Dead Inside: The Walking Dead and the Problem of Meaning in the New Millennium.
Deadline: August 13, 2012
In the early twenty-first century, zombies are everywhere—in film (Land of the Dead, 28 Days Later, Dead Snow, Rammbock, The Horde), fiction (Stephen King’s Cell, Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, Max Brooks’ World War Z, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Handling the Undead), social movements (zombie walks and the Zombie Research Society ), classrooms (Zombie Studies) and even politics (Daniel Drezner’s Theories of International Politics and Zombies). Undoubtedly one of the most sustained and complex representations of the modern zombie, though, is AMC’s television series, The Walking Dead, based on Robert Kirkman’s series of comics.
I am seeking essays for a collection that will explore the complexities of The Walking Dead in relation to the multiple forms of zombie revival, and that will address the ways in which the zombie articulates the crucial theoretical and political debates of the new century.
I am particularly interested in essays about how zombies, and narratives about zombies, engage problems of meaning. In the first episode of season one of The Walking Dead, after protagonist Rick Grimes wakes up in a hospital to a post-apocalyptic world, he encounters a door on which the words “Do Not Open. Dead Inside” are painted. Zombies claw at the opening. The moment encapsulates how zombies often function to signal inner deadness or absence—the loss of self, of consciousness, of history, of political efficacy, of meaning itself. How does the series, in its many contexts (literary, cinematic, historical, political, address compelling contemporary problems of meaning, of how we find and attribute significance in our lives? Essays should, then, take up The Walking Dead as a crystallization of one of the many contemporary problems of meaning. Some generative questions/contexts include:
–Why have zombies seen such a resurgence in the twenty-first century, after their apparent demise in the 1990s? How does The Walking Dead represent an evolution in the history of zombie fiction and film?
–How do zombies feature in imaginings of the end of the world? How do post-apocalyptic narratives with zombies (The Walking Dead, World War Z, Romero’s Dead cycle) differ from those without (The Road, Survivors, The Book of Eli)?
–How do fictional, cinematic, and televisual zombies illuminate philosophical debates over the conceivability of the zombie and what the possible existence (or lack thereof) of zombies says about human consciousness and identity?
–How do zombie narratives encode politics and offer forms of social critique (notably of global capitalism), as well as embodying forms of utopian political thinking?
–How do zombies serve as figures of contagion—as a virus that infects both the body and the mind (memes, flash mobs, etc.)? What meanings inhere in zombies’ contagiousness?
–How do zombies engage with recent theorists of the posthuman?
Please send your essay of no more than 30 pages to Dawn Keetley, Associate Professor of English, at Lehigh University, 35 Sayre Drive, Bethlehem PA 18015. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline is Monday August 13, 2012. All disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives are welcome. I will be happy to address any questions via email at any time. McFarland (who have been publishing the best books on zombies) is interested in publishing this collection.