Reading list for 'The Zombie' class

Required texts:

"World War Z"

"The Walking Dead"

"The Living Dead"

"Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection"

Recommended texts:

"Zombie Culture: Autopsies of the Living Dead"



A curdling scream rushes down the hall in the basement of the University of Colorado's Visual Arts Complex.

The door to classroom 1B88 slowly creeps open and inside are several students armed with Nerf shotguns fending off a horde of zombies (students dressed in slashed T-shirts with blood-red corn syrup dripping from their mouths).

"Direct hit," one of them yells. "Good job."

But it's still not enough to keep the zombies from pretending to eat the flesh and brains of a group of remaining humans. These students are participating in their weekly dose of the living dead, courtesy of CU's newest English literature class called "The Zombie."

CU junior Ashley Wood painted oozing scars and dark circles around her classmates' eyes before class Wednesday, mimicking the horrific creatures they've been studying since August.

"As English majors, we love to read," said Ashley Wood, who is enrolled in The Zombie. "But now we are loving what we have to read even more. It's a fun and interesting class and that just makes us work even harder."

This week may have been the most interactive installment of Stephen Jones' class with a special demonstration of Zombie Defense Tactics, a self-defense course taught by Agoge Integrated Martial Arts of Denver.

University of Colorado junior Erin Moriarty uses a toy gun to defend herself from zombies during  The Zombie  class on Wednesday.
University of Colorado junior Erin Moriarty uses a toy gun to defend herself from zombies during The Zombie class on Wednesday. ( SAM HALL )

"Our goal is to address the possibility of human aggression and pressure situations and train them on how to react and survive that kind of trauma," said Jack Boru, martial arts instructor and international zombie hunter. "It's important to have them participating, so hopefully they'll remember the practiced response and be able to use that again if they ever need to."

Jones, an English professor and horror author, is teaching the contemporary literature class, which will return for its second semester next fall due to popular demand from students.

The course objectives listed on the syllabus states that students will "become conversant in all things zombie. To know their history, their culture, their plight, and, in doing so come to not only understand them as a species, as a genre, but also to gain at least a suspicion of how might survive the zombie apocalypse."

Jones has already taught similar classes on "the slasher" and haunted houses and has plans for a vampire and a werewolf course, which may be offered during Maymester this spring.

Jones released his eighth horror novel Friday, a zombie tale titled, "It Came From Del Rio." He said writing helps him fully understand the genre and, hopefully, makes him a more comprehensive teacher.

Besides sharing how to survive a zombie apocalypse, Jones said he hopes to teach students about current events in the context of the popular monster.

"We're analyzing and engaging in literature just like any other class in the department," Jones said. "But instead of focusing on the past, we're talking about current works and watching trends happen right in front of our eyes."

But not everyone is convinced that zombies are a fundamental part of literary education.

CU Regent James Geddes said this and similar classes should be evaluated and removed for lack of educational value to help the university cut unnecessary costs.

"Based on current financial concerns facing the Boulder campus, we should begin a process to identify core curriculum courses that need to be taught and a second tier of courses that are necessary to enriching our students' education," Geddes said. "Then we need to evaluate the third tier of courses, those that are not vital to a student's education. I would be discriminating about these sorts of classes, which may lack academic value."

Instructors Brent Bingham, left, and Sage Porter demonstrate how to divert attacking zombies on Wednesday during  The Zombie,  a class at the University of
Instructors Brent Bingham, left, and Sage Porter demonstrate how to divert attacking zombies on Wednesday during The Zombie, a class at the University of Colorado. ( SAM HALL )

Geddes said the regents are already evaluating the university's core curriculum in hopes of cutting unnecessary requirements.

"There is no genre of literature more vital than contemporary," Jones said. "This is what students are engaging in, reading, experiencing and we should consider that a significant part of their literary education."

CU junior Kimberley Willey said the university should be supporting well-rounded students and part of that is studying pop culture, which right now includes zombies.

"It's no different than the critics who are trying to get rid of music programs on the East Coast," Willey said. "College shouldn't just be about academic learning but creative learning, too."