From Outbreak to The Walking Dead, apocalyptic narratives of infection, contagion and global pandemic are an inescapable part of twenty-first-century popular culture. Yet these fears and fantasies are too virulent to be simply quarantined within fictional texts. The vocabulary and metaphors of outbreak narratives have permeated how news media, policymakers and the general public view the real world and the people within it. In an age where fact and fiction seem increasingly difficult to separate, contagious bodies (and the discourses that contain them) continually blur established boundaries between real and unreal, legitimacy and frivolity, science and the supernatural. Where previous scholarly work has examined the spread of epidemic realities in horror fiction, the essays in this collection also consider how epidemic fantasies and fears influence reality. Initiating dialogue between scholarship from cultural and media studies, and scholarship from the medical humanities and social sciences, this collection gives readers a fuller picture of the viropolitics of contagious bodies in contemporary global culture.
Back in May I wrote that I was working on the final manuscript for an edited collection called Embodying Contagion, co-edited with Sandra Becker and Sara Polak. Now, I am excited to announce that the collection is available for preorder with University of Wales Press, and will be coming to a bookstore or library near you in April 2021. The book will be released in paperback (retailing at £45), but most importantly it will also be coming out in Open Access, thanks to a generous grant from the Dutch NWO Domain Social Sciences and Humanities.
The hit television series American Gods (2017–present), created by Brian Fuller and Michael Green, and distributed by Starz and Amazon Prime, adapts Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel of the same name. Both are fantastical narratives. In both the book and the television series, an agnostic named Shadow meets and begins working for an old man named Wednesday, who turns out to be more than he first seems (the Norse god Odin). With Wednesday, Shadow travels across America, stumbling into a war between old, immigrant gods and new, secular ones. All are personified in humanoid form—they are real people who feed on human belief. Without giving too much away, through his experiences Shadow eventually discovers the power of faith, and how it relates to his own identity as a mixed-race American.
WIRED Magazine suggested that Fuller and Green’s television reimagining of American Gods ‘gives “faithful adaptation” all-new meaning’. And the show does indeed manage to capture the wild, dark, and strangely reverent world of Gaiman’s novel. There are a few key differences that are especially interesting to examine in light of this conference, however. Specifically, where Gaiman’s novel is whimsical and fantastical, engaging primarily with pagan mythology and the heroic epic, as I will show, the television adaptation explicitly links itself both to contemporary visual Gothic, and to Christianity.