Zombies: A Cultural History is a 2015 book by Roger Luckhurst, published in the UK by Reaktion Books.
The zombie has roamed with dead-eyed menace from its beginnings in obscure folklore and superstition to global status today, the star of films such as 28 Days Later, World War Z, and the outrageously successful comic book, TV series, and video game—The Walking Dead.
Roger Luckhurst traces the permutations of the zombie through our culture and imaginations, examining the undead’s ability to remain defiantly alive.
Luckhurst follows a trail that leads from the nineteenth-century Caribbean, through American pulp fiction of the 1920s, to the middle of the twentieth century, when zombies swarmed comic books and movie screens. From there he follows the zombie around the world, tracing the vectors of its infectious global spread from France to Australia, Brazil to Japan.
Stitching together materials from anthropology, folklore, travel writings, colonial histories, popular literature and cinema, medical history, and cultural theory, Zombies is the definitive short introduction to these restless pulp monsters.
“Luckhurst is characteristically acute on many of these recent iterations, reading modern zombiedom with his usual swashbuckling confidence. . . . Never does he allow the familiarity of the more modern material to overshadow the beginnings of the phenomenon. No matter how it is diluted, parodied, or misunderstood, the rage of the zombie’s origin, of these ‘ambulatory dead,’ endures still, as a kind of haunting.” Times Literary Supplement
“Luckhurst tells the sinuous tale of the life of the zombie with evident glee in a book that is academically valid but fun to read.” Independent
“Gory and highly informative. . . . an entertaining history of those who continue to walk among us, even after death.” PopMatters
“Entertaining and informative. It is more than worth having a read if you are a fan of the flesh eating, mindless killing machine that is the zombie.” Impulse Gamer
“As we discover in Roger Luckhurst’s always entertaining history of the walking dead, this evolution in the zombie’s homicidal efficacy has been mirrored by a rapid evolution in their cultural significance… Such irreverence and range is characteristic of Luckhurst, who mixes pop cultural connoisseurship with scholarly rigour to great effect. . . . His style is engaging, his commentary lucid, and his message clear: they’re coming to get you, however fast you run.” Daily Telegraph
“I urge you to read it and, for those who have never read Roger Luckhurst before, seek out many of his other writings. What he does brilliantly is weave culture, politics, and history into a singular tapestry that leaves scope for thought and discussion. The history of zombies is, in his hands, demonstrably worthy of our attention and time.” Hong Kong Review of Books
“As Roger Luckhurst declares in his alternately solemn and zany book. . . . the zombie’s history is a delayed but gruesomely satisfactory revenge, another version of the archetypal Freudian plot that narrates the return of the repressed.” Observer
“Straddling the gap between popular and scholarly writing, Roger Luckhurst’s masterly study sets out a rich and fascinating chronological account of the zombie’s history.” Review 31
About the Author
Roger Luckhurst is professor of modern literature at Birkbeck College at the University of London. He has written or edited many books on film, horror, science fiction, and gothic literature.
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