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Gender and Zombies

This course will look at post-apocalyptic fiction, films, and games, most of which feature actual zombies or zombie-like figures, to ask what zombies mean at different historical moments, including our own.  Although there are several prototypical zombie novels in the nineteenth century, the zombie as we know it today is a creature of late capitalism, representing twentieth and twenty-first century popular anxieties about gender, labor, immigration, disease, class, sexuality, technology, race, national identity, and consumer culture.  Beginning with the origins of the zombie in Mary Shelley’s 1818 novelFrankenstein, following imperialist anxieties about whiteness, gender, and Haitian voodoo in 1930s films, we will trace the evolution of the apocalypticzombie during the Cold War and Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 1960s, and look at recent zombie apocalypse fiction and games to analyze how zombieliterature, films, and games criticize sexism, racism, imperialism, capitalism and consumer culture, ecological carelessness and destruction, and the exploitation of the poor. Texts will include FrankensteinThe Magic IslandI Am LegendThe Zombie Survival GuideDeadlands, and The Road. Films will include Night of the Living DeadDawn of the Dead, and the television series The Walking Dead, as well as White ZombieZombieland28 Days Later, and The Road. We will also look at how video games developed from Dawn of the Dead, and look briefly at some popular zombie games such as the 2002 game Resident Evil, the 2013 game The Last of Us, and The Walking Dead tie-in games. Students should expect to write 2 papers, complete a final project, and participate in regular discussion forum posts and some online meetings.

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Instructor: J. Hovey