September 10, 2010
In the past decade, zombies have taken up more of the spotlight within pop culture. According to The Washington Post, they have hit the best-seller list in a literary mash-up of a Jane Austen classic called "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies". They have been featured in modern day movies such as "28 Days Later" and "Dawn of the Dead", a 2004 remake of the 1978 cult classic by George A. Romero. Come Halloween, they will have their own AMC TV series called "The Walking Dead". Now, at the University of Baltimore, they even have their very own class.
AOL News reported that CMAT 333 is a new Media Genres class dedicated to the study of zombies in popular culture. Taught by Arnold Blumberg, zombie film enthusiast who also taught similar courses at Columbia College, Rice University and Georgia Tech noted The Washington Post, the class will analyze 16 classic zombie films, which will be supplemented by books such as "Patient Zero" by Jonathan Maberry. CNET added that students will also explore novels such as "World War Z" and the comic "The Walking Dead". At the end of the semester, students can storyboard their own zombie story or write a zombie script instead of doing a final analysis research paper.
Blumberg told AOL News, "I pitched [the university] the idea of doing a course in zombies as one of the most perfect single reflections in our media of what we're thinking of at any given point as a culture, as individuals and as a nation."
According to The Baltimore Sun, Jonathan Shorr, chair of the school of communications design at the University of Baltimore, was in search of "interesting, off-the-wall" courses for the university's new pop culture minor. At first, Shorr was skeptical, but after putting more thought into the idea he realized that the class had potential to get students to talk about concepts within sociology, literature and other disciplines often seen as "stuffy". "It's a back door into a lot of subjects. They think they're taking this wacko zombie course, and they are. But on the way, they learn how literature and mass media work, and how they come to reflect our times," he explained.
Indeed, Blumberg told AOL News, that zombies change as our cultural norms and underlying fears--such as terrorism and fears of pandemics--change, which is the reason they have remained so popular since their introduction nearly 80 years ago. "The point of the course is to enable students to take a critical look at our mass media and analyze exactly what it is that it's saying about us as a culture," he said.
So far, students are thrilled about the class. According to The Washington Post, nearly all 45 available slots are filled and the class has a fairly even distribution of men and women, zombie buffs and neophytes. Darin Malfi, a corporate communications major told The Baltimore Sun, "I was freaking out when I saw this class. The required books were books I already owned."
Despite it being a fun topic, Blumberg still hopes students do not overlook the academic value of the course. "You can learn a lot about who we are as a people [from zombies]," he said in AOL News.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"College Course Preps Pupils for Zombie Apocalypse," AOLNews.com, September 9, 2010, Tony Deconinck
"Exploring the undead: University of Baltimore to offer English class on zombies," washingtonpost.com, September 10, 2010, Daniel de Vise
"Zombies lumber into curriculum at University of Baltimore," baltimoresun.com, September 6, 2010, Childs Walker
"Zombies to fill brains at University of Baltimore," CNET.com, September 7, 2010, Matt Hickey