Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Speculative Ontologies and Cautionary Horrors: The Literary Zombie's Answer to What We Are and Where We're Going
by Stone, Tracy, Ph.D., University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2014, 144; 3687707
Abstract (Summary)

On a metaphoric level, the zombie is an extremely malleable and dynamic figure because it can act as a template for exploring the hazy definitions of humanity. The trope of the zombie I trace in this dissertation is the performance of an absence: the zombie as fragmented and incomplete human. I examine examples of the zombie in American literature across the last century that reify the absence of something crucial in the ontological makeup of a complete human, a component I term `the absent quale.' In the first two chapters, I establish the trope of the zombie as a figure that lacks a particular quale essential to humanity. Chapter One examines H. P. Lovecraft's zombies in "Herbert West: Reanimator" (1921–22) in the context of scientific materialism, which denies the existence of the soul. By 1959, when Robert Heinlein wrote his time travel classic "All You Zombies—," the figure of the zombie as an embodied absence was so established in popular culture that Heinlein's narrator uses the word "zombies" as a metaphor; Chapter Two reads the figurative zombie as a characterization of the fragmented along the temporal dimension. In Chapter Three, I consider Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg's "The Song the Zombie Sang" (1970) alongside Walter Benjamin's influential essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," using the latter's concept of the aura to denote a sort of material analogue to the human soul. I argue in Chapter Four that the bricolage of popular culture motifs that Robin Becker's zombie rehearses throughout Brains: A Zombie Memoir (2010) enacts the postmodern estrangement from an authentic dimension of being. Expanding on this theme, Chapter Five explores the ways in which popular culture dictates reality for the living and the undead members of the pre- and post-apocalyptic American society Colson Whitehead describes in Zone One (2011).

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Andriano, Joseph
Commitee: Davis-McElligatt, Joanna, McGuire, Jerry
School: University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Louisiana
Source: DAI-A 76/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Modern literature, American literature
Keywords: Fantastic fiction, Horror, Ontology, Science fiction, Speculative fiction, Zombies
Publication Number: 3687707
ISBN: 978-1-321-65600-8
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