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Undead is a collective name for fictional, mythological, or legendary beings that are deceased and yet behave as if alive. Undead may be incorporeal, such as ghosts, or corporeal, such as vampires and zombies. Undead are featured in the legends of most cultures and in many works of fantasy and horror fiction.

Bram Stoker considered the term "The Un-Dead" for the original title for his novel Dracula (1897),[1] and its use in the novel is mostly responsible for the modern sense of the word. The word does appear in English before Stoker but with the more literal sense of "alive" or "not dead", for which citations can be found in the Oxford English Dictionary. Stoker's use of the term refers only to vampires, and the extension to other types of supernatural beings arose later. Most commonly, it is now taken to refer to supernatural beings which had at one time been alive and continue to display some aspects of life after death, but the usage is highly variable.


The undead in art and literature

19th Century

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is a seminal text in 19th century discourse about the undead. Published in 1818, it was based on a number of sources, including Ovid's myth of Prometheus (indeed, the novel is subtitled "The Modern Prometheus"), Milton's Paradise Lost, Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and William Beckford's Gothic novel Valthek. Shelley also drew on European folklore,[2], such as the medieval Jewish legend of the golem, and German, Czech and Moravian ghost stories featuring vengeful dead (many of whom have characteristics of vampires rather than zombies).

Later notable 19th century stories about the avenging undead included Ambrose Bierce's "The Death of Halpin Frayser", and various Gothic Romanticism tales by Edgar Allan Poe. Though their works couldn't be properly considered zombie fiction, the supernatural tales of Bierce and Poe would prove influential on later undead-themed writers such as H. P. Lovecraft, by Lovecraft's own admission.[3]

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