Higher criticism

    Although nearly all researchers of the JFK assassination focus on evidence and theories, the classical minutiae of the case, a small but growing body of scholars are beginning to examine the assassination from very different perspectives. These scholars are much less interested in who did it and how we can know, and most interested in aspects such as how this major twentieth-century event interacted with the rest of our postmodern culture. They are concerned with question such as the kind of discourse that has spring up around it, how its knowledge is organized (relative to knowledge of earlier major historical events), the role of the media in reporting the assassination and its aftermath, how postmodernism and conspiracy theory interacted, and how knowledge about the assassination was (and is being) produced.
    This section can take only the most introductory look into these new and evolving aspects of the assassination. For the moment at least, it is limited to three articles from the recent literature and references to ideas presented in a small number of books. I expect that this part of the course will grow considerably as time progresses. The paragraphs that follow constitute an extremely brief introduction to some of the ideas discussed in these articles and books.

Jeff Schwartz
    The first article is also the longest. Jeff Schwartz's 1992 M.A. thesis in Popular Culture Studies, Bowling Green University, Ohio, is entitled "Postmodernity, History, and the Assassination of JFK." In it, he examines subjects such as how "the discourse of conspiracy theory surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy is the most fully developed example of a new organization of knowledge of past events." With "the full-scale employment of new media," knowledge about this event was gathered differently from all previous major event. Schwartz considers the "information glut and the resultant epistemological/historical crisis" that it created, as well as other very interesting related topics such as the rise of the "uncredentialled revisionist historian, the conspiracy theorist." The three main chapters of his thesis examine the relation between postmodernist theory and conspiracy from three standpoints: "first to trace the disintegration of Oswald's subjectivity, and then to describe the double movement of conspiracy writing: a schizophrenic breaking of causality accompanied by the paranoic restoration of narrativity by means of a fictional supplement."

Jeff Schwartz, "Postmodernity, History, and the Assassination of JFK"

Roger Gilles
    The second article, "Sophistic Synthesis in the JFK Assassination," by Roger Gilles of Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan, uses the "rhetoric surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy [as a] unique testing ground for theories about the construction of knowledge in society." He concludes that "the current 'sophistic' theories of rhetoric offer the most effective models for analyzing and understanding the JFK assassination theories and, more generally, the histories we Americans are currently creating for ourselves." As subject matter, Gilles focuses on Jim Garrison's On the Trail of the Assassins, and concludes that "...as [a synthesis of argument and narrative] the book suggests the form and style that successful assassination theories--and perhaps successful histories in general--will most likely follow in this culture in the near future. Judged in Aristotelian terms, the book is perhaps not a rigorous or plausible as several other assassination theories; judged in sophistic terms, however, it stands out as the most successful of the dozens of published theories."

Roger Gilles, "Sophistic Synthesis in JFK Assassination Rhetoric"

Catherine Liu
    The third article, Catherine Liu's "Conspiracy (Theories)," makes considerably shorter reading because it devotes only a page to the origin of conspiracy theories for the assassination, after taking several pages to set up her overall subject of "psycho-Marxism." She proposes that JFK conspiracy theories "forge a critique that would include psychoanalytic theory and ideological critique at the same time." I include the relevant pages from her article so that you can see something of the parallel she is drawing with other manifestations of psycho-Marxism.

Catherine Liu, "Conspiracy (Theories)"