I've been reading a couple of academic books on the subject of zombies in film and other media, and there is this one statement which academics keep insisting upon which I sense is incorrect, namely, that there is little to no mention of zombies in Western narrative until the zombie films of the 1930s and 1940 brought this exotic concept to American audiences.
While I make no claim to being the Josie Campbell of horror, I seem to have absorbed from my reading the impression that revenants and the fear of the dead being reanimated is a universal fear. I can't recall where I read this specifically--perhaps that scholarly book about burial rituals and vampires which all bookish horror fans seem to have read at some point?--but I seem to recall that, at least through the Anglo-Saxon period, and possibly through the Elizabethan period, a ghost was not a disembodied spirit but the actual animated body of the dead person (as described in
this Wikipedia article on draugr http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draugr
and I didn't even know that there is such a person as
The Viking Answer Lady, who can meet all your undead needshttp://www.vikinganswerlady.com/ghosts.shtml
Then there is the Wikipedia entry for revenant
A revenant is a visible ghost or animated corpse that was believed to return from the grave to terrorize the living. The word "revenant" is derived from the Latin word, revenans, "returning" (see also the related French verb "revenir", meaning "to come back").
And didn't Greek necromancy involve summoning and enslaving the embodied dead, not just their spirits?
These descriptions seem to indicate that there *was* the equivalent of the zombie in Western narratives, and that the distinction is one of semantics.
What do other fans of the gothic think?