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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 or before attending first class.

Required Texts:

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.

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  • A former member
    A former member

    We learned that the Utopian Tradition was originally a European series of writings or events trying to suggest some preferred organization of society. I was unaware of this particular organization of facts and art. It seems exciting to explore.

    May 2, 2013

  • David B.

    Great intro! Enjoyed it a lot!

    May 2, 2013

  • Jenny B.

    Writing my own post-apocalypse novel and want to study the genre.

    April 29, 2013

  • Rachele

    Excited for this class! :)

    April 17, 2013

  • Ron C.

    Need to change from Yes to No. Just realized SFIFF will still be going on the first couple weeks of this. Too Bad, I really enjoyed the Science Fiction class.

    March 18, 2013

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