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216 × 138 × 15 mm
224 pages
54 illustrations
01 Sep 2016

Zombies A Cultural History Roger Luckhurst

Zombies: A Cultural History, now available in paperback, sifts materials from anthropology, folklore, travel writing, colonial histories, long-forgotten pulp literature, B-movies, medical history and cultural theory to give a definitive short introduction to the zombie, exploring the manifold meanings of this compelling, slow-moving yet relentless monster.

‘Luckhurst offers a mindful exploration of mindless violence. He is thoroughly well informed, and his writing proves lively and critically astute. Its hard to imagine a significantly better book on the zombie phenomenon.’ — LRB

‘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.’ — The Independent

‘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

‘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 zombies origin, of these ambulatory dead, endures still, as a kind of haunting.’ — TLS

‘From their emergence in the 1920s Western imagination to their position today as the go-to trope for a generation flatlined by the alienating tedium of modern life, zombies have proved remarkably flexible metaphors. They have come to embody the Other, the economic zeitgeist and even ourselves. This entertaining study begins in Haiti, with 19th-century Americas fears about vodou.’ — Sunday Telegraph

‘As Roger Luckhurst declares in his alternately solemn and zany book . . . the zombies history is a delayed but gruesomely satisfactory revenge, another version of the archetypal Freudian plot that narrates the return of the repressed.’ — The Observer

‘Roger Luckhurst's scholarly, entertaining, well-written book tells us that the zombie was born in the Caribbean, or in Western fantasies about the Caribbean.’ — Sydney Morning Herald

‘Whether were at peak-zombie yet is anybodys guess, but anybody interested in the question of how we came to this point could do a lot worse than read Roger Luckhursts intellectually agile and highly entertaining study of the walking dead, Zombies: A Cultural History, which traces their evolution from shadowy figures of myth and folklore to ubiquitous cultural presence . . . Like the rest of the book these latter sections are enlivened by Luckhursts energetic prose, wit and finely balanced for his subject and critical distance.’ — The Australian

‘A short review cannot do full justice to this book. 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

‘Straddling the gap between popular and scholarly writing, Roger Luckhursts masterly study sets out a rich and fascinating chronological account of the zombies history.’ — Review 31

‘Gory and highly informative . . . [Luckhursts] work is certainly an entertaining history of those who continue to walk among us, even after death.’ — Popmatters

‘Luckhursts breadth is immense and he has managed to corral a huge subject into a very helpful primer for anyone interested in the latest monster on the block.’ — Los Angeles Review of Books

‘Roger Luckhurst, provides a scholarly, yet very readable, overview of the world of zombies. His extensive research covers a wide range of zombie sources from anthropology to colonial history to pulp literature.’ — Canberra Times

‘this enjoyable read sets out to understand the origin and the changing cultural meanings of the concept of the zombie in Western popular culture.’ — Socialist Review

‘the narrative is always readable and accessible. Luckhurst is highly critical of most of the works he discusses, but he usually makes his case well . . . Zombies: A Cultural History can serve a constructive function by getting zombie fans to start thinking more critically about the creatures theyve watched kill and be killed so many times before.’ — Psychobabble200

‘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

‘the book is an engaging overall history for students and teachers of zombie culture generally.’ — Viewfinder

‘No matter how lurid and pulpy, popular culture is Roger Luckhursts meat and drink, and hes a connoisseur . . . in this succinct yet rich study, the case he makes for zombies political and psychological significance is compelling, disturbing, and consistently lively.’ — Marina Warner, author of Once Upon a Time: A Short History of the Fairy Tale

‘Roger Luckhursts wide-ranging history of this cult phenomenon is a richly detailed and eminently readable, nuanced and rigorous story. He outlines the different shapes the complex, colonially driven monster takes in its century-long journey through the imperial American sub-Zeitgeist including its surprising global resurrection in the new millennium. Everyone from Zora Neale Hurston to 1950s pulp comics to esoteric space scientists and Kirkman had a hand in fashioning the imaginary creature we know today as the zombie.’ — Victoria Nelson, author of Gothicka and The Secret Life of Puppets

‘Delving into the rich tradition of zombie cinema, Luckhurst presents the reader with a well-researched and judiciously condensed history and sociocultural analysis of everything . . . Luckhurst draws on prominent, respected researchers to back his well-considered, lucid overview of this culturally pervasive figure . . . For anyone seeking a definitive yet succinct history of the zombie, this book is an absorbing, accessible introduction.’ — Marianne de Pierres, author

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Roger Luckhurst lives in a post-war utopian social housing estate in inner London and teaches at Birkbeck College, where he is Professor of Modern Literature in the School of Arts. He is the author of Zombies (Reaktion, 2015), and wrote the BFI Classics on Alien and The Shining.


1. From Zombi to Zombie: Lafcadio Hearn and William Seabrook

2. Phantom Haiti

3. The Pulp Zombie Emerges

4. The First Movie Cycle: White Zombie to Zombies on Broadway

5. Felicia Felix-Mentor: The ‘Real’ Zombie

6. After 1945: Zombie Massification

7. The Zombie Apocalypse: Romero’s Reboot and Italian Horrors

8. Going Global


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Photo Acknowledgements