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.
Are you a fan of podcasts, or popular fiction? If so, you might enjoy this 30-minute episode of Words to That Effect I contributed to, on ‘Mashups, Remixes, and Frankenfiction’. Come for the opening remix, stay for the zombies—teaser below:
In one sense, all culture is a remix, nothing exists in a vacuum. On the other hand, some people may take a dim view of lifting almost the entire text of Pride & Prejudice and republishing it with additional zombie action. Which is where Seth Grahame-Smith’s best-selling 2009 classic, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, comes in.
In this episode I talk to Dr Megen de Bruin-Molé about mashup novels, or what she calls ‘Frankenfiction’: commercial fiction that takes out of copyright texts from the 18th and 19th centuries, and reworks them into something new. We chat about everything from the best (and worst) Frankenfictions, to the history of the mashup, to the power of adaptation and remix to subvert and parody the great works of literature and our own contemporary 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.
There is still time to register for the British Association of Contemporary Literary Studies’ first virtual conference, on ‘Crisis in Contemporary Writing’—free access to this event closes on Monday 22nd June.
The conference will open with a roundtable discussion of contemporary crisis. It will then feature live online discussions of pre-circulated papers, readings, and videos (most already available via the BACLS website) on contamination and contagion, economic, cultural, and social crises, as well as relationships to technology and between the human and the non-human. I will be presenting in Panel 2: Human – Non-human, with a discussion of ‘mindful’ consumption and the rehabilitation of the zombie in twenty-first-century popular culture. Using the metaphor of mindfulness and the mindful consumer, I suggest that rather than dehumanising the other outside of the community, in these narratives the horror is directed inward, to the twin monsters of modernity that cannot be escaped, destroyed, or ignored, and must be embraced and ethically managed: capitalism and consumerism. This work is related to what I have been writing for the forthcoming edited collection Embodying Contagion (UWP 2021).
Now that the reviewer reports are back, I am pleased to officially announce the forthcoming publication of Embodying Contagion: The Viropolitics of Horror and Desire in Contemporary Discourse. Bringing scholarship from cultural and media studies into conversation with scholarship from the medical humanities and social sciences, this collection (edited by myself, Sandra Becker, and Sara Polak) aims to give readers a fuller picture of how we make sense of contagion in contemporary global culture.
I’m thrilled to announce the official publication of Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture!
This book explores the boundaries and connections between contemporary remix and related modes, including adaptation, parody, the Gothic, Romanticism, and postmodernism. In it, I argue that popular remix creations are the ‘monsters’ of our age, lurking at the limits of responsible consumption and acceptable appropriation. Taking a multimedia approach, case studies range from novels like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series, to television programmes such as Penny Dreadful, to popular visual artworks like Kevin J. Weir’s Flux Machine GIFs.
This article was originally published in Dutch on Hebban.nl, 16 May 2017. I have translated and reproduced it here with the kind permission of the website and the original author, Adinda Volkers. Some of the hyperlinks have also been adapted to redirect readers to equivalent English-language sources.
Warning: this is a political piece. I would not know how to write something apolitical or noncommittal about a book like Max Havelaar. If you don’t care about politics, thinking, the environment, or human rights, please feel free to read something else. But then you’ll miss the zombies!
If you’re not too keen on theory, never fear! What I say below is basically a more academic rewriting of this blog post. Next week I’ll be presenting at a conference called ‘Promises of Monsters’. In my paper, I’ll be looking at the way the Showtime series Penny Dreadful (and other monster mashups) use and abuse certain ‘promises’ … Read more
NOTE: This review contains minor spoilers for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813), Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009), and Lionsgate’s Pride + Prejudice + Zombies (2016). Proceed at your own risk. Last week I finally made it to see Pride + Prejudice + Zombies, the film adaptation of a historical monster mashup that I’ve written a lot about, Seth … Read more
This week’s post by Monica Westin debates the highs and lows of the (still-undead) literary mashup genre, and also traces the evolution of the zombie in popular culture. It was originally posted on October 26, 2010, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of Newcity Lit. We’re living in strange times in the world of literature, a time … Read more