Cory "Mecca" Anotado (pacdude) wrote,
Cory "Mecca" Anotado

Literary Appropriation, Popular Culture, and Brain-Eating Zombies

Originally published at The Fast Money Round. You can comment here or there.

pride-and-prejudice-and-zombies-seth-grahame-smithThis paper was written for Prof. Phyllis Betz’s Pop Culture Literature class. It was rushed, it’s not terribly good, but since people want 15 pages on zombies, then by the grace of Wordpress, they’ll have 15 pages on zombies. I’m taking out all the parenthetical citations and just throwing the works cited in a comment below, since this thing is a shade under 4,000 words.

Literary Appropriation, Popular Culture, and
Brain-Eating Zombies

A wise sage from the Internet once stated that there were 7 main plots in storytelling: man vs. nature; man vs. man; man vs. the environment; man vs. technology; man vs. the supernatural; man vs. self; and man vs. God. Montana State University Professor Ronald B. Tobias, in his book 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them, increases the number to 20. Italian dramatist Count Carlo Gozzi, according to Georges Polti in the book The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, increases the number to 36. Rudyard Kipling is presumed to have had a list of 69 different plots. Cecil Adams, of the syndicated newspaper column The Straight Dope, narrows it down to one:

“…all stories can be summed up as Exposition/Rising Action/Climax/Falling Action/Denouement or to simplify it even further, Stuff Happens, although even at this level of generality we seem to have left out Proust.”

The number of plots in storytelling may be limited, but the amount of stories in the world seems limitless. Since the dawn of the printing press, authors have been transcribing their stories into novels, novellas, magazine installations, Reader’s Digest features, blogs and websites. Authors get ideas from different points in their life, whether it be Edgar Allan Poe and the wicked, dreary conditions of the city of Philadelphia, or J.R.R. Tolkien and the backdrop of the Second World War. Even the best storytellers sometimes run out of creative juices and rely heavily, either consciously or subconsciously, on the abilities of others for the words needed to continue. Famous African-American author Alex Haley, who wrote the novel Roots, settled a lawsuit out-of-court for $650,000 after an author claimed that Haley plagiarized over 80 passages from his novel published 9 years before Roots.

What if, however, a storyteller used an existing work and revised it in such a way to create an entirely new piece? Would it be wrong? Would it serve a purpose? Can a piece that is heavily appropriated from an original source to create a seemingly-new story serve to enhance and clarify the original work? It can. Literary appropriation serves many different functions, including satire and political statements. In the case of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a 2009 satire of the Regency classic, this appropriation not only creates a new story using a familiar story line, but the changes and additions made to the story help to amplify and clarify the intentions and the meanings behind Jane Austen’s work.

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