Dead interesting: fleshing out the zombie allure

"No one would want to be a shambling, rotting corpse," said Marcus Leaning, senior lecturer in media studies at the University of Winchester. "Yet since the early 2000s, there has been a proliferation of zombies expanding out of traditional media. I am interested in the meaning of zombies to producers and fans."

October 27, 2011

Credit: Kobal
The undead set: zombies offer screen for genuine anxieties in a terrifying world

Just as pertinent a question might be the meaning of zombies to academics, with a proliferation of zombie-related conferences and symposia in recent years.

At the latest "Zombosium", to be held at Winchester on 28 October, around 20 researchers will get together to discuss such themes.

Ian Conrich, Fellow in the department of literature, film, and theatre studies at the University of Essex, will consider how "zombie culture has infected a willing population" in the form of zombie walks, zombie energy drinks (sold in blood bags) and "garden zombie sculptures that give the appearance that the living dead are pushing up through your lawn".

Laura Hubner, programme leader in film studies at Winchester, will re-examine a "video nasty" from 1979, Zombie Flesh Eaters - notable for "a rich display of zombie-versus-shark action, apocalyptic church-burning and slow-moving zombies making their way across Manhattan Bridge" - and how it has fared at the hands of censors and critics.

Others will explore zombies as metaphors for the changing nature of television or the crisis of capitalism, while Elizabeth Kate Switaj, a PhD student at Queen's University Belfast, will read a 1,500-word horror tale and reflect on the appeal of zombie stories at a time when "we believe that there are terri- fying threats in the world and yet do not trust the governments that claim to protect us from these threats".

It will be left to Shaun Kimber, senior lecturer in media theory at Bournemouth University, to suggest that zombies can also act as a "critical lens through which to examine contemporary higher education".

"Humanising and sympathetic representations of the zombie", he will argue, "can inform our understanding of students, by foregrounding their dynamism, motivations and skills."

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