Friday, May 5, 2017

ENGL 3053: The Dog Stars

Peter Heller, The Dog Stars

As with The Road, we have a (mainly) homosocial text in The Dog Stars.

Further, as with The Road, we have a text in which, for a large portion of the narrative, the response to the event is that everyone who is not within the group (and once more our group is a dyad of two males) is a dangerous enemy who must be killed. And notice that, mainly, we are meant to see this as the correct response. That is, the text (mostly) does not criticize Bruce Bangley or his violent ways.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

ENGL 3053: Final Exam Study Sheet

ENGL 3053: Popular Culture: Zombies, Vampires, and the Apocalypse
Final Exam Study Sheet Fall 2017

Our Final will be held on May 9, 2017 at 4:00 p.m.  It will consist of two sections.  You may bring one (1) 3X5 inch index card with handwritten notes on it into this exam.

ENGL 3053: Assignments for April 27 through May 4

Thursday April 27: Finish reading The Dog Stars

Tuesday May 2: Class won't meet. Work on Final exam.

Thursday May 4: Read these short stories

Margaret Killjoy, Everything That Isn't Winter

Naomi Kritzer, So Much Cooking

Naomi Kritzer, Waiting for the End of the World

ENGL 3053: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Here, the cause of the apocalypse is far in the past (it seems to have been a combination of the death of oil, global climate change leading to massive drought, and nuclear war). We are years, possibly decades, past the actual apocalypse now, however, and into the attempt to rebuild. This movie is, in fact, about whose worldview – whose civilization – should rebuild the fallen world.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Three Works of Apocalyptical Fiction

Y: The Last Man, Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra (2002-2008)
The Road (2009)
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

The Road, though darker than most apocalyptic narratives, nevertheless is typical of the genre. This is to say it has all the aspects we expect:

Apocalyptical Fiction

Apocalyptical Fiction

While literature dealing with apocalyptic events has always been with us (see flood narratives, for instance, or plague narratives), apocalyptic fiction became much more popular in the 1950s, during the Cold War. What was the cause of this sudden profusion of gloomy literature?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

ENGL 3053: Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum

Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum (1998)

Terry Pratchett, now sadly dead before his time, is famous for his Discworld novels, of which this is one.

Discworld is an alternate world, where the laws of physics are very much other. For one thing, Discworld is flat – a disc, like it says on the tin. 

It is a giant disc being carried through space on the back of four mighty elephants, who stand on the back of an immense turtle swimming through space. Also, magic is real on Discworld.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Thirst, 2009, Octavia Butler, Fledgling (2005)

Thirst, 2009, Octavia Butler, Fledgling (2005)

It’s interesting to read this novel, Octavia Butler’s last published novel before her death in 2006, in concert with Dracula and Thirst. Both of the latter are archetypal examples of the Victorian sort of vampire – the Other who is a threat, the Other who must be killed, because they are a threat to us and our civilization.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Midterm Study Sheet

ENGL 3053: Popular Culture: Utopian/Dystopian Literature
Midterm Study Sheet Fall 2015

The midterm will be given on March 16, 2017.  It will consist of two sections.  You may bring one (1) 3X5 index card with handwritten notes on it into this exam. 50 points.

One will be short answer.  You won’t know the questions for these beforehand, but if you have read the class notes which may be found on the class blog (address ), you should be able to answer them easily.  They’ll be questions much like the following:

(1)   What’s an archetype? Name a work we looked at in class that used archetypes.
(2)   What were historical vampires like? Give a few characteristics.

The short answer section will be seven questions long; you’ll have to answer five, although you may answers all seven for extra credit. 50 points.

There will also be an essay section.  This section will have two essays on it, taken from the four below.  You’ll have to answer one.  This section is open-book; however, you may also write these essays at home and bring them to class.  I highly recommend that you write the essays at home and bring them to class already written. 50 points.

Essay questions:

  1. In class, I’ve said more than once that, since vampires and zombies aren’t real, books and movies about vampires and zombies can’t really be about them. What, then, are these books about? Using at least three works we used in class, present your theory. (You can use outside works as well.)
  2. Much of the work we have dealt with so far has had problematic (to say the least) attitudes toward women. Choosing at least three works, write an essay that first compares their attitude toward women, and then draws a conclusion – what does this mean? Why do all these works deal with women in this fashion?
  3. Especially in the vampire literature, but also to some extent in the zombie fiction, we have seen religion used in different ways. In class, we spoke briefly about religion being used “profanely,” or as “magic,” for instance. Using at least three works, discuss their use of and attitude toward religion, and then draw a conclusion.
  4. As we were reading Dracula, I pointed out, several times, Bram Stoker’s use of hot new technologies, like Kodak cameras and portable typewriters, to inform his narrative. Does other fiction /films we have looked at make a similar use of technology? Support your answer with works read/viewed in class.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

ENGL 3053: Dracula

Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897)

Bram Stoker was born in Ireland, to Irish parents, which made him automatically lower class as far as “real” English writers were concerned. He came to England after his marriage (he married Oscar Wilde’s girlfriend – more on this later), and entered into the world of the London stage, particularly the theater owned by Henry Irving, one of the great actor/managers of the time. Stoker eventually became Irving’s business manager. He was also his lifelong friend.

Henry Irving may well have also been the inspiration for the character Dracula – Irving was manipulative and demanding, and by all accounts Stoker was mesmerized by him. In fact, it’s probably not too much to say Stoker loved him.

ENGL 3053: WWZ

World War Z (2006)

World War Z: In some ways, this is a less archetypal zombie story than Train to Busan. For one thing, the novel is set long after the zombie outbreak, so that (for the most part) we lose the immediacy of the zombie attack. The sense of any real threat is lost. We know the world and its culture/s have, to some extent, survived.The interest then lies in learning how the cultures survived – as well as what did not survive.

One lesson remains the same, we might not be surprised to find: The rules of the old life will not serve you in this new life. Those who survive the Zombie Apocalypse (any apocalypse) have to learn new rules, new ways of living, and learn them fast. But we have another lesson being made clear in this book.

ENGL 3053: Train to Busan

Train to Busan (2016)

Made in Korea, Train to Busan is an archetypal Zombie movie. The zombies are fast-moving, scary, and a real threat to the culture of Korea – as we move through the movie, we see them destroying cities, modes of transportation, and families, as well as fracturing newly forged alliances.

(What's an archetype? Go here for more.)

ENGL 3053: Zombies, Vampies and the Apocalypse Introduction


Since very early in our history, humankind has been interested in monsters, and especially in monsters who destroy our worlds. 

Think of the epic of Gilgamesh, which contains within it the story of monster gods who get annoyed at humanity and send an apocalyptic flood to destroy the world. Think of Beowulf, in which not one but three monsters do their best to destroy Hrothgar’s people. Think of the book of Revelations.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

ENGL 3053: Assignment for February 2

Read these two zombie stories for February 2

Zombies in Winter, by Naomi Kritzer

Zombie, by Chuck Palahniuk

Also read: "World War Z and the End of Religion as We Know it," by Gayle R. Baldwin, in the journal Cross Currents.

You'll have to find this through the Boreham Library Academic Search Premier Link. Let me know if you have trouble finding it!

Friday, January 13, 2017

ENGL 3053: Syllabus

University of ArkansasFort Smith

5210 Grand Avenue
P.O. Box 3649
Fort Smith, AR 72913

General Syllabus

Course Title Popular Literature: Zombies, Vampires, and the Apocalypse                                 

Course Code    ENGL           3053                                                    Credit Hours        3  
                        Prefix        Number                                                     Lecture Hours      3  
                                                                                                            Lab Hours            0  
                                                                                                            Contact Hours      3_    

Instructor: Kelly Jennings
Office: Vines 139
Phone: 788-7907
Office Hours:   TR TR 8:00-11:00; 2:00-4:00; Or by appointment

You can also friend me on Facebook – I’m the Kelly Jennings in Fort Smith with this picture:

I have created a blog for the class; you will occasionally need to access the class assignments through this blog, and I will be posting class notes on this site.  The blog address is or you can google drdelagar teaches literature. If you have trouble accessing it, email me or come by the office.