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Zombies, Vampires, and Philosophy (Popular Culture and Philosophy) [Paperback]

Richard Greene , K.Silem Mohammad
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 11.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

8 April 2010 Popular Culture and Philosophy (Book 49)
These books teach philosophical wisdom by looking closely at entertainment icons. In each volume of this best-selling series, a team of sharp philosophical brains puts one pop culture icon (movie, TV show, or other topic) under the microscope, exposing its hidden philosophical implications in an instantly readable way. Since 1968's "Night of the Living Dead", zombie culture has continued to limp and claw its way into the center of popular culture. Zombies and Vampires now thrive in TV shows, comic books, cartoons, video games, and movies. Still, the zombies and vampires in our midst are thirsting for an even higher cultural profile. "Zombies, Vampires, and Philosophy" will do for Socrates and Descartes what "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" has done for Jane Austen. Philosophers will sink their teeth into the ideas and concepts that drive our fascination and unquenchable thirst for Zombiedom: Why do vampires and vegetarians share a similar worldview? Why is understanding zombies the key to health care reform? What does 'healthy in mind and body' mean for the undead? Those waiting for answers should be sanguine about this book! This is an expanded and re-titled edition of Open Court's "The Undead and Philosophy: Chicken Soup for the Soulless". It includes two new chapters and a new introduction.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Open Court (8 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812696832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812696837
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 718,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Richard Greene is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Weber State University. He is co-editor of Popular Culture and Philosophy volumes on the undead and The Sopranos. K. Silem Mohammad is Assistant Professor English and Writing at Southern Oregon University and co-editor of The Undead and Philosophy.

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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Joanne
Format:Paperback
The little of this book that I read before giving up is badly written, it reads like a first draft of a child's essay rather than a published book. I bought this book mainly for the twilight-vampire reference and how they've effected the "undead" popular culture, which is mentioned in the details but in the book there was barely anything on this subject, let alone anything useless. It is badly described and comes in print 16 which is understandable for people with poor eyesight but I would have preferred this to be clearer before I bought it. I have asked for a refund from Amazon and they have done so with hardly any questions asked, I think it says something when I'm more impressed with the refund service than the actual book. If you're thinking of buying it, do yourself a favour and don't.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Uneven but worthwhile reference work 8 April 2010
By Danno - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Incorporating pop culture into academia is quite the trick - you've got to remain true to source material in two very different areas. This collection of essays written by English or philosophy professors at 4-year colleges (or graduate students working on their Ph.D's) gets the philosophy right yet often stumbles on the pop culture details. It's important to get the pop culture details right because it indicates that you're taking the subject seriously and not just using it as a springboard for something else. Any horror fan worth his favorite Halloween mask can tell you that vampires and zombies have been portrayed in multiple ways in books and novels, and one has to be very careful in making generalizations. Given that horror fans tend to be a bit more obsessive than fans of other stripes, you'd better keep them happy!

The best essays in this book are the most focused. Several chapters are devoted to George Romero's "Dead" series, and these chapters (written by Matthew Walker, Simon Clark, and Leah A. Murray) have an appropriately fixed gaze on a small set of films that have been perhaps overanalyzed - and have surprisingly fresh things to say about them. Kudos! Noel Carroll's essay on the holiday of Halloween and Phillip Cole's exploration of Rousseau's philosophy as it relates to vampirism are two of the better essays I've read about the supernatural in a long, long while. I suspect they will be reprinted and quoted from elsewhere. And the cover is undoubtably one of the best photos I've seen on an occult-themed book in the recent past.

As for the worst? I am skeptical when the authors attempt to broaden the definition of "zombie" to Philip K. Dick-style androids or pod people, or when they ignore that many modern movie zombies really aren't undead at all but infected with bizarre viruses, or when they reference brain-eating as typical of all movie zombies even though it's only closely identified with "Return of the Living Dead." Playing too loosely with the facts suggest you haven't studied them that closely in the first place and are compensating by broadening your spectrum. And the "Treehouse of Horror"-type author biographical notes near the end are too jokey for my tastes and make it seem as if the contributors weren't serious about their work appearing in a pop culture book.

Given that the good-to-bad ratio is 50-50 I've given this book 3 stars. I can see it being immensely inspirational to any thoughtful horror or fantasy author looking for fresh approaches to venerable horrors. This would also be very useful for the Boris Karloffs and Robert Englunds of the future in trying to develop character motivation when portraying monsters. For those reasons and to those readers, I recommend it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enough meat on these bones for zombies AND vampires to feast upon - that is, if they ate at Micky D's. Boo-hoo-hoo ha-ha-ha! 20 Feb 2012
By John V. Karavitis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a decent entry in Open Court's "Popular Culture and Philosophy" series. It looks at various philosophical issues related to the existence and "undeath" of zombies and vampires. Philosophical themes covered are being undead, personal identity, whether the undead are evil, the mind-body problem, the morality of the undead, hedonism, existentialism, political philosophy, and aesthetics. The essays are in general easy to read and palatable, with about half of the essays being quite good. This collection of essays is highly recommended for use in a high school/community college-level exposure course in philosophy. That is, you'll learn a fair amount, you won't need to tax your reading skills, and you'll be entertained in the process. This collection isn't stellar by any stretch of the imagination, but it is decent. If there is any single overall critique that I can give regarding this collection, it would be that it mostly looks at themes related to zombies and vampires in general. That is, it's easy to identify a "general" theme and then just talk about it "at a general level", without having to apply philosophy to a specific set of circumstances or a unique situation. Essays that did look at specific examples, e.g. Romero's zombie movies, unfortunately didn't do as good a job as would have been expected.

THE GOOD

Richard Greene's "The Badness of Undeath" starts off the collection of essays by trying to identify the features of being undead that make it so "bad", and why undeath would be worse than death. It's a well-written essay that actually feels as though the author is "practicing" philosophy. William S. Larkin follows this with "Res Corporealis: Persons, Bodies and Zombies". Which of two competing views best describes the passage from life to undeath? Is it "res cogitans" (psychological continuity) or "res corporealis" (physical continuity)? Mr. Larkin's essay is also well-written and makes the reader feel as though one is watching a philosophical argument unfold. Hamish Thompson's "'She's Not Your Mother Anymore, She's a Zombie! `: Zombies, Value, and Personal Identity" does a much better job of addressing the issue of personal identity by concluding that what distinguishes us from zombies is "our potential for brief intermittent actualizations of imaginative goal-directed action".

Adam Barrows' "Heidegger the Vampire Slayer: The Undead and Fundamental Ontology" actually found a way to apply Heidegger (!) to a philosophical theme without being completely mind-numbingly boring. (This is one of the few times that I've actually enjoyed an essay that was based on a continental philosopher!) Vampires are "inauthentic" because it is the possibility of death that makes us "human". Douglas Glen Whitmans' "The Political Economy of Non-Coercive Vampire Lifestyles" contrasted the differences between the libertarian and "welfarism" camps of political philosophy. By looking at a world where vampires and humans co-exist, Mr. Whitman shows how the application of each camp's philosophy of social politics results in a starkly different world. Mr. Whitman's essay invoked contemporary philosophers, and it is the gem of this collection. Well done.

THE BAD

A number of essays were poorly-written, confusing or didn't make cogent arguments. Dale Jacquette's "Zombie Gladiators" went on and on about using "philosophical zombies" as gladiators. Instead of giving the example and developing the thesis (read: getting to the point!) , Mr. Jacquette droned on and on about the imagery of (philosophical) zombie gladiators. K. Silem Mohammad's "Zombies, Rest, and Motion: Spinoza and the Speed of Undeath" was confusing and seemingly went nowhere. (I'll lay the blame at Spinoza's doorstep, if that makes you feel better.) Wayne Yuen's "The Bloody Connection between Vampires and Vegetarians" was disappointing if for no other reason than that it held that intoxication or addiction would excuse moral agency. The American legal system disagrees (drunk-driving, anyone?), as do I. Also, in the traditional canon of stories about vampires, these undead creatures absolutely must drink blood in order to survive. There is no possibility of abstaining from drinking blood without dire, "undeath-ending" consequences. In fact, I noted that at least one other essay dealing with the vampire's addiction/intoxication with blood saw this as negating moral agency. One would not attack a person's moral agency by saying that they could have given up eating, as that would be impossible. So, if one cannot act otherwise because to do so one would die, where is the moral agency?

Simon Clark's "The Undead Martyr: Sex, Death, and Revolution in George Romero's Zombie Films" stayed true to continental philosophy by championing Freud's theory of repression and applying Herbert Marcuse's ideas about the repressive effects of civilization. Very continental, and it went nowhere. I mean, HERBERT MARCUSE!! Leah Murray's "When They Aren't Eating Us, They Are Bringing Us Together: Zombies and the American Social Contract" identified a good theme, but became simply a scene-by-scene re-hash of all four of Romero's zombie movies. Rachel Robison's "True and Untrue Blood" was a rambling historical review of the importance and meaning of blood throughout history.

THE UGLY

The real train wreck however was the last entry in this collection. Randall E. Auxier and Eileen Townsend's "The Twilight of Infinite Desire" purported to be a series of letters, then e-mails, then text messages between a very old vampire and a recently "turned" young college co-ed. Vampires, it seems, have their own world, parallel to the human world, including their own philosophers! Not only that, but this particular old vampire has a taste for the blood of human philosophers! My my! This old vampire also had it out for philosopher Michel Foucault, whose death he ordered the recently turned co-ed to bring about! All in all, this "creative" attempt at presenting philosophical ideas was a horrific failure. It was confusing. Who would have thought that vampires would be so confusing when it came to philosophy! The LULZ was strong with this essay!

To re-cap: The good essays were chps. 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19 ; the mediocre/boring/tame/bad essays were chps. 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 16, 17, 20; and the train wreck was chp. 21. Decent, but tame. Count Chocula tame. Three stars. John V. Karavitis.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Any library seeking to blend modern philosophy with popular fantasy needs this 12 Jun 2010
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Zombies, Vampires, and Philosophy: New Life for the Undead links popular culture and philosophy with a philosophical discussion of vampires and zombies. The connection lies in how they confront us with moral and metaphysical issues of life and death, and this provides over twenty modern thinkers who reflect on the idea and nature of the undead. Any library seeking to blend modern philosophy with popular fantasy needs this.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 1/3 worth reading 31 July 2010
By J. Aragon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was really excited when this book came. The genre is of interest of me and I thought the cover was the cherry on top. Overall the book is good. Some chapters are great and some are OK. The major issue or complaint for me is that the majority of the chapters were light on pop culture. The book's selections offers the reader synopses of different theorists, and then occasionally hits on the connections to popular culture.

I see that my paperback copy notes a 2006 and 2010 publication dates. LJ Smith and Stephenie Meyer (if not other YA authors of Vamp genre) should have been referenced in the 2010 edition of the book.

This book will have appeal to those interested in the zombie and vamp genre, but the philosophy portion will make the book more likely to be read in academe. And, this is unfortunate. This book could have done more.
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