‘Nazi Zombies!’: The Undead in Wartime and the Iconography of Mass Persuasion

William Seabrook’s depictions of Haitian zombies in his 1929 book, The Magic Island, sparked a cultural craze for the undead; even Zora Neale Hurston admitted that Seabrook’s dramatic description of zombies and masters ‘fired’ her imagination (Hurston 2018 [1938]: 134). The film industry was primed to profit from this first-wave zombie fad by producing a spate of interwar zombie films throughout the 1930s and early 1940s. These included the genre-establishing White Zombie (1932) and the subsequent Revolt of the Zombies (1936). However, whereas the racialization of early zombies and the films’ American southern settings bespoke a cultural anxiety over the legacies of plantation slavery, alternative versions of the zombie film during World War II framed zombies and their masters as participating in wartime ideological debates between fascism and liberal democracy. I will contend that, building upon the history of zombie films in allegorizing racial difference, wartime zombie films shifted their focus and began expressing anxieties about ideological differences. Within the small subgenre of the ‘Nazi zombie’ film, I suggest zombification comes to represent fear of political brainwashing and the subject’s susceptibility to fascist demagoguery. To discuss the ideology of wartime zombie films, I will focus on two of the most significant Nazi zombie films of the period: King of the Zombies (1941) and Revenge of the Zombies (1943), both of which adopt the established film trope of the zombie and the zombie master to address the way that fascist leaders command attention, mirroring contemporaneous debates about the reception of fascist philosophies. The major thread through all these films is the maintenance of western democratic values as the key to reversing the process of fascist zombification. In sum, I argue that films like these reinforce an Anglocentric vision of democratic ideologies, with American and British characters finding themselves preternaturally incapable of seduction by fascist ideologies, thus reifying the common myth that fascism remained a ‘foreign’ problem and actively working to bolster home-front security in democratic norms.

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‘Netflix and Kill’: Feminist Flesh-Eaters in Santa Clarita Diet

Historically, zombie filmmakers cast female characters as ancillary or antagonistic juxtapositions to white, male, protagonists. Whether depicted as easy prey or meaningless sex objects, such as the unnamed, undead, sex slave in Deadgirl (2008), strong, female characters are purposely cast—if cast at all—as remonstrative figures, destined for death and dismay, to preserve long-established patriarchal values of male dominance and female inferiority. This article argues that Victor Fresco’s Santa Clarita Diet (2017–19) surreptitiously confronts the female-gendered zombie status quo. By constructing a feminist, female, undead, protagonist who simultaneously and successfully lives within and transgresses patriarchal structures and conventions with ease, Santa Clarita Diet presents an atypical zombie narrative, featuring what Elizabeth Aiossa calls a ‘fully-fledged embodiment of the monstrous-feminine’:  the self-conscious, meek wife and mother, Sheila, who transforms into an impulsive, desire-oriented, flesh-eating zombie while simultaneously remaining within and promoting change to the heteronormative family unit (Aiossa 2018b: 142). Fresco departs from conventional female zombie representations, exchanging the mindless, entirely desire-centered, and uncontrollable, female zombie for an undead, woman protagonist whose unabashed sexual expression and social autonomy challenge the patriarchal family structure, yet do not implode the unit itself. Furthermore, I will argue the series also encourages women to seek autonomy within patriarchal structures and heteronormative family units, while advocating young women, undead or otherwise, to embrace their own identities, however monstrous they may be, through both Sheila and her daughter, Abby’s, individual character development throughout the three-season series.

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The Representation of the Zombie in Korean Films: Medieval Zombie vs Modern Zombie

The zombie myth, once mainly attributed to the western culture, became globally recognized as a legitimate metaphor for our anxieties. In the recent years, the popularity of zombie films has reached its apex worldwide where even in Korea, a country that has relatively a short history of zombie films, we witnessed the resurgence of the undead. However, rather than considering the zombie as merely a reflection of anxieties at a given time, this paper illustrates — through an in-depth analysis of the distinct characteristics and the discourse surrounding the zombie in Train to Busan (2016) set in modern Korea and Rampant (2018) in the medieval Joseon period — how the Korean zombie becomes a concrete embodiment of the concept of fear whose actual nature has changed throughout history, shifting from a solid form (medieval zombie) to a liquid form (modern zombie). For the sake of convenience, I will be using the term Korea rather than South or North Korea throughout my paper, and in the course of the analysis, the words zombie, outbreak, night-demon, fear and ambivalence will be interchangeably used.

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A Braindead Nation: Black Summer and Trump’s America

America is teetering on a knife-edge of fascism, fueled by insidious social conservatism and questionable morality that has been festering for decades in the politics and culture of the United States. This article explores the deep concern expressed by Black Summer (Netflix, 2019) regarding several alarming facets of the Donald Trump era. With Trump's rise to power ushering in a new age of right-wing radicalism, I present Black Summer as a socio-political commentary on the on-going issues regarding attitudes to immigration, race, and violence in America. I begin by discussing how Black Summer confronts the so-called 'Family Separation' policy, whereby the children of 'illegal' immigrants are separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border, and then explores the show's multifaceted indictment of Trump's America. It argues, then, that while Black Summer might seem to be little more than a graphically violent, guns 'n' guts zombie series concerned with wanton action and a high body count, it in fact makes its plentiful and pointed social and political comments as quickly as its zombies are able to reanimate.

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Homeland Insecurities: The Walking Dead and the Purgatory of Captivity on the Post-Apocalyptic Frontier

The television series The Walking Dead (AMC, 2010 - ongoing) allows for sustained vivisection of frontier mythology within the generic conventions of a zombie apocalypse. As the guiding mythos behind the European conquest of the United States, the notion of the frontier, in historian Richard Slotkin’s terms, ‘regenerates’ mythic American exceptionalism and national identity ‘through violence’ as it justifies military invasions of ‘darker’ places both at home and around the globe (1973). This essay focuses primarily on how season seven of The Walking Dead relies on recycling frontier mythology’s captivity narrative and how communities deploy captivity and torture against members of other communities or attempt to assimilate them. The structure of the seasons and the frequent mid-season breaks likewise hold viewers captive to the elusive fates of favorite characters. While zombies are always a threat in the series, they do not constitute the ‘Big Bad’ of season six or seven. Instead, the undead, themselves captive to fates worse than death, have evolved, or devolved, into appetite-driven weapons that are subject to the living’s manipulation and deployment against others. In these later seasons, it is captivity and torture that both characters and viewers fear the most.

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Shakespeare Among the Zombies in Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth: Memory, Meaning, ‘Moving Forward’

Carrie Ryan’s young adult zombie novel The Forest of Hands and Teeth (2009) offers a space for reflection on the humanist underpinnings surrounding the role of memory in narratives. Ryan’s novel deploys memory initially as a bulwark against the loss of individual and cultural identity but increasingly complicates the notion that memory salvages the past. Oral and written memory guide the protagonist Mary on her journey toward self-fulfillment but, as the novel progresses, various memorial markers she encounters reveal that history is hidden and lost. Moreover, the post-apocalyptic zombie genre involves an ongoing series of spatial re-iterations that undermines specificity of value within particular cultures and persons. Memory becomes a ‘burden’ for the survivor. Ultimately, even this exhausted repetition is subsumed within the annihilation of humanity as a species. Rather than reassuring us of ‘meaningful’ humanist alternatives, the zombie space reminds us of our impending death, decay, and disappearance into oblivion.

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Zombie Desire, Queerness, and Race in The Girl with All the Gifts

R. Carey’s The Girl with all the Gifts(2014) and its 2016 cinematic adaptation chart a young girl’s slow acceptance of her zombie identity and the abilities and appetites that derive from it. This journey of self-discovery is, of course, a central concern of young adult (YA) literature. In many of these novels, a romantic subplot between the female protagonist and a male age-mate is the most important catalyst behind the protagonist’s character arc. In Carey’s novel, however, Melanie’s most significant relationship is with her black teacher, Miss Justineau, whom she clearly desires on a romantic and potentially sexual level—feelings she herself does not fully understand. While its portrayal of queer desire is refreshingly unusual, the novel uses zombie behavior to symbolize Melanie’s queer desires and therefore runs the risk of coding them as monstrous. While The Girl with All the Giftsdiverges from YA’s most trodden paths, it may also be paving the way for equally problematic issues.

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Revenge of the Dammed: The Zombie as Ecological Trauma and Revenge in Flooded Landscapes

This essay looks at the ecological trauma and subsequent revenge caused in relation to the traumatic flooding of the landscape due to the construction of dams. The subsequent trauma enacted on the landscape not only creates zombies as an embodiment of the ecological violence perpetrated but also, in some way, makes the landscape itself equally undead seeing it locked in, or out, of time and unable to move on. This rupture in the natural order then causes it to expel the dead both as symptom of its undead state but also as revenge on those that caused it. Ecological trauma here involves what might be termed a Gothicizing of the dam itself and the surrounding landscape, in the way that it sees an undying past haunt and/or erupt into the present. However, as the current study will show, this is not meant to eternally lock the present in the past but to offer the possibility of a different future

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Zombies and Intercultural Hybridity in Cargo (2017)

Zombies are often theorized as liminal creatures. The 2017 Australian film Cargo positions such in-betweenness not only as characteristic of zombies but also as mirroring a hybridity that provides alternatives for the living to dominant norms. Cargo’s Aboriginal community believes that zombies possess souls, while the protagonist, Andy, occupies a liminal state of infection. Hybrid social practices, meanwhile, manifest around family and collectivity. White male, Vic, hoards goods, loots zombies, and has a hostage-wife. The indigenous community, contrastingly, communally approaches zombies not as sources of profit but as an infection of the land. Andy protects his child, Rosie, by combining the governmental and Aboriginal approaches to infection. Ultimately, Rosie becomes part of a community based more on collectivity than on nuclear families. Often in zombie narratives, groups fragment into competing tribes or families. In Cargo, this occurs only with the dominant, white culture; there are, the film posits, other ways of being.

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The Ties That Bind: Familial Burdens in a Zombie Apocalypse

This article examines the impact of familial burdens in three prominent zombie narratives, focusing primarily on the transformative nature of the familial bonds, particularly the failure of parents to protect children (and the family as a whole), sibling loyalty, and responsibility to humanity versus blood-ties are important issues survivors face. George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), the television series The Walking Dead (2010 – present), and BBC’s In the Flesh (2013-14) illustrate that those best equipped to survive are the ones who accept that their family members have indeed changed, even if such acceptance is difficult. In the real world, familial bonds can be a source of strength, providing members with love, support, and motivation making them stronger. During a zombie apocalypse, however, the characters who are most likely to survive are the ones who can overcome them.

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Angels, Monsters, and Zombies: Defining Us and Them in First World War Poetry and Art

This article will explore how images were used to define ‘us’ and ‘them’ by other sides during the First World War. I begin with a discussion of how the figure of the angel is found in both side’s propaganda, both embodying and protecting the fighting forces. The way the ‘other’ comes to be defined in hyper-real terms as being monstrous will be explored using Cohen’s (2002) discussion of ‘folk devils’ whose deviance from righteousness must be repelled. In addition, the ‘other’ that is found in the poetry of this time often draws upon images that emphasise the subhuman acts of warfare through tropes that we would later refer to as ‘zombie’. In this way, I contend the First World War draws on traditional images of angels and monsters, but for the first time employs the image of the zombie to articulate the horror of the first mechanised mass conflict.

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The Shape of the End: Zombies and the End Times

Matthew Paris, monk of St. Albans, was certain that the world would end in the year 1250. He inscribed a poem to that effect in his Chronica Maiora (1259), a massive chronicle of world history from the time of creation. When the end did not come, he continued with his work, dictating from his deathbed until he finally succumbed in 1259. Matthew understood his world through Christian prophecy and used his learning to interpret the signs he saw as he compiled his chronicle such as strange weather, earthquakes, omens in the heavens and in the East, as the Mongol empire advanced. Western history offers many examples of Christian End Times prophecy, from the proliferation of apocalyptic pamphleteering in the Reformation period to the blockbuster Left Behind thrillers, which describe the events after the Rapture. These narratives rely on a central text, the Book of Revelations, and a unified prophetic voice to warn and promise of a reckoning and an afterlife. This essay uses a discussion of pre- and early modern Christian End Times narrative as the starting point for an exploration of how zombie apocalypse narrative inverts and fractures traditional apocalyptic forms. An obvious point of comparison is the zombie itself—an inversion or, more aptly, perversion of 1 Corinthian’s ‘heavenly man’ and of the sacred cannibalism of Eucharistic rite. The zombie corpus, however, raises far more interesting questions than the zombie corpse. Our frequent references to ‘the zombie genre,’ belie the multiplicity of genres in which the zombie appears as well as the fascinating splintering of perspective and voice and experiments with genre breaking and blending that have emerged in zombie narratives of the last fifteen years. I will argue that the way that this multiplicity of form reflects how the nihilistic zombie apocalypse develops in direct contrast to the telos of Christian apocalyptic form. Contemporary narratives discussed will include George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), Edgar Wright, Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Max Brooks World War Z (2006), Dead Inside: Do Not Enter: Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse (2011), Max Braillier, Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? (2011) and the Walking Dead franchise.

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Late-Victorian Folklore: Constructing the Science of Fairies

In 1878 the London Folklore Society (FLS) was founded against the backdrop of the Victorian fascination with fairies, antiquarian enthusiasm, passion for specimen collections and the science of anthropology as set out by Edward Burnett Tylor in Primitive Culture (1871). This group of middle class, mainly metropolitan, amateur scholars set out to collect, categorise and study fairies. These early FLS members attempted to forge a science of fairy origins, a cultural archaeology, using collected folklore and printed folk-tales to reconstruct supposed pre-historic beliefs. Folklorists were determined to present their fairy science as a serious academic discipline with a ridged methodological focus, based on comparative anthropology. Volumes such as David MacRitchie’s Testimony of Tradition (1890), Edwin Sidney Hartland’s The Science of Fairy Tales (1891), Alfred Nutt's The Voyage of Bran (1895/1897),  and John Rhys’ Celtic Folklore, Welsh and Manx (1901) sat against dozens of articles in the FLS’ journal hoping to rationally explain fairies and the origins of fairy belief. However, these academic folklorists often had a complicated relationship with the fairies, struggling to reconcile their historical model of fairy-lore with contemporary supernatural encounters and elite manifestations of fairy-beliefs among spiritualists. Andrew Lang, a folklorist and psychical researcher, fiercely debated with colleague Edward Clodd over ‘Psycho-folklore’ a strand of the discipline which aimed to connect folklore with psychical research. Even in the early 1920s FLS members continued to view contemporary supernatural accounts as problematic resulting in the Society surprisingly ignoring the famous Cottingley fairy photographs and theosophical fairy beliefs. The FLS’ work during this period deprived the fairies of their magical potency, as they were bizarrely called upon as evidence in the dry discussions of anthropological folklore. Nevertheless, by the 1920s the fairies increasingly vanished from folkloric studies; the tiny winged creatures associated with children's picture books were too embarrassing for serious science.

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Fairies in the Sky: Devising a creative response to archive material

As an artist/participant in the Modern Fairies Project 2018 through the University of Sheffield, I was asked to collaborate and produce new material inspired by the theme of fairies. After initially discovering a WW2 Looney Tunes propaganda video depicting gremlins on an aircraft, I then looked into Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, who had led Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, whilst also being a member of The Fairy Investigation Society, founded in the 1920s. Using elements of the story of the Devonshire battle between fairies and pixies, I developed a stage performance based upon the characters of Hugh Dowding and the Fairy Kingcentered around the fairies unhappiness at the destruction of their realm by WW2 airfield developments send gremlins up into the RAF’s planes to try and bring about their downfall. This article describes my creative process, including the research which informed the artistic decisions, which helped me to form an understanding of human faith in fairies.

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Performing Kirk: A search for authenticity in the dramatisation of the life of the ‘Fairy Minister’, Reverend Robert Kirk

Is it possible to achieve authenticity in the fictionalisation of a historic figure? To research my novel, The Knowing – a Fantasy, extensive experiential and archival research was undertaken. Having covered the experiential approach elsewhere (2020), here I focus primarily upon the archival. In this palaeographic enquiry I describe the discovery of a possible lost manuscript by the Reverend Robert Kirk – a version of his famous monograph, The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, Fairies (1691). I analyse its provenance and content in a comparative study with extant MSS, contemporary accounts, and scholarship. I situate this enquiry within my own practice-based research undertaken for my PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester (2014-2018) and what this potential discovery means for Kirk scholarship.  I draw upon the work of Scott (1815), Lang (1892), Rossi (1957), Sanderson (1976), Stewart (1990), Hunter (2001; 2012) and Warner (2006), as well as more recent scholarship by Maxwell-Stuart (2014), Baker (2014), DeGroot (2015), and Temple (2019). How the archival discoveries revealed secrets of Kirk’s life (through painstaking textual analysis and transcription), and how the context of these discoveries (research libraries; a Scottish castle; a winter’s writing retreat and long-distance summer walks) all fed into the portrayal of Kirk and his world, will be discussed.

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Not Entirely Flattering: Revealing Mr Simonelli’s Fairy Nature

Susanna Clarke’s first follow-up to hugely successful Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell was a lavishly illustrated volume of short stories, some of which intertwined with the world of the novel. ‘Mr Simonelli, or the Fairy Widower’ features characters mentioned in the novel, expanding the scope of this already rich alternate history. In the course of the story the titular figure transforms from arrogant scholar to agonized suitor and finally to true fairy. While the information supplied by the fairy John Hollyshoes reveals the truth of his inheritance, Simonelli discovers that he has been performing as fairy all along. What he considered to be a difference of temperament, fueled by his recognition of class difference within the hallowed halls of Cambridge, turns out instead to be part of his non-human nature. Is his performance as human or fairy more convincing? Which is ‘truer’? Almost nothing in the story is what it seems to be, but when truth is uncovered, it is Simonelli’s turn to tell lies, half-truths and misdirect others. In the Butlerian sense, he seizes ‘the reiterative power of discourse’ to sway the narrative and characters to his will. However, revelation of his ‘true’ nature does not entirely switch his orientation from the human to the fairy. He works to save human women from the predations of his relation Hollyshoes—even going so far in later years, we are told, to work for the education of women generally—a sharp contrast to his earlier dismissive misogyny. As Sara Ahmed argues, ‘If orientations point us to the future, to what we are moving toward, then they also keep open the possibility of changing directions, of finding other paths’ (569). Perhaps fairy orientation need not live up to Norrell’s dismissal of the ‘race’ as ‘poisonous’ and ‘inimical to England’ and all human life.

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Re-Visiting Cottingley Beck: Trash-Fairies in the Urban Gothic

This paper presents and contextualises original artistic responses to the site of the Cottingley Fairies hoax produced as part of a practice-based research project exploring the spaces and places of fairies in 21st century post-industrial settings. Both authors (researchers/artist-practitioners) grew up in neighbourhoods close to the original geographical site of the famous Cottingley Fairies photographs: a site which both historically and in the 21st century is layered, complex, and challenging. In 2003, when the A650 dual-carriageway was re-directed to bypass the town of Bingley, the site was cut in two by a flyover and storm drainage system. The now remote and difficult-to-access lower part of the valley, while retaining much of its natural beauty and mystical feel, has become a site for waste and fly-tipping and the forgotten detritus of a post-industrial urban environment. In January 2020, the authors re-visited the site to create a collaborative series of site-specific poetry and photography with a view to exploring the Cottingley Fairy heritage in the context of town planning, waste management, class and the urban gothic. What does fairy mean in the contexts of litter and the underpass? What might it mean to re-discover lost places in the urban gothic and in the age of the anthropocene? This paper and practice presents a range of imagery in documenting the complex site across histories and draws together seemingly disparate representations from urban and waste-management to fairies and childhood memories in nature. The paper draws on psychogeography and urban gothic studies to present social and critical findings emergent from original creative practice and consists of a journal article and an extract of a sequence of poems and photographs.

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The Obscure Becomes Vivid: perspectives on the (re)mediation of fairy lore by folklorists, performers and audiences

Tales about fairies are often thought of as the province of children, popularised by moralising fairy tales and Disney films, yet the success of works such as The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and World of Warcraft demonstrate that other tropes that tap into the mythical past hold the power to enthral adult audiences. The Modern Fairies and Loathly Ladies research project explored the porosity of this border by inviting thirteen musicians, writers and visual artists to respond to traditional tales about fairies and collaborate to make new works for contemporary audiences. We frame the artists’ interpretations of fairy lore as acts of (re)mediation. Audiences were involved through work-in-progress sharings and focus groups to capture their responses to the developing work. Here we present three distinct perspectives on the project: the folklore academic, the practice-as-research artist and the audience researcher. The thematic choices the artists made with the open-ended creative brief were at times unexpected, exposing the individual journeys artists made to create personal connections with the material. This resulted in work being produced that represented an individual artistic voice. Audience experience was similarly bound up in deeply personal understandings of fairy folklore, requiring modes of marketing presentation to be fully thought-through if this content is to be commercialised for new target markets. This project exposes the process of mediating folkloric material to make it relevant to contemporary concerns and anxieties. The narratives foreground vital themes of individual identity and self-determination; the vivid dramatisation of timeless and enduring truths about human existence still communicates powerfully with contemporary audiences. With attention to the staging of concepts and mediatised (re)presentation, this project has shown that the ancient, academic and obscure has the potential to become immediate, relevant and vivid.

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Dreaming of Leviathan: John Langan’s The Fisherman and American Folk Horror

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Colonising the Devil’s Territories: The Historicity of Providential New England Folklore in The VVitch

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