Reflections on zombie class

by Amy Webber

With a promise of an interesting subject, Dr. Jesse Stommel opened up his Zombies in Literature and Film class with a blog heading: “And now,” cried Max, “let the wild rumpus start!” along with the question: “Why Horror?” Through engaging conversation, we analyzed the human need to watch and read about horror and zombies.

Why horror? A few student responses:

 “It is like we have a need for disasters involving human casualties to wake us up as human beings, to our mortality, and to remind us of our reliance on each other and the planet.” —Lorie Bailey

“One thing that occurs to me about why we like zombies so much is that they are so simple compared to humans. They have one desire (for braaaaiins) and everything they do is in pursuit of that one thing… Full frontal assault is the zombie way, and while that’s terrifying if they’re right in front of you, part of you always knows all you have to do is find a way to run away and you’ll be safe for just a few more minutes.” —Carrie Padian

Dissecting and devouring humanity, literally and figuratively, was the theme of this online and two weekend on-campus class at Marylhurst University. After studying George Romero’s movies Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978), we also enjoyed seeing references to these movies in other zombie films like 28 Days Later (2002), Shaun of the Dead (2004) and the TV series The Walking Dead.  We also read and discussed the novel The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

Student takeaways from the course:

“As a student I learned that zombies are a culture. I understand films better and I understand the versatility of films. I have been able to watch horror films and other shows with enjoyment.” —Hollie Anderson

“I feel like zombies speak to everyone in modern culture. They entertain. They scare. And they draw us in. They are us. But they are also the other. Zombies, I realize, serve as a mirror to show us how disjointed we are from ourselves and others. The majority of us are getting wrapped up in the digital world and losing grasp on the physical. Turning into a zombie is extreme, but many of us don’t appreciate the little things as a zombie wouldn’t. Let’s not let something as extreme as a zombie apocalypse snap us back into the beauty of everyday things and community!” —Elizabeth Moscosco

“In this class, I learned that there is a little bit of the undead in all of us.” —Darwin Riviere

The final project of the course was a film project, written and created by students. You’re invited to the premiere of our student productions of Open Wound, Standards, Marylhurst University: You Undead and Safe?Way. The short films will be shown at Marylhurst’s Spring Fair on Friday, May 31, 2013 at 7pm in Flavia Salon.

Event details

Check out the course blog

Amy Webber is an English student at Marylhurst University. She is set to graduate this June with her BA in English Literature & Writing.

Photo: From Night of the Living Dead