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CU professor teaches the ABC's of zombies

Zombie stories have been around for thousands of years. The University of Colorado Boulder offers college credit to learn about them. Professor Stephen Graham Jones teaches a class about the history of the walking dead.
Credit: KUSA

BOULDER — Professor Stephen Graham Jones has been teaching at the University of Colorado in Boulder for the past 8 years, but there’s one class in particular he loves to teach.

“Zombie Renaissance,” Jones said. “It started for me in 2010 when I got invited to teach a zombie lecture course here at CU.”

Jones teaches the class about once every 4 semesters to students who are interested. He said there are waiting lists for his class, which answers the question: "What, exactly, is a zombie?"

“A zombie is a corpse that’s been animated by a virus,” Jones said. “But the key is it’s been dead and comes back.”

So here's the question: Is that really possible?

“You have jewel wasps that can take over a coach roach to make it into a traveling larva home,” said Jones. "But, so far, we haven’t seen dead bodies animate and go around hungry.”

Jones got hooked on the subject in 1985 with the movie “Night of the Living Dead." This month marks the 50th anniversary of the movie, which helped give rise to a genre that now includes mainstream hits like “The Walking Dead."

Jones said teaching his students about this evolution of zombies is just like teaching any other English class.

“Really, it’s all about using text to look at the world whether its Shakespeare or zombies, it’s the same dynamic, the same set of tools,” Jones said.

Jones said zombie stories have been around years, dating back to ancient Tibet and China — where they were cautionary tales about proper relationships with corpses. That's history he now teaches to his students.

“We look at how every culture is so fascinated with it and we try to figure out why that is and from there we try to project what’s coming next," he said.

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