Literary criticism and zombies are two words not often found in the same sentence, but for Chase Pielak, the two go hand in hand.
“I think that zombies represent the real fears that we have,” Pielak said. “[Zombies] are real in the sense that they represent our fears of voiceless-ness and powerlessness and the loss of self-control, so these are the kinds of questions that interest me.”
This fall was Pielak’s first-semester teaching at Auburn where he taught two English composition one classes and two American literature classes.
Pielak spent his undergraduate years at Azusa Pacific University where he earned degrees in English and biblical studies. Pielak earned his master's degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. Pielak then went to Claremont Graduate University where he received his doctorate in English with a background in 19th century British literature and romanticism.
“I guess I’ve loved to read and write for forever, and English just made sense,” Pielak said.
Pielak said his theology and biblical studies degrees pair with his doctorate in English. He said his specialization in the 19th century helped give him an understanding and sense of the many biblical references present in the literature of the time.
“I ask my students to do a creative component with their papers in my lit classes, so they are trying to incorporate art, and doing all kinds of visual representations of texts,” Pielak said. “I think it helps tie together some of the things they see in the rest of their lives whether it’s a Disney movie or a movie about Wall Street, or whatever to the kinds of thing we’re talking about in class.”
Pielak has contributed to several works in recent years including "Living with Zombies: Society in Apocalypse in Film, Literature, and Other Media". In this work, Pielak and Alexander H. Cohen discuss how the rise of the zombie genre reflects the cultural fears of today.
“I got really interested in the Walking Dead when it first came out,” Pielak said. “Before too long I realized that there are actually some really worthwhile critical ideas that the show engages.”
Pielak is currently writing a book that will discuss how humans will behave when human dominance in the world come to an end.
“I’m trying to rethink what it means to be a responsible human being if we imagine that there won’t be any humans left,” Pielak said.
Pielak has recently finished a fiction piece titled, "The Collected Sonnets of William Shakespeare, Zombie".
“I took all of Shakespeare’s sonnets and rewrote them as if he were a zombie,” Pielak said.
The book is excepted to release some time in 2018.
Pielak said he has enjoyed his time so far in Auburn and noting the people are friendly and the students are hard-working and interested in course material.
Pielak will be teaching British literature survey at Auburn this upcoming spring.