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The Undead Intelligentsia: Highbrow Zombies in Pop Culture

Zombies, somewhat inexplicably, have captured the attentions of American culture and don’t seem to be letting go anytime soon. Most representations, however, as perhaps best befits the shambling, brain eating, flailing creatures, are deliciously low-brow, from low budget horror films to trashy fright night novels — that is, until this week, when Colson Whitehead’s Zone One hit the shelves, reminding us all that zombies can be intellectual too. His literary use of the undead walkers in his post-apocalyptic vision of New York has led us to consider other high-brow treatments of zombies in pop culture, which have slowly been emerging to varying degrees of success as the gross-out creatures continue to gain popularity. Click through to see a few of our favorite highbrow zombies across the board, and let us know if we’ve missed any in the comments.

Zone One, Colson Whitehead

Mac Arthur Genius grant-winning author Colson Whitehead sixth novel is, inexplicably to some, about zombies. And it’s great. As Whitehead told The Atlantic, “When I was starting the book, I would say, ‘I’m writing a horror novel with zombies.’ And my sort of bookish friends would say [adopts a clipped, defensive tone]: ‘I don’t like zombies. I don’t like zombie books.’ And I’d ask them, ‘Well, what zombie books have you read? What zombie films have you seen?’ None. So people who are inside horror culture have their own ideas about zombies, and the people outside have their own stereotypes about zombies. What I tried to do with the book was embrace some of the conventions of the film genre, and reject others. By keeping what I like, and throwing out what I don’t, I hopefully can expand people’s ideas about this type of horror story.”

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