Going Viral: Zombies, Viruses, and the End of the World (Rutgers University Press)
Outbreak narratives have proliferated for the past quarter century, and now they have reached epidemic proportions. From 28 Days Later to 24 to The Walking Dead, movies, TV shows, and books are filled with zombie viruses, bioengineered plagues, and disease-ravaged bands of survivors. Even news reports indulge in thrilling scenarios about potential global pandemics like SARS and Ebola. Why have outbreak narratives infected our public discourse, and how have they affected the way Americans view the world?
In Going Viral, Dahlia Schweitzer probes outbreak narratives in film, television, and a variety of other media, putting them in conversation with rhetoric from government authorities and news organizations that have capitalized on public fears about our changing world. She identifies three distinct types of outbreak narrative, each corresponding to a specific contemporary anxiety: globalization, terrorism, and the end of civilization. Schweitzer considers how these fears, stoked by both fictional outbreak narratives and official sources, have influenced the ways Americans relate to their neighbors, perceive foreigners, and regard social institutions.
Looking at everything from I Am Legend to The X Files to World War Z, this book examines how outbreak narratives both excite and horrify us, conjuring our nightmares while letting us indulge in fantasies about fighting infected Others. Going Viralthus raises provocative questions about the cost of public paranoia and the power brokers who profit from it.
Praise for Going Viral
"Schweitzer sets up shop at the intersection of culture, science and politics and demonstrates—with deep research and penetrating insight—that there are things far more menacing than viral threats."-Jonathan Allen, coauthor of Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign
"Going Viral is an incisive and expertly-informed exploration of the anxieties that drive contemporary America; the fears of contagion that shape our public discourse, movie narratives and government policy. Drawing with authority on both medical data and media theory, Schweitzer impressively tracks these concerns across recent history, tracing the dynamic between the diseased human body and the body politic, and examining key varieties of viral threat – from zombie plagues to terrorist cells – across fact, fiction and the porous borders between them. At a time when fears of cultural infection are used to justify the tightening of borders, the infringement of civil liberties and the building of walls, Going Viral is a vital guide to the politics of contamination and protection."-Will Brooker, author of Hunting the Dark Knight
"A highly infectious read. Schweitzer's thought-provoking and meticulously researched account clearly outlines the relationship between the reality of viral threats and the Hollywood dramatization of the 'outbreak narrative.'"-Terry Matalas, executive producer, 12 Monkeys
"Dahlia Schweitzer is one of the world’s leading analysts of popular culture, in every conceivable manifestation. She is also one of our best writers: engaging, concise, yet alluring in the best sense. Going Viral takes on one of the questions of our time: the American obsession with sickness as a way of dealing with difference. Bravo!"-Toby Miller, author of Blow Up the Humanities
"Going Viral promises to become a viral sensation. In this elegant, provocative and clever book, Dahlia Schweitzer tackles one of the most controversial and anxiety provoking fears of the twenty-first century: the disastrous end of the world, evoked by either plagues, infections, diseases or outbreaks. Full of knowledge and wit, Schweitzer's innovative scholarship is a joy to read. She is a trailblazer in transdisciplinary scholarship and helps us all better understand what will continue to keep us awake at night."-Karen A. Ritzenhoff, coeditor of The Apocalypse in Film
"Going Viral contextualizes contemporary outbreak narratives in rich detail. Schweitzer's attention to context sets this work apart from others on the subject and does so in an utterly approachable way."-Stacy Takacs, author of Terrorism TV: Popular Entertainment in Post-9/11 America
Dahlia Schweitzer's upcoming book, Going Viral: Zombies, Viruses, and the End of the World (Rutgers University Press, 2018), explores depictions of pandemics and outbreak narratives in contemporary American film and television, putting them in conversation with rhetoric from government authorities and news organizations that have capitalized on public fears about our changing world.
Schweitzer is also the author of Cindy Sherman's Office Killer: Another Kind of Monster (Intellect, 2013). Her articles have been published in Cinema Journal, Journal of Popular Film and Television, Hyperallergic, Jump Cut, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, and The Journal of Popular Culture. Her new book project focuses on cinematic representations of the private detective in Los Angeles.