For decades, artists have been using horror to speak to our deepest societal fears, from the wilderness (werewolves) to the unknown (aliens). With zombies, that fear is infection: the outbreak of some terrible epidemic that sweeps the world, rendering us all into the drooling, flesh-eating monster next door. But as Dahlia Schweitzer shows in her new book, Going Viral, zombies are part of a much older lineage—dating back to Haitian slavery. Recently, these stories have arisen as commentary on the Ebola and AIDS epidemics, as well as terrorism, and in many cases, fact and fiction seem unfortunately to blur. Why have these outbreak narratives infected the public conversation? And how have they affected the way we see the world?
Go beyond the episode:
- Dahlia Schweitzer’s Going Viral: Zombies, Viruses, and the End of the World
- Check out this chart of the three film cycles of outbreak narratives
- Want to be comforted after all that terror? Here’s an outline of all the female scientists who save the day in these films
- Watch a how the film Pandemic (2016) blurs fact and fiction with actual news footage
- In case you had any doubts about Dawn of the Dead (1978) was about consumerism: here’s the mall scene
- And check out the whole “syllabus” for Going Viral
Tune in every two weeks to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.
Download the audio here (right click to “save link as …”)
Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!
Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.