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.

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 16 Reading Assignment/Discussion:

Wyndham 3 – 79
“The End Begins”
“The Coming of the Triffids”
“The Groping City”
“Shadows Before”
“A Light in the Night”

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  • Laurel D.

    The Triffids book is interesting but the views on women, I take issue with. I feel the attitude of the protagonist is outdated. But, I will try to make this meeting.

    May 8, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      There are many embedded artifacts in literature, as time marches on. Some have decried Uncle Tom's Cabin. A literary work is, after all, one person's view (OK, sometimes a team's), which may just reflect existing sentiment at the time.

      May 8, 2013

    • Laurel D.

      It was not that bad, the teacher pointed out that over all it had something to do with the moral decline of the character in general after the end of the world. The rest of the book does not continue to women bash. Although this part said women were better off being raped, then abandoned by men, not considering that the women can create their own group without men and take care of each other.

      May 17, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    My daughter is getting married Saturday and the last stage of planning has arrived just a bit before expected. At least, I've done the reading.

    May 16, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I rsvp'ed "no" for the wrong date.

    May 11, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Something happened last night that turned out to change my day.

    May 9, 2013

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