Modernity’s monsters, as evoked by Stoker and Eliot, express quintessentially modern horrors. Is there no end to the fluidity of my self? Is there no eternity to my body beyond more of the same, its feeding and consuming? Is there any interior core to my person, or am I a walking stuffed effigy? These terrors can find no relief from scientific treatises on blood or even from the catharsis of a horror movie.
One of the horrors of the zombie apocalypse is its inevitability, given how easily zombies conquer. One bite, and a person is reduced to the basest instincts of mindless and destructive feeding: small wonder that many zombie works end on ambiguous or outright despairing notes, as the protagonist becomes the living dead. This new post-modern apocalyptic vision recasts the resurrection from the dead as a nightmarish scenario, in which we become the living dead. What hope can there be?
Yet, T. S. Eliot provides a glimpse of hope at the end of “The Waste Land.” In a few lines near the very end of the poem, London Bridge, that site of the zombie hordes of the Unreal City, returns in an ambiguous way. Eliot evokes a destruction that is perhaps a renewal providing relief: “London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down / Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina” (426-47). The line, Eliot’s later notes tell us, is from Dante’s Purgatorio: “Then he hid himself in the fire that refines him.”
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