Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Type





Dr. Jana Mathews

Second Advisor

Dr. Paul Reich

Third Advisor

Dr. Emily Russell


The works of literary fiction, Severance, “Friday Black,” and Zone One, illuminate the necessity and usefulness of utilizing elements of the zombie genre is clear. Where Ling Ma uses the zombie-like figure to portray the fevered in a non-violent, human state of nostalgic entrapment, Colson Whitehead uses the zombie figure to explore in a similar manner the function of memory and nostalgia in human nature. Ma and Whitehead aim to understand the complexities of the human conscious with discussions of a number of possible interpretations of the afterlife and ambiguities of the “living dead.” Whitehead provokes questions of mental health in coping with traumatic that Ma and Adjei-Brenyah touch upon though do not explicitly discuss. While Whitehead rightly points to mental health in a clear and thorough manner, his commentary on racial issues is minimal. In contrast to Adjei-Brenyah and Ma who make clear arguments towards injustices and violence against Black Americans and Asian Americans. In light of recent national events, future readings of these texts might feature a heavier discussion on the connections between fiction and reality, particularly as they relate to racial violence. In each text, however, topics of capitalism, consumerism, corporations, and materialism are addressed in criticisms of American society. Overall, Ling Ma, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, and Colson Whitehead successfully use fantasy in literary fiction to depict social, racial, and economic critiques of reality. Their portrayals of the zombie apocalypse offer glimpses into alternate realities where our societal issues are reflected through the living dead.


Hannah Brockman is the official Rights Holder of this work.