Simon Clark



Undead Melancholia; from Lost Modernism to Haptic Antagonism


My research grows from the point at which psychoanalytical language is unable to contend with and capture the uniquely liminal state of undeadliness proffered by zombie fiction. I invent a new glossary of psychoanalytical terms in order to cope with the proposition of being neither alive nor dead. By responding to a fiction, my use of psychoanalysis itself becomes fictional.

I conceive of 'undead melancholia' as an original psychoanalytical categorisation of the zombie – and then proceed to modify and interrogate the scope of this term throughout my thesis. I self-consciously push my research in a direction that allows undead melancholia to eventually engage with discourses surrounding the politics of contemporary practice.

Undead melancholia is initially set up as a transgressive subjectivity in which life willingly acquiesces to an emancipatory marriage with death. This amounts to a radical new strain of zombie that is then understood as a phantasy of an oppositional critical strategy – a lost modernism – that has been superseded by contemporary homogeneity.

I then discuss the zombie as an abject walking corpse – a body, bereft of meaning, that collapses subjective integrity. This reading of the zombie undoes my own formulation of undead melancholia as a transgressive subject position, and re-articulates it instead as an eruption of Real materiality beyond subjectivity.

I finally propose a performance practice that might ape the materiality of undead melancholia by formally interrupting the ostensibly seamless conventions of contemporary cultural and political discourse. This performative melancholia, as a haptic antagonism, would scour the normative protocols of the status quo, asserting that the homogenous procedures determining contemporary cultural production are contingent negotiations rather than essential conditions.