Over the past several years the American cultural imagination has becoming increasingly obsessed with “zombie apocalypse,” a moment when the consequences of capitalism, ecological destruction, and militarization become evident on a global scale, and the survivors must found a new way of life. This course will explore zombie apocalypse from the perspective of the utopian tradition, particularly in relation to the writings of Wiliam Morris and Anarchist/Anarcho-Syndicalist conceptions of revolution and the new society. We will trace the evolution of the genre from Morris' News from Nowhere, to John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids, and (with a side-trip to 28 Days Later) conclude with Max Brooks' World War Z, along the way asking why it is that cataclysm, rather than evolution, has become the main catalyst for social change in the early 21st Century imagination.
Phil Gochenour holds a PhD in comparative literature from Emory University and has taught courses on new media, literary criticism, contemporary literature, and science fiction at the University of Virginia and Towson University. His publications in academic and other journals have focused on the novels of Thomas Pynchon, the application of systems theory to online communities, the history and cultural impact of cybernetics, and American and British science fiction.
Location and time:
Borderlands Books, 866 Valencia St. (near 20th). Thursdays, 6:30-8 p.m., May 2-June 20. Information may change. See UOTC.org or Meetup.com/uotcsf before attending first class.
There are several editions of all three major texts for this class, and participants should feel free to obtain whatever copies are readily available, though the editions listed below are available at Borderlands. Page numbers referred to in the syllabus and class reading/discussion assignments are for these editions, which will be used by the instructor, but chapter titles are also provided for participants who have other editions.
- Morris, William News from Nowhere and Other Writings
Penguin Books, 1991
- Wyndham, John The Day of the Triffids
Modern Library, 2003
- Brooks, Max World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
Crown Publishers, 2006
Available at this Dropbox link: Zombie Apocalypse Syllabus
May 2 Reading Assignment/Discussion:
For this first class we will have introductions, a brief review of the syllabus and texts, and then an outline of the major concepts and their relation to the texts. No readings are required for this class meeting, though you may want to spend some time beforehand with your favorite examples of the genre.