Like that scene from World War Z, the relentless horde of the undead has breached the walls of the ivory tower of academia and is now feasting on the brainiest of humans.
"It is clearly now acceptable to study zombies seriously," said Kyle Bishop of Southern Utah University’s English department. Bishop, now the chairman of the department, has used zombies to conduct academic research. He turned his dissertation into an academic treatise called American Zombie Gothic: The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the Walking Dead in Popular Culture.
According to Erica Phillips of The Wall Street Journal, there are now 20 new scholarly books with “zombie” in the title or topic category. JSTOR, an online archive of academic journals, reported that there are 39 articles featuring the undead since 2005, versus 7 in the preceeding 10 years.
Cal State Northridge economics professor Glen Whitman is working on the “Economics of the Undead,” in which he explored the issues of the use of resources in an apocalyptic event. Professor Robert J. Smith? (yes, the question mark is part of his name - don’t ask) of the Department of Mathematics and Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa has written a mathematical paper on how humanity could survive a zombie outbreak.
Similarly, colleges are offering more and more courses on zombies. Philosophy professor Christopher Moreman of California State University, East Bay, has taught a class in which students examine Buddhist imagery in zombie movies, which reflect the religion’s meditation on mortality.
There is a backlash from other academics, who considered the zombie trend as ominous. “They end up invariably turning their attention away from the tradition,” said English professor Mark Bauerlein who also penned the book “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future.” Nevertheless, zombie scholars defend their subject of study as a valid one given the preponderance of the living dead as a theme in human history and its ubiquity in modern literature and culture.
Living Zombies now outnumber Living a Dead Zombies!