October 31, 2014, BY Heather Johns


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Welcome to "Cool Classes," a regular feature that highlights the interesting, intriguing and unexpected in Bucknell University's course catalog.

What class? FOUN 098: Zombies of Capitalism

Who teaches it? Professor Clare Sammells, anthropology (@csammells)  

"Zombie films, books and graphic novels are a popular commentary on capitalism as a system, and that is the lens through which we will consider them in this class. Zombies originated in west Africa, and entered American popular culture with the U.S. invasion of Haiti in 1915. The first Hollywood zombie film was in 1932, and starred Bela Lugosi — just one year after he appeared as the iconic Dracula.

"For Haitians, zombies were ensorcelled mindless laborers. These beings expressed fears about slavery and the loss of personhood that accompanied that experience. But even in their radically different Hollywood interpretations, zombies continue to comment on the anxieties we have about our contemporary economic system and society.

"I've been really surprised how many students are as excited about the walking dead as I am. In fact, I'll be teaching two sections of this course in the fall due to student demand. Clearly not everyone wants to take a class on zombies — many find the genre gross. Certainly this class isn't for those who can't handle a bit of theatrical gore!  

"Some may believe that because zombies are part of popular culture, that means this course won't be a lot of work. But it will be! Thinking seriously about popular culture requires an interdisciplinary perspective that draws on anthropology (my own field), folklore, history, literature, film studies and many others. We will read academic writing in multiple disciplines, watch films critically, and write a whole lot. But we'll have lots of fun too.

"And of course, I hope my students will leave this class with braaaaaaaaaaaaaains."  

Learn more about the Department of Anthropology.

Are we missing out on a cool class? Send suggestions to heather.johns@bucknell.edu.