University of Montevallo English professor Alexander Beringer will be going to England in October 2014 for two weeks to participate as a scholar at the University of Cambridge.
Upon Beringer sending in his book proposal, he was selected by Sir Richard Evans, the director of the Leverhulme Conspiracy and Democracy five-year project at the University of Cambridge in England, to become a participant.
The project will have “scholars from all around the world getting together to discuss why conspiracy theories crop up in democracy and how they’re important to the kind of political and social fabric of a democracy,” Beringer said in giving a description of the project.
Beringer wrote his dissertation on late 19th century conspiracy theories within the literature of authors such as Henry James. Upon asking him about what author or work inspired him or piqued his interest in conspiracy theories, he pointed out Ignatius Donnelly’s “The Great Cryptogram,” which makes claims such as how Francis Bacon is truly the author of Shakespeare’s famous plays.
Beringer did not expect to get this kind of opportunity. He said, “That kind of thing is so sort of far off the radar. It’s all kind of weird for me. Even in the first place, just because I never really conceived of myself as being able to do that.”
Beringer said he is “very excited” about his trip. “I’m especially looking forward to … comparing notes with some of the other scholars and also have an audience with people who are really, really interested in this.”
Beringer admits that this tricky area of study isn’t the easiest to explain. “It’s kind of an unusual topic and sometimes I have to sort of hold off from being too much of a conspiracy geek.”
Beringer wanted to make one thing clear about his studies in conspiracy theories: he is not a conspiracy theorist. “I study conspiracy. I study people who are into conspiracy and try to figure out why this fascination with conspiracy,” he said. “It’s an important distinction.”
Beringer feels good about UM faculty opinion on this opportunity he said, “I have been getting a lot of support. I kind of shy away from stuff like that but it’s great and wonderful.”