English, Department of


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A thesis presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska in partial fulfillment of requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: English, Under the Supervision of Professor Laura Mooneyham White. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2011

Copyright 2011 Elisabeth Chretien


This thesis examines the canonical literature/monster mash-up subgenre, focusing specifically on its originating text, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, as a case study to explore and understand the cultural work being done in this subgenre. This thesis argues that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and other texts like it are a form of vital and original popular postmodern interaction with and appropriation of the existing literary canon. As a whole, this subgenre re-imagines the English and American literary canon and heritage, providing new or alternative ways for readers to relate to and understand it. While many reviewers, scholars, and Austen enthusiasts have casually dismissed these novels as purely ridiculous or a gimmick to make an easy profit, this thesis argues that they are actually an attempt to move beyond previous ideological attacks on the literary canon and into a popular interaction with the existing literary canon.

This thesis makes use of a number of critical theories to argue that depictions of violence in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are used to suggest a variety of new ways of interacting with the idea of ‘Jane Austen’ in popular culture. A historical analysis demonstrates how the violence in this novel provides readers a new way of understanding Austen’s own historical moment. The application of reader response theory shows how a text can have multiple valid meanings, and that in this case, the violence in the novel undermines and appropriates the contemporary ‘branding’ of Austen and her works in popular culture. Finally, a feminist reading of this work shows that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies takes place in a feminist re-envisioning of Austen’s historical world, caused by the incorporation of violence into society on a broad scale.

Adviser: Laura Mooneyham White