Monster Studies: A Cool Course Dispatch

Vampires, Zombies and Other Monsters blends monster studies (in literature and film), anthropology, and religious studies

A stack of books about monsters on a table.

“We have discovered that monsters actually have histories,” says Angela Zito. She is an associate professor of anthropology and the director of NYU’s Religious Studies program. She teaches the undergraduate seminar Vampires, Zombies and Other Monsters at the College of Arts and Science. “[Monsters] arise to address specific fears in people’s social lives. Studying them gives us a wonderful window on those transformations. I chose vampires and zombies because they are monsters that are transformed humans, unlike aliens or Godzilla, and thus tell us a lot about what people in different times and places desire and fear.”

A monster movie projected on a screen.
Two students and a professor talking.

“One of the most exciting class sessions was when we finally moved from our initial deep dive into Dracula—the novel, the films—and started reading about zombies,” Zito says. “Differences were exciting. Vampires are so individual, so full of motivation and agency; zombies, not so much. But students saw immediately that zombies are a better metaphor for life under modern capitalist consumption—that they are, truly, our best current monster.”

About This Dispatch

Eileen Reynolds, Kate Lord, and the team at NYU News are the minds behind this Cool Course Dispatch. From analyzing metaphorical monsters to disability studies, NYU students get hands-on experience—in and outside the classroom. Click through for more more Cool Course Dispatches.