Posted: November 10th, 2015
Close Reading in the Zombie Genre
Viewings: Night of the Living Dead (1968); Dawn of the Dead (1978); Day of the Dead (1985)
Readings:“Philosophy of the Living Dead: At the Origin of the Zombie Image,James McFarland; “The Idle
Proletariat: Dawn of the Dead, Consumer Ideology and the Loss of Productive Labor, Kyle William Bishop;
“Living in Oblivion: Apocalypse Cinema at the Edge of the Milennium‚ Felicia Feaster.
Assignment:George A. Romero, living dead trilogy constitutes the most significant reservoir of popular zombie
culture in existence. Romer, films are rich with social and political commentary and are as notable for their unique view of contemporary American culture as they are for their gore and guts. Your assignment is to make an argument about what these films are trying to say about American culture. Your best bet for a strong paper will be one that focuses on one aspect/angle of social critique. These films are ambitious and they tackle a lot of issues‚your paper will be best if it is addressed primarily to one of these issues, not all of them.
Step 1. Watch the films and pick an issue or concern.‚Here are some possibilities to get you started.
Remember that it is best to focus on one:consumerism/consumption, feminism, capitalism, military/police, romantic relationships, the grotesque, family structures, the horror genre, race/racism, technology,
death/life, religion, ability/disability.(Other topics are possible but these should give you a good idea of how much is possible. Remember to focus on one topic, not several.)
Step 2. Conduct research. You should try to find everything you can about Romero,films and about the topic/issue you are focusing on. For the purposes of this class, that will primarily be materials that you search for on the HCC library website and in the library itself. We‚ll work on research strategies in class, but remember to read everything you find with an open mind. You’re reading to “overhear‚ everything people have to say in a conversation you’ll soon be joining. Underline important points and keep a list of those sources you think you’ll be able to use in writing your essay.
Step 3. Write an annotated bibliography. This is a list of all the sources that are important enough to your project that you will be citing within your essay. If you do not need to cite a source, it should not appear in the bibliography. Thus, an annotated bibliography should simply start as a works cited page. After you’ve completed the works cited page, you will simply add annotations, or comments below each entry. Different assignments call for different kinds of annotations, but for this class, you should expect to write about a paragraph for each entry. You should address at least two sentences to summarizing the entry, two sentences to assessing the entry and two to explaining how you plan to use this entry in your paper.
Step 4. Once you’ve read what‚s out there about your topic, you can craft a“working thesis.‚This is an argument or a claim about what these films are trying to say. Remember that you are joining a conversation, so you want to make sure your argument is unique. It may be informed by the things you’ve read, but it should be something‚ that would surprise even the author of your favorite secondary source. We do research in order to know what‚ out there in the academic universe, but also to add to it. Because this is early on in the writing we call your argument a“working thesis‚because it in process. As you write, your thesis may change or grow to reflect the ideas within your paper. Conversely, you should also look to tailor your writing within the paper to your thesis. A good paper is always in the process of either articulating the thesis or supporting it.
Step 4. As you write in support of your thesis, employ the following basic steps of analysis:
–Look for patterns in the films related to your chosen topic. These may be patterns in the behaviors of the characters, in the ways the scenes are filmed and assembled, in the narrative logic of the films or in the themes that they deal with.
–Try to make sense of these patterns. Ask yourself what they mean and why they occur. They may seem intentional as if the director wants the viewer to understand or derive a specific meaning from their occurrence. On the other hand, they may seem to have happened accidentally even still their very existence is worthy of interpretive commentary.
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