The zombie as other: Mortality and the monstrous in the post-nuclear age

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The introduction of nuclear warfare into world consciousness in 1945 dethroned science as the arbiter of human progress and redirected self-definition inward. This shift in the way science is perceived bears strong influence over the rise of the zombie as a cultural icon. The existential loss of an externally-validated identity that follows the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki severed ties between the individual and structural systems (e.g. governmental, social, political, racial, and so on) that previously promoted communal perceptions of human identity, leaving the individual to fend for him- or herself in an indifferent universe. The myth of the zombie, which fused with the Ghoul during the 1920s in zombie literature (with H.P. Lovecraft's Herbert West: Reanimator) and during the 1960s in film (with George Romero's Night of the Living Dead) has, since 1945, steadily risen in prominence as a monstrous other. This 'other' is necessary for the formation of an existential self (as Nietzsche argues in Will to Power), and thus functions in the latter part of the twentieth and the first part of the twenty-first centuries the way we might argue Dracula functioned at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries - as a symbol of ultimate human corruption and the loss of self.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Horrid Looking Glass
Subtitle of host publicationReflections on Monstrosity
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781904710158
ISBN (Print)9789004404090
StatePublished - Sep 25 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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