If you happen to be a student at the University of Baltimore, you can now enroll in a zombie studies course that will outfit with everything you wanted to know (but were afraid to ask) about zombies. Professor Arnold Blumberg, author of
, is offering his class in the English literature department, analyzing the zombie in culture as allegory for war, the specter of nuclear apocalypse, and the American Dream. He’s actually not the first professor to have brain-eating on the brain — Brendan Riley at Columbia College in Chicago was teaching a class on zombies in popular media all the way back in 2007.
It almost makes us long for academia again. But never fear: Just because you can’t go back to your undergraduate days doesn’t mean you should be left out of over-analyzing the undead. We’ve compiled a sample syllabus that’s got you covered, all the way from A to, um, Zombie.
Week One: Introduction to Zombie
Assignment: Watch White Zombie
Zombies have their roots in Voodoo practices, carried over from Haiti and installed into the fertile imaginations of impressionable American youth. This classic 1932 horror film set the whole zombie movie genre in motion. It features the always-magnificent Bela Lugosi as a Haitian voodoo wizard, a sort of zombie Pied Piper who sics animated corpses on people who he doesn’t like. Plus, they run his sugar mill. The zombie proletariat: ripe for revolution? Discuss.
Week Two: The Zombie and Religion
Readings: Mark E. Rogers’
Written in 1989, The Dead shows zombies as products of the rapture, those left behind after all of the righteous get totally teleported out of town by God. Angels use corpses as clothing, and start a terrifying war. Themes of evangelism and religious persecution.
Week Three: The Zombie in Comedy
by S.G. Browne
In the late 2000s, the Zombie passed from object of cult fascination and horror to fodder for slapstick black comedy about hapless misfits forced to “nut up” and fight the undead. Shaun of the Dead is a mixture of gore and a good-spirited romp, where Zombieland blends in a coming-of-age tale plus a cameo by Bill Murray. Breathers, meanwhile, is a humorous book told from the point of view of a reanimated corpse. Where is the line between shock and mirth? Discuss in 600 words.
Week 4: Zombie Self-Defense
by Max Brooks
Max Brooks, one of the foremost literary authorities on zombies and their habits, explains in detail strategies to avoid zombie infestation, the best zombie protection methods, and tracks sightings of zombies across the globe. The machete decapitation technique is discussed at length. Also, how the virus is spread and which methods of public transportation to avoid. Question for class: What are the political implications of the nuclear eradication option?
Bonus Assignment: Read
by Max Brooks and give the best casting options for each character.
Week 5: Zombie Video Games
Play: Evil Dead, Resident Evil(any), or Zombie Apocalypse
Zombies have become one of the go-to sources for large groups of evil intruders that must be destroyed in order to move on to the next level. And yet they are also shorthand for the way people go through life, from work to job to home and back again. What is the relationship between zombies and the working class? Are we all zombies during wartime? And, how should architects better plan cities for the possibility of zombie infestation?
Due: Battle plan for siege of Vampire Studies class.
Week 6: The Zombie in Cinema History
Two George Romero-directed films, a decade apart, came to define the zombie in cinema history. Both address social issues: the former, the Vietnam war, and the latter, the beginning of corporate globalization. Both were made on modest budgets and made astonishing returns. Compare and contrast the two films for class.
Final Assignment: Make your own Zombie movie, recruiting friends and family. No professor participation, please.
Week 7: Things That Are Made Better By the Addition of Zombies
From Zombie cross stitch to Zombie cuisine (brain food, har-de-har), a rash of zombie products has sprung up in the beginning of the 21st century. What are the implications of the commercialization of zombies? What products are made better or worse by the addition of zombie themes? Which Jane Austen novel should be next?
What else should be on the syllabus? Leave your notes and suggestions in the comments!