Michael Butter has been Professor of American Literary and Cultural History at the University of Tübingen since 2014. He received his PhD from the University of Bonn in 2007 and his Habilitation from the University of Freiburg in 2012. He is the author of four monographs: The Epitome of Evil: Hitler in American Fiction, 1939–2002 (New York: Palgrave, 2009), Plots, Designs, and Schemes: American Conspiracy Theories from the Puritans to the Present (Berlin/Boston: de Gruyter, 2014), Der »Washington-Code«: Zur Heroisierung amerikanischer Präsidenten, 1775-1865 (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2016), and “Nichts ist, wie es scheint”: Über Verschwörungstheorien (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2018), a German introduction to conspiracy theories aimed at a general audience which was also translated into English under the title The Nature of Conspiracy Theories (London: Polity, 2020) His research interests include the colonial period and the Early Republic, the construction of heroes and their cultural functions, the poetics of contemporary TV shows, conspiracy theories, and populism. From 2016 to 2020, he was Vice Chair of the COST Action “Comparative Analysis of Conspiracy Theories.” Since April 2020, he is Principal Investigator of the ERC-funded project “Populism and Conspiracy Theory.” His expertise is frequently sought be media outlets in Germany, Europe and North America, and he has contributed op-eds to, among others, Die Zeit, FAZ, Der Spiegel and The Conversation. During the summer of 2020 he collaborated with the European Commission and UNESCO to produce a series of infographics about conspiracy theories.
- The Nature of Conspiracy Theories. London: Polity, 2020.
- "Verschwörungstheorien: Zehn Erkenntnisse aus der Pandemie." Jenseits von Corona: Unsere Welt nach der Pandemie - Perspektiven aus der Wissenschaft. Ed. Bernd Kortmann and Günther G. Schulze. Bielefeld: transcript. 225-31.
- (with Ute Caumanns, Johannes Großmann, Johannes Kuber and Bernd-Stefan Grewe). Von Hinterzimmern und geheimen Machenschaften: Verschwörungstheorien in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Special Issue of Im Dialog – Beiträge aus der Akademie der Diözese Rottenburg 3 (2020). (https://ojs2.uni-tuebingen.de/ojs/index.php/idadrs/index)
- (with Peter Knight, eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Conspiracy Theories. London: Routledge, 2020. Print.
- (with Peter Knight) General Introduction. The Routledge Handbook of Conspiracy Theories. Ed. Butter and Knight. London: Routledge, 2020. 1-8. Print.
- (with Peter Knight) “Conspiracy Theory in Historical, Cultural and Literary Studies.” The Routledge Handbook of Conspiracy Theories. Ed. Butter and Knight. London: Routledge, 2020. 28-42. Print.
- (with Eiríkur Bergmann) “Conspiracy Theory and Populism.” The Routledge Handbook of Conspiracy Theories. Ed. Butter and Knight. London: Routledge, 2020. 330-43. Print.
- “Conspiracy Theories in Films and Television Shows.” The Routledge Handbook of Conspiracy Theories. Ed. Butter and Knight. London: Routledge, 2020. 457-68. Print.
- “Conspiracy Theories in American History.” The Routledge Handbook of Conspiracy Theories. Ed. Butter and Knight. London: Routledge, 2020. 648-59. Print.
- “‘Trust no one’: Narrative Complexity and Character Opacity in Damages.” Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik – A Quaterly of Language, Literature and Culture 67.2 (2019): 131-46. Print.
- (with Peter Knight) “The History of Conspiracy Theory Research: A Review and Commentary.” Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them. Ed. Joseph E. Uscinski. New York: Oxford UP, 2019. 33-46. Print.
- “Maternal Duty: The Negotiation of Authorship in Anne Bradstreet’s ‘The Author to Her Book’.” Reflexionsfiguren der Künste in der Vormoderne. Ed. Anja Wolkenhauer et al. Heidelberg: Winter, 2019. 446-63. Print.
- “Professional Amateur: Trump and Twitter.” Simplify, simplify! Brevity, Plainness and Their Complications in American Literature and Culture. Ed. Isabell Klaiber et al. Paderborn: Schöningh, 2019. 215-29. Print.
- “‘This Beast in the Shape of a Man’: Right-Wing Populism, White Masculinity, and the Transnational Heroization of Donald Trump.” Heroism as a Global Phenomenon in Contemporary Culture. Ed. Barbara Korte, Simon Wendt, and Nicole Falkenhayer. New York: Routledge, 2019. 114-31. Routledge Studies in Cultural History. Print.
- “Verschwörungs(theorie)panik – ‘Filter Clash’ zweier Öffentlichkeiten”. Deutungsmacht von Zeitdiagnosen: Interdisziplinäre Perspektive. Ed. Heiner Hastedt. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2019. 197-211. Print.
The ERC-funded project “Populism and Conspiracy Theory (PACT)” investigates the significance of conspiracy theories for populist movements in four European countries and two in the Americas. The project is scheduled to run until March 2025. The PI, Michael Butter, and his team (one postdoc and four PhD students) will employ a combination of discourse analysis and ethnographic methods to study the connections between populism and conspiracy theories in online and offline discourses in Austria, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Brazil and the United States. Michael Butter will focus on right- and left-wing populism during the 2020 presidential election campaigns. More information will be available once the project website has been set up.
The COST Action “Comparative Analysis of Conspiracy Theories” aims at synthesizing and moving forward the European research on conspiracy theories. The network comprises more than 160 scholars from 40 countries and over a dozen disciplines. The project is now in its final phase and will end with a stakeholder workshop in Brussels on March 16, 2020, where the Action will present the handbook on conspiracy theories, the recommendations for dealing with conspiracy theories, and the educational material it has produced. After the event, the material will be available for download from the project website.
Michael Butter is currently writing An Introduction to Cultural Studies through The Hunger Games. The book, which is under contract with Narr and scheduled to appear in autumn 2021, aims to introduce first-year students to the basic concepts and methods of cultural studies.
In 2016 and 2017 Michael Butter worked on a general introduction to conspiracy theories which was published to great acclaim in 2018. The updated and revised English translation will be published by Polity Press in fall 2020.
Between 2012 and 2016, Michael Butter was a member of the Collaborative Research Center “Heroes – Heroizations – Heroisms” at the University of Freiburg and directed a project on “New Washingtons? The Heroization of American Presidents from the Revolution to Reconstruction.” He wrote a short monograph about this topic as well as articles on the heroization of William Henry Harrison and Donald Trump. Another important outcome of the project is a database of nearly 2,000 poems written on American presidents between 1789 and 1865.
Between 2009 and 2012, Michael Butter worked on the history of conspiracy theories in American culture from the Puritans to the present. The resulting monograph, which focuses on the 19th century, was published in 2014.
Between 2005 and 2008, Michael Butter was a member of the network “The Futures of (European) American Studies,” which discussed possible venues for the discipline in the 21st century. Funded by the German Research Council, the project organized a number of conferences and edited a collection of essays.
Between 2004 and 2007, Michael Butter pursued a PhD project that investigated how American literature employs the figure of Adolf Hitler to negotiate genuinely American concerns. The project resulted in a monograph published in 2009 and a number of articles on literary and visual representations of Hitler, Nazism and the Holocaust and the genre of alternate history in which they frequently occur.