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Pandemic

and Paranoia

Plagues, zombies,
and witch hunts,
oh my!

Dr. Sharon Gerald
Hinds Community College
sharon.gerald@hindscc.edu
www.daretohavewritten.org/pandemic

Course Overview
All assignments for this course will focus on the theme of

Grade
Distribution

3 documented
analytical essays

“Pandemic and Paranoia.” This theme was inspired by
the media frenzy surrounding the cases of Ebola in the
US during the fall of 2014. People responded to the news
of a few very well contained cases of Ebola as if they
were the harbingers of a full-scale global pandemic.

(30%)

Clearly, we’ve all seen too many zombie movies, and

2 documented

we know better than to trust the CDC when they issue

research essays

“Don’t Panic” alerts. This course, then, focuses on

(40%)

plagues, real and imagined, and on the nature of public

Annotated
Bibliography (10%)

panic related to diseases, conspiracy theories, and

Research Blog

Internet rumors that spread, like a zombie outbreak, so
fast that you just wake up one morning with no clue as

(10%)
Final Exam (10%)

to what’s happened to the rest of the world.

Assignments
Assignment 1: The Art of War on Zombies
Watch Night of the Living Dead, and read The Art of War
by Sun Tzu and Zombie Preparedness 101 (a comic book
published by the CDC). Write an analytical essay in
which you find battle/survival strategies in the reading
and apply those strategies to an examination of the
events in the movie.

“Never venture,
never win!”
Sun Tzu

Assignment 2: Annotated Bibliography
Pick your topics for one or both of the research essays to
come, and put together an MLA style annotated
bibliography that lists at least 10 sources related to your
topic(s).

Assignment 3: The Plagues of History Research Paper
Pick a plague, any plague, from modern times or from historical times, and research it. Write
a 1000 word documented essay in which you answer some essential questions about how
the plague started, how it spread, how it was contained, and what its impact on society
was.
Assignment 4: Pandemic and Paranoia Research Paper
Choose one of the following options to research.
Write a 1000 word documented essay on your
findings.
Assignment 4, Option 1
Research the survival skills required for
apocalyptic conditions in which government
and infrastructure have broken down.
Assignment 4, Option 2

Research Blog Assignment:
Throughout the semester,
you should be posting blog
entries about the research
you are doing for this class.
Write summary/response
posts related to your articles.
Also, feel free to post videos
and other artifacts related to
our class theme.

Find a witch hunt or lynch mob from historical
times or modern times to research.

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Assignment
Descriptions
Continued

Pandemic and
Paranoia
Assignment 4, Option 3
Research a conspiracy theory or a group of related conspiracy theories that center
around diseases.
Assignment 4, Option 4
Research psychological studies on what people get from horror and/or gothic
literature. Why are people drawn to horror? What is the psychological impact of
horror?
Assignment 4, Option 5
Research a theory about how the world will end.
Assignment 4: Option 6
Research some of the ways films have used zombies as metaphors to critique real
social issues.

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Assignment 5: Zombies vs. Vampires
Read the article “Vampire Gentlemen and Zombie Beasts” by Angela Tenga and
Elizabeth Zimmerman. Apply some of the points found in that article to your own analysis
of the comparisons between zombies and vampires. Be sure to use specific stories for
your comparisons, such as the zombies of The Walking Dead, and the vampires of Buffy
the Vampire Slayer.
Assignment 6: The Philosophy of The Walking Dead
Read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” with these questions in mind:

How do individuals and social groups maintain their humanity during plague times?

How can we define the ethics of attempting to protect ourselves from threat when
everyone we know is a potential threat and anything we do to protect ourselves
potentially puts others in danger?

When you have answered these questions, apply your analysis to an episode (or a
sequence of episodes) of The Walking Dead. You may use either the TV show or the
comic books.

Nam nec dui vel
sapien semper
sollicitudin.
Curabitur dui justo,
venenatis a,
pharetra vitae,

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Why are zombies suddenly so
popular?

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“As the vampire has
become increasingly
humanized and
sympathetic, the zombie
has stepped up to take its
place” (Tenga and
Zimmerman)
“Many zombie movies
express anxiety about
globalization” (Tenga and
Zimmerman).
“This renaissance of the
subgenre reveals a
connection between
zombie cinema and post911 cultural consciousness”
(Bishop).
“They're monsters of the
people. It was the
beginning of the end for
vampires when Lehman
Brothers went under, those
bloodsucking parasites.
Down with vampires. Long
live (or is it die?) the
zombie: the official
monster of the recession.”
(Grossman)

“The end of the world
means the end of
capitalism, and everything
becomes free for the
taking” (Bishop).
“Unlike many other tales of
terror and the supernatural,
the classical zombie story
has very specific criteria
that govern its plot and
development. These genre
protocols include not only
the zombies and the
imminent threat of violent
deaths, but also a postapocalyptic backdrop, the
collapse of societal
infrastructures, the
indulgence of survivalist
fantasies, and the fear of
other surviving humans”
(Bishop).
“Who hasn’t had a high
school friend come back
from the dead as a
Facebook friend or a
follower on Twitter?”
(Grossman)

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Works Cited
Bishop, Kyle. "Dead Man Still Walking." Journal Of Popular Film & Television 37.1 (2009):
16-25. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text. Web. 15 Feb.
2015.
Grossman, Lev. "Zombies Are The New Vampires." Time 173.15 (2009): 61. MAS Ultra School Edition. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.
Tenga, Angela, and Elizabeth Zimmerman. "Vampire Gentlemen And Zombie Beasts."
Gothic Studies 15.1 (2013): 76-87. Humanities International Complete. Web. 15
Feb. 2015.

What can students gain from writing about zombies?


Zombie narratives are actually about people, not about zombies. They are studies
in human nature, in what it takes to remain whatever we deem good about
humanity in adverse conditions.
Zombie narratives are often metaphorical critiques of real social issues; thus, they
offer a boundless number of topics to research and discuss.
Students will spend countless hours thinking critically about the zombie apocalypse
without protest and without much prompting. These are the narratives of movies,
and television, and video games, and comic books. These are analytical spaces
the students already inhabit.
Zombie narratives are about all of the timeless themes that preoccupy the young in
search of a good story—life and death, afterlife, love, humanity, faith, right and
wrong, heroism, and questions of how to make a good life out of a grim array of
choices.
In places like the South, where there is an ever-present history of violence and
division and shame, Gothic literature has always provided a means for working out
who the monsters really are and how best to deal with them.