Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Lee Behlman

Committee Member

Patricia Matthew

Committee Member

Naomi Liebler


This thesis explores the origin, rise, and resonance of the zombie trope in American film and literature, focusing on three cinematic stages and culminating in an analysis of Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 mash-up novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. While many critics have casually dismissed zombies as a trend, this thesis argues that these creatures reflect a variety of Western fears that have surpassed the obvious association with death and decay. Indeed, as this thesis argues, zombies have come to reflect a myriad of anxieties concerning the gendered and racial Others, as well as consumerism, technology, and even, as will be explored in an analysis of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, marriage.

Support for this argument consists of a number of theorists and critics. First, a historical investigation defines the term “zombie” and explores the zombie’s passage into Western culture, followed by an examination of the creatures’ connection to gothic literature. A review of zombie films beginning in the 1930s and moving into the present demonstrates the evolution of the zombie trope and its symbolic associations. This thesis culminates in an analysis of the function of zombies in a contemporary adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which includes an inquiry into a variety of reasons for adaptation. The over-arching goal of this thesis serves to demonstrate how the zombie trope provides a commentary on societal concerns that vary with time periods, and invites audiences to consider the diverse perspectives the undead offer.

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