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"Zombie Legends in the Age of Mass Man" Topic


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263 hits since 29 Oct 2020
©1994-2021 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse30 Oct 2020 2:47 p.m. PST

"With the Halloween season upon us, we might pause to consider the meaning that zombie legends hold for modern audiences. Like any legend or myth, the zombie has been subjected to a steady stream of interpretation and re-interpretation over time, and each generation has tended to project onto it its own imaginative conceptions. This is no less true of contemporary people, for whom zombies have recently been portrayed as the carriers of viral contagion, the harbingers of the apocalypse, a metaphor for mental health, and even the objects of romantic love. But what latent cultural anxieties are bound up in our diverse depictions of these flesh-devouring ghouls? To answer this question, we first consider the zombie legend's historical origins.

The word "zombie" first debuted in the English lexicon in 1819 in the Romantic poet Robert Southey's History of Brazil. From that work, zombie (or "zombi," as Southey had spelled it) was eventually incorporated into the Oxford English Dictionary, which traces it in etymological terms to various African languages, including the Kongo word nvumbi, which means "body without a soul."

In addition to the passing reference in Southey's work, many have argued that a forerunner to the zombie legend can be found in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which drew on European folklore of the undead in order to critique the promethean spirit of scientific progress that had emerged during the 19th century. As one scholar notes however, Shelley's monster is technically speaking a distinct creation of the Romantic genius. Although it certainly bears a resemblance to the zombie insofar as it is a reanimated corpse, it nevertheless possesses an innate intelligence and moral imagination that distinguishes it from the mindless beings stumbling after the nearest source of blood and brains…"
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