A Dead New World: Richard Matheson and the Modern Zombie

Deborah Christie

in Better Off Dead

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780823234462
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823241255 | DOI:
A Dead New World: Richard Matheson and the Modern Zombie

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This chapter traces the modern image of zombies back to Richard Matheson's 1954 novella, I Am Legend, and George Romero's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. The chapter argues that because readers and audiences most closely identify with the survivors of an apocalyptic event, they often miss the larger implications of such narratives. Within many apocalyptic narratives, such as a zombie apocalypse, there is a overlying message of violent, transformative renewal that asks us to question normative humanist categories. Matheson and Romero both pointedly direct our attention back on our own body politic and demonstrate humanity's inability to discern its own capacity for inhuman behaviour.

Keywords: zombie; vampire; Matheson; Romero; Apocalypse; post-human; negation; shock horror; anamnesis

Chapter.  6221 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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