Twilight, True Blood, and The Walking Dead: What’s with Popular Culture’s Fascination with the Undead?
Books, television shows, and movies about zombies, corpse possession, and vampires have dominated the landscape of popular culture in recent years. But our current fascination with death and the undead is actually nothing new. Indeed, as you will learn during the course of this Byrne Seminar, the seeds of this seemingly contemporary obsession can be traced back to the medieval cult of death, to the dances of the dead, transey tombs where audiences stared down on decomposing bodies, and gruesome examples of momento mori. In this seminar, we will study the origins of the undead in popular culture by beginning with 18th-century gothic literature, before moving into the next century, where the classic conception of vampires and zombies began to take shape in works such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Then we will trace how this history of death and the undead has manifested itself in modern culture in films like Twilight and Lost Boys, and in TV shows like The Walking Dead and True Blood. At the core of popular culture’s obsession with death and the undead is our fascination with fear and being afraid, and the mechanisms that highlight the difference between terror and horror. Join us for a tour of the occult.