Master of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) 752

Special Topics Graduate Seminar - The Walking Undead: Zombies and Vampires in Transatlantic Cultural History (Revision 3)

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Delivery Mode: Grouped study

Credits: 3

Prerequisite: None

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Program: Master of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies

Challenge for Credit: MAIS 752 is not available for challenge.

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As popular cultural icons, vampires and zombies—those staples of horror movies, Halloween costumes, and nightmares—will not die. But these dead who will not die are undead in very different ways. And each culture adapts and reinvents these monsters to contain, or reflect, or spark its reigning socio-political anxieties. Vampires, according to several authorities, are popular when the politics skew left: the middle classes are afraid of the wealthy, powerful elites who prey on and suck dry the powerless multitudes. Zombies are popular when the politics skew right: the elites fear the masses of the poor and needy who threaten to overwhelm them with sheer numbers. In this course, we will attempt an historical, transnational, and transcultural survey of vampire and zombie literature from Britain, the USA, and Canada: grounding our tour in the Gothic foundations of period and more recent horror writing; paying close attention both to how such writings are constructed and adapted; and critically interpreting and reflecting on the cultural work that these specific kinds of figures, scenes, and stories do. As we examine this body of work, we will be considering the body natural (and the body unnatural) in addition to the body politic.

An exciting feature of this version of the course is that we will be conducting it as a team-taught and co-mingled course. We hope that students from nations who have dealt in dissimilar ways with their colonial histories will be able to provide a diverse and useful set of interpretations and reading experiences.

As a seminar for Masters’-level students, this course does presume students will have at least some familiarity with two texts that are not specifically assigned for this course but that are pivotally significant to the course topic: namely, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1899). These texts are widely taught in undergraduate English literature curriculum, and widely adapted in popular culture. If you wish to read or re-read these novels (though they’re not required reading), the recommended open-access, digital editions of each are as follows:

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Describe the historical developments of Gothic, vampire, and zombie literature;
  • Articulate the cultural anxieties referenced in vampire and zombie literature;
  • Closely read how zombie and vampire characters, personae, and stories are composed, and interpret the textual constructions and cultural functions of these literary forms;
  • Analyze critical theories and their readings of the figures of the vampire and the zombie;
  • Define and pursue individual interests in the popular cultural and scholarly treatments of vampires and zombies.

Student Evaluation

Activity Weighting
Short close reading essay 20%
Forum discussion posts 20%
Critical Review 20%
Research essay or creative work proposal 10%
Research essay or creative work 30%
Total 100%


Butler, Octavia E. Fledgling. Penguin Random House, 2005.

Whitehead, Colson. Zone One (2011). Knopf, 2012.

Moreno-Garcia, Silvia. Dead North: Canadian Zombie Fiction. Exile Editions, 2013.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.