‘The Da Vinci Code’ and Semiotic Agency

The Da Vinci Code, Crusade Conspiracies, and the Clash of Historiographies.”
In Conspiracy Theories between the U.S. and the Middle East. Ed. Maurus Reinkowski and Michael Butter. Berlin: De Gruyter, forthcoming Spring 2014.

After September 11, 2001, dozens of alternative histories and popular “conspiratorial” accounts sprung forth concerning the Crusades, Templars, religious violence, and a millennial “clash of civilizations”. As an early part of and catalyst for this phenomenon, The Da Vinci Code is unique in its ability to endow readers, particularly non-academics, with an interpretive and semiotic agency to subvert institutional medieval historiography. Historical inaccuracies and conspiratorial ephemera, however seemingly anecdotal, deserve to be studied and placed within a larger cultural framework. The imaginative impulse surrounding popular histories, novels, and films, does more than draw from and reflect an existing cultural milieu of trauma and representation in a sort of feedback loop. They create new cognitive and historical frameworks and, more importantly, encourage non-academics to engage in the creative work of introducing the past to the present and ushering them into an imagined – and hopefully better – future.

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