Humans vs. Zombies:
Humanistic and Scientific Reflections on the Apocalypse
Who do the zombies represent in contemporary sci-fi dystopias? What would happen to social order during a catastrophic plague? What are the political, social, and financial ramifications of a global plague? Do we trust our government to handle a contagion crisis? Do we already engage in social “quarantining”? This course seeks to establish an interdisciplinary zone of inquiry in which faculty from various departments and programs enable students to reflect on zombie narratives from diverse academic perspectives, from modeling disease transmission using a game-based agent-based simulator to consider the ethics of killing, gender dynamics, consumerism, religion, race relations, and graffiti. We want your brain!
Course Learning Objectives
* To Survey the Realm of Zombies as a Global Cultural and Academic Endeavor. What are zombies? When, why and how the living dead “infect” our culture? What can we learn from exploring the contemporary obsession with the undead? Students will consider multiple aspects related to zombies and their potential cultural and political signification (e.g., race, consumerism, role of technology in social dynamics and behavior, global pandemics).
* To Reflect about the Concept of Apocalypse from Diverse Perspectives. The course intends to be a zone of inquiry from which students and professors approach the concept of apocalypse or any of its variants (plague, invasion, extinction, catastrophe, and outbreak) to reflect on various thematic ramifications. Throughout the term, students will be encouraged to go beyond the literal understanding of a “zombie plague” and consider it a symbolic platform to approach subjects frequently not associated to the zombie cultural lore.
* To Foster the Exchange of Intellectual Knowledges. To allow participants from different academic and artistic backgrounds to interact, learn from each other, and share perspectives while engaging in reflection about zombies and the trope of the apocalypse. The course seeks to invite students to consider how the humanities intersect with other fields of knowledge and to explore interdisciplinary collaboration.
* To Explore and Identify Intersectionalities. Considering and becoming aware of intersectionalities can only lead to a more diverse worldview and enrich the way we learn, teach, interact, communicate, and understand the world. How can we learn from the particular ways of learning and problem-solving of colleagues in other disciplines? How can our research be informed by the exploration of knowledges associated to other academic fields? The course aims to encourage students to be aware of the porous boundaries and interconnection in all fields of knowledge in the age of globalization, ever-changing technologies, new job markets, and constant ethical challenges.
* To Create a Space of Academic Experimentation. Through its experimental nature, the course explores the viability of a zone of inquiry project as a vehicle for testing and learning about new subjects, global trends, and engaging cultural themes not included in the curricula of our departments and programs.
25% (5% per faculty member) Homework Assignments
Assignments will be graded by presiding faculty members.
20% NY6 Think Tank (5% Symposium Attendance / 5% Participation at Think Tank / 10% Blog)
On April 16th and 17th, a NY6ThinkTank Symposium on the topic of this class will take place. It will include a film presentation and discussion with a guest scholar, lectures and discussions by the faculty of this course as well as by outside speakers; a hands-on graffiti wall project with invited speakers and artists, an exhibit of stickers on the subject of zombies, and a Final Think Tank event. For a full schedule, go here.
This Symposium is meant to inspire you to write blogs and develop final project ideas around the topic of zombie narratives from many disciplines and perspectives. For this reason, your attendance is mandatory and you will be asked to lead and/or actively participate in the Think Tank brainstorming of ideas at the end of the day. After this Symposium, you will start to write a blog in teams of three. This will be the same team to develop your research projects and your final BrainyTalks. For more information about blogs and projects go to the page titled "Blogs/Projects"
45% Final Project (Paper 25% / Brainytalk 20%)
In groups of three, write a 4-5-page research paper and develop a BrainyTalk (a TEDtalk) of 5-10 minutes that gives visual expression to your project and can be posted on a public website.
10% Film Series Attendance & Participation in Forum, Class Participation & Preparation
Students will receive a grade worth 10% of the final grade for viewing and preparation of the films, and participation in the discussion forums in Nexus. There will be a forum for each one of the films (four films total). Students must post their comments and reflections in the forum within a week of the screening. Postings should not exceed more than six sentences.
What are our expectations regarding your postings? In general, through the postings we would like to encourage you to engage in reflection about the film and how it fits within the themes discussed in the course. There is ample room to be creative and original in your musings. There is flexibility to quote outside sources (e.g., a film critic), and to attach other files along your postings (e.g., photos, lyrics of a song, a website link). There are no predetermined expectations about what you should write.
In general, you may discuss the emotions and ideas triggered by the film; you may also respond to comments posted by classmates. Insights and creative reflection are welcomed. You may be introspective (explore your inner thoughts and feelings toward the film), or you may try to figure out why are we watching the film (how does it fit within the course themes?). You may refer to how the film relate to other films or the readings in the course, or point out and react to ideas about the film published by critics (e.g., in a film review).
This posting should aim to be an in-depth (though concise) reflection and try to weave (and reconcile) your initial reaction to the film with the class discussion. You may post ideas you had no time to share with all in class, ideas that occurred to you after the class discussion, or after reading critics or material discussed in class (not necessarily relating directly to the film).
Attendance in this class is mandatory. After two unexcused absences, your final grade will be reduced one grade point (for example, from a B+ to a B) for each unexcused absence. If you must miss a class, it is your responsibility to contact other classmates and find out what was covered and what assignments (or handouts) I distributed during your absence. Please write here two names/phones of classmates you may contact:
*All* reasons and excuses count towards these absences, including oversleeping, studying for a test in another course, illness and medical appointments, and personal and family emergencies. This means that if you decide to skip 1 class in the first half of the term, and then you must be away during Week 9 for a family emergency, you will suffer a grade penalty. So, budget this 1 “free” absence carefully and make sure that you leave yourself “room” to be sick or deal with emergencies late in the term. You do not have to explain to me why you missed class; I will simply note your absence. If serious illness or personal emergency keeps you away from class for an extended period, I will of course make exceptions to the grade reduction policy -- but I will need documentation from the appropriate authorities. You are responsible for making up for material you missed due to absence. It is not appropriate to ask me to do this for you.
It is the policy of Union College to make reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities. If you are a person with a disability and wish to request accommodations to complete your course requirements, please make an appointment with me within the first two weeks of the term to discuss your request. For information on documentation requirements, contact the Dean of Students Office or Shelly Shinebarger at ext. 6116
* Class starts promptly. Prepare to arrive on time, and do not leave until class is dismissed.
* To avoid interruptions, please refrain from leaving the classroom during class.
* Food or chewing gum is not allowed in the classroom, but non-alcoholic beverages are fine.
* Cell phone use (including texting) is not a class activity. So, please turn your phone off before coming to class.
93-100 A 77-79 C+
90-92 A- 73-76 C
87-89 B+ 70-72 C-
83-86 B 60-69 D
80-82 B- 0-59 F
Union College recognizes the need to create an environment of mutual trust as part of its educational mission. Responsible participation in an academic community requires respect for and acknowledgement of the thoughts and work of others, whether expressed in the present or in some distant time and place.
Matriculation at the College is taken to signify implicit agreement with the Academic Honor Code, available at honorcode.union.edu. It is each student's responsibility to ensure that submitted work is his or her own and does not involve any form of academic misconduct. Students are expected to ask their course instructors for clarification regarding, but not limited to, collaboration, citations, and plagiarism. Ignorance is not an excuse for breaching
It is a student's responsibility to familiarize him or herself with the Honor Code. It is also a student's responsibility to read and hand in the form (to the right) at the beginning of the class (if the student did not receive it on the first day) to affirm their adherence to the honor code at Union College.