god of wine in Roman culture.
Lure of the Arcane: The Literature of Cult and Conspiracy by Theodore Ziolkowski