We are at a point in our evolution as a species where we’ve become not quite living not quite dead.  With the advent of virtual bodies (in video games, chat rooms, online profiles, etc.), cloning, cyborg technology, and even the cell phone, we are seeing ourselves become more and more disembodied.  This feeling of disembodiment is why we’ve become so obsessed in our entertainment media with bodies, dead and otherwise--with cadavers, crime scenes, bodily mutilation, and torture.  We crave a truly visceral experience of the body--of bodies torn apart and reassembled, bodies breathing and stopped of breath, bodies scrutinized post-mortem, and bodies (no matter how gruesome) as aesthetically viable objects.  The zombie is part and parcel of this cultural obsession, but it is also the antidote.  The zombie threatens to deconstruct us (to eat us), but in an altogether different way from the machine.  Whereas machines devour our flesh, the zombie just chews, turning us into zombies, which are the epitome of flesh.  Machines take our flesh away.  Zombies proffer it back.

In this course, we examine a multimedia array of texts that explore the zombie and its literary and figurative precursors, including Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Mary Roach’s Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead.  We also ask larger philosophical questions about what it is to be “human,” what it is to be “living,” and what it is to be “dead.”  In addition to working on a multimodal research-intensive project over the course of the term, students engage in activities/assignments that consider the material and immaterial nature of media itself.  What constitutes the flesh of an essay?  Does a word have flesh?  Does film have flesh?  Do interactive texts have flesh?  And to what extent do they engage us at the level of flesh?

The subject leads us through difficult terrain (topics like death, corpses, embalming, rotting flesh, cannibalism, etc.), and we will have to sludge through some gore along the way.  If you’re squeamish, you may have to cover your eyes at certain moments, but we’re in this together, so talking about what, how, and why we recoil will be one of the subjects of this class.

Ben Hervey, BFI Film Classics: Night of the Living Dead
Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead [Vol. 1 softcover including issues 1-6]
Cormac McCarthy, The Road
(Optional): Mary Shelley, Frankenstein [we'll be discussing a few short excerpts]

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, "Monster Culture: Seven Theses"
Peter Dendle, "Introduction to The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia"
Mary Roach, "Excerpt from Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers"
Mark Jancovich, "Introduction to Horror, The Film Reader"
H. P. Lovecraft, "The Outsider"

George Romero: Night of the Living Dead (1968)
George Romero, Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Danny Boyle, 28 Days Later (2002)
Edgar Wright, Shaun of the Dead (2004)
The Walking Dead, "Guts" (2010)

ATTENDANCE AND PARTICIPATION: This is a collaborative course, focusing on discussion and work in groups. The class will be a cooperative learning experience, a true intellectual community. And so, you and your work are, in a very real sense, the primary texts for this course. In order for the class to work together as a community, it is important that you complete all assigned work. If you can’t finish the assigned work for any reason, your best strategy is to discuss this with me in advance either in person or via e-mail.

OFFICE HOURS: I’m frequently in my office and also available by appointment. If you’d like to meet in person, I’d recommend setting up a time in advance. I’m always happy to meet with you (to discuss the course or just to chat). This is the most effective way for me to give you individual attention and get to know you better. I encourage you to meet with me as early in the semester as possible, especially if you have any particular questions or concerns. I’m also very easy to reach by e-mail. In fact, e-mail is (by far) the best and quickest way to contact me.

E-MAIL: I will be sending regular announcements to you via e-mail, so if you do not check your e-mail regularly, you will miss important information.  

ONLINE COURSE CONTENT: There are numerous links on this webpage that take you to various assignments and readings we will be doing throughout the term.  You can access e-texts of some of the readings via this web page--just click on the title in the schedule.  My advice:  if you make this web site your friend, you’ll have no trouble completing all the reading and assignments for the course.  As we proceed, I will be uploading additional content, including course notes, activities, and assignments, so keep checking for updates.

COLLABORATION: You will collaborate with your peers on many of the assignments you complete for this course. If you have questions about the various ways collaboration can work, feel free to chat with me at any point.  

THE WORK OF THE COURSE: Specific details for major assignments forthcoming as the semester proceeds.

•  Participation. This includes your attendance, involvement in class discussion, in-class assignments, and small-group work. As mentioned above, this is (by far) the most important component of the course.

•  Blog. This is essentially an offshoot of class participation. Throughout the term you will be writing responses to the course blog. Some of these responses will be more structured (i.e. a response to questions I give to you), while many of them will be more flexible, allowing you to respond to any aspect of the text/film we are studying. Responses should be as collaborative as possible. In other words, don’t just throw your ideas into a vacuum. Instead, ask questions of each other and use the other responses as a jumping off point by answering questions, amplifying or complicating ideas, etc.

•  Treatment. A treatment is a short synopsis used to pitch an idea for a film. At the start of the term, you will work on this project in a group of 2-3. Your treatment should be around 750 words and will include a logline (a 1-2 sentence summary of your idea), market research, a description of the major scenes/characters, and a discussion of themes the film would explore. You should also include sketches or other visual aids to support your proposal.

Poster. Everyone will create a poster that engages in an analytic or argumentative way with themes we’ve been discussing in the course. These could be posters that directly advertise the film(s) we are making as a class, or they could be more tangentially related, such as a map or timeline of the historical/cultural progression of the horror film or a mash-up of significant moments in the history of zombies. You will have the option of completing a poster on your own or with a group of 2-3.

Final Film Project. As a class, we will be producing a short (15 - 20 min) film (or an anthology of shorter films). Throughout the term, you will work in small teams on various aspects of the film (production, screenwriting, filmmaking, post-production, and marketing). All of the other assignments you complete for the class will serve as ancillaries for the finished film. During our first weekend together, you will begin work on the final film on tasks like:

Production: The production department will be in charge of legal, financing, casting, and location scouting. They will produce a production schedule for the film and will work on coordinating the release of our film.

Screenwriting: The screenwriting department will create a screenplay and storyboards for the film and will work on a published shooting script (a polished and formatted version with images, etc.).

Filmmaking: The filmmaking department will be in charge of shooting, lighting, directing, sound, etc. The film will be shot during our second weekend together. The filmmakers will be responsible for acquiring equipment, building sets (if necessary), assembling costumes/props, etc. The filmmakers will also work on a short (3 min) behind-the-scenes documentary.

Post-production: The post-production department will be in charge of editing, music, sound-effects, titles and credits, visual effects, etc. They will prepare music, sound effects, and visual effects. They will also edit the film once it has been shot.

Marketing: The marketing department will produce a teaser trailer, a full preview, a press-release, a web-site, and be responsible for coordinating a print advertising campaign.

GRADING: This course will focus on qualitative not quantitative assessment, something we’ll discuss during the class, both with reference to your own work and the works we’re studying. While you will get a final grade at the end of the term, I will not be putting grades on individual assignments, but rather questions and comments that truly engage with your work rather than simply evaluate it. You will also be reflecting carefully on your own work and engaging thoughtfully with the work of your peers. The intention here is to help you focus on working in a more organic way, as opposed to working as you think you’re expected to. If this process causes more anxiety than it alleviates, see me at any point to confer about your performance in the course to date. If you are worried about your grade, your best strategy should be to join the discussions, do the reading, and complete all assignments. You should consider this course a “busy-work-free zone.” If an assignment does not feel productive, we can find ways to modify, remix, or repurpose the instructions.

PLAGIARISM: First, I will say that if you are unable to complete an assignment for any reason, it is in your best interest to discuss the situation with me.  Authorship is a hotly contested topic in the academy.  At what point do we own the words we say and write or the images we create?  Among authors and filmmakers, creative influence, collaboration, and a certain amount of borrowing are acceptable (even encouraged).  So, what sort of statement or warning about plagiarism would be appropriate in this class?  Let me go out on a limb and say:  in this class, I encourage you to borrow ideas (from me, from the authors we read, from the films we watch, from your classmates).  However, even more, I encourage you to really make them your own—by playing with, manipulating, applying, and otherwise turning them on their head.  In the end, it’s just downright boring to rest on the laurels of others.  It’s altogether more daring (and, frankly, more fun) to invent something new yourself—a new idea, a new way of thinking, a new claim, a new image.  This doesn’t give you license to copy something in its entirety and slap your name on it.  That’s just stealing.  Instead, think very consciously about how you are influenced by your sources—by the way knowledge and creativity depend on a sort of inheritance.  And think also about the real responsibility you have to those sources.  

UNIVERSITY POLICIES: Click here for important Marylhurst University policies.


April 22 - April 25: Getting Started
Watch and Read:
George Romero: Night of the Living Dead (1968)
George Romero, Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead [Vol. 1 softcover including issues 1-6]
Peter Dendle, "Introduction to The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia"
(Optional): Mark Jancovich, "Introduction to Horror, The Film Reader"

Respond to the first post on our course blog: Why Horror?
Engage with the responses of your peers
Complete a Film Treatment (on your own or in a group of 2-3) before April 26

April 26: 6pm - 9pm (BP John 203)
Discuss Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead
Figure out together in 3 short hours what this whole zombie-craze is all about

April 27: 10am - 5pm (BP John 203)
Discuss the first six issues of The Walking Dead comic series
Watch episode 2 of the tv series in class and discuss
Discuss film treatments
Decide together how to approach the final project
Form working groups and begin collaborating

April 28 - May 9: Sleep With One Eye Open
Watch and Read:
Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Ben Hervey, BFI Film Classics: Night of the Living Dead
Danny Boyle, 28 Days Later (2002)
Edgar Wright, Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, "Monster Culture: Seven Theses"
Mary Roach, "Excerpt from Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers"
H. P. Lovecraft, "The Outsider"

Send me an update on the status of your team's work by May 6
Complete a Poster (on your own or in a group of 2-3) before May 10

May 10: 6pm - 9pm (BP John 203)
Discuss 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead
Discuss "Monster Culture: Seven Theses"
Begin Discussing The Road
Decide together what monsters are and why we need them

May 11:10am - 5pm (BP John 203)
Discuss The Road
Work on final project


Film Treatment

A treatment is a short synopsis used to pitch an idea for a film. Your treatment should be around 750 words and should include a logline (a 1-2 sentence summary of your idea), market research, a description of the major scenes/characters, and a discussion of themes the film would explore. You should also include sketches or other visual aids to support your proposal.

Your proposed film can play very loosely with the horror/zombie genres. It should intersect with the themes of our class, but where and how it intersects with these themes is up to you. Go wild with your idea, but don’t be afraid of subtlety. You are free to pitch a fiction or non-fiction film in any genre: documentary, mockumentary, horror, comedy, satire, experimental film, music video, stop-motion animation, etc. Depending on the kind of film you propose, you may need to adapt some of these instructions. Everything I say here is a guideline only, meant to be tweaked as needed.

When we meet as a group, we will decide together the shape of what we're going to be making this term. We might make a single film as a very large group or we might make an anthology of shorter films that we unleash in a coordinated way upon the internet. We might end up with several 5 - 10 minute films, interspersed by mock commercials and previews for products and films that don't exist. In other words, don't worry about what the final product will look like or whether your proposed film will even get made. Make your treatment a work of art in its own right. And zombies don't play it safe or follow rules, so you shouldn't either.

Submitting Your Work: Use Google Docs ( to compose your treatment on your own or in a group of 2-3. Submit your work by sharing your document with me ( You can share your document with me as you're working, so I can witness your process unfold, but you can also wait until your work is complete. Just make sure to share your document with me before our first class session on April 26. If your treatment takes some bizarre form that can't be contained in a Google Doc (for whatever reason), send it by e-mail, share a link, hook it to a carrier pigeon, etc. :)

1. Logline. A logline is a 1-2 sentence summary of your idea. It conveys the story and themes of your film in the most abbreviated manner possible. This section is really the most important part of your treatment. Most readers will have made up their minds about your work after reading just your logline. Here is a rather long article about crafting a very short logline:

2. Market Research. This section should discuss how your film would fit into the horror/zombie film canon. You don't have to worry about whether your film would be "profitable," but consider your influences and the success (at all levels) of those influences. The goal of this section is to convince us that your film would draw viewers, hasn’t been made before, and is the exact right film to make right now.

3. Description of Major Scenes/Characters. Here you’ll include brief descriptions of your characters, their motivations, and the trouble they’ll get into over the course of the film. You want to create a picture for your readers in as few words as possible. In this section you might not want to waste words on complete sentences. Instead, you could have something like:  “Brenda.  A 12-year-old girl with pigtails and overalls. Likes twirling her hair and eating the heads of small animals. Spends most of the film looking for squirrels to snack on.” You should also include a brief outline of the plot and/or structure and a discussion of the visual style of your film. Remember, your film doesn't even need to have plot or characters. If you're doing an experimental film, for example, use this section to outline what the film is up to and how it will look and sound.

4. Discussion of Themes. This is where you’ll want to talk about how your film engages with ideas we’ll be discussing this term.  This isn’t Mad Libs, but these are the sorts of sentences you’re looking for: “The zombie is a figure about ____________, and so the film will explore _________, _________, and ________.  Humans have become ___________, and our narrative will thus disrupt ____________.” Feel free to quote from outside sources in this section.  What have critics and theorists said about zombies, bodies, death, etc., and how will your film engage with current thinking on these subjects?

5.  Visual Aids. Include sketches, pictures, or other visual aids to help support your proposal. These do not need to be artistically sounds. The goal is to get your reader’s attention and put your idea into their head quickly and powerfully.


For this assignment, you’ll construct a poster that functions as a visual essay, using both images and words to make an argument about subjects we’re discussing this term. You should include a short artist’s statement (no more than 250 words) analyzing your own work -- explaining the various issues you’re exploring and how they relate to other texts/films we’re discussing in class. You can complete this assignment on your own or with a group of 2-3. There are several options for how you might approach this assignment:

1. Create a traditional movie poster for the film we are producing as a class, including images, the title, a tag line, the release date (5/31), etc. If you google “movie poster,” you’ll find lots of examples of directions you can go with this. And, if you like fonts, you might find this useful too. This could also be a poster that advertises the specific segment you are working on for the anthology, rather than focusing on the entire film. Since nothing is yet finished, you’ll have to be creative with the title you choose, images you use, etc. (seems like the most popular were NBZ and Broadcast Z). Of course, I don’t expect everyone in class to be an artist, but you should still think very carefully about composition, color, visibility of important text from a distance, etc.

2. Create a zombie infographic. For example, you might create a visual timeline of zombie films, exploring the various issues explored during each era, tracking the progression of themes in zombie narratives throughout history. Or, you might create a poster that visually investigates one of the texts/films we’ve discussed in class, perhaps with flow diagrams that explore zombie infection or some such conceit.

3. Create a poster that thinks very self-consciously about poster design, marketing, propaganda, etc. For example, you might reimagine Nazi-era war propaganda posters with an apocalyptic, zombie-infested spin. This option could certainly be combined with one of the others.

4. All of these options are merely suggestions. The best possible thing you could do is something I couldn’t possibly anticipate. Feel free to go out on a limb. The main requirement here is that you think very self-consciously about design and composition in making a visual argument about an issue that is alive in our class (or dead, as the case may be).

Submitting Your Work: Be prepared to share your work in class in some fashion. Print it out. Display it on an iPad or on your computer screen. We will discuss the posters as a group and work with the marketing team to determine what ideas we can use and how. Submit your artist’s statement by e-mail along with an attachment or link to the digital version of your poster.