Wednesday, February 17, 2010

So You Want To Be A Vampirologist

by Anthony Hogg

When I tell people I'm a vampirologist, the usual reaction is bewilderment or jokes about biting necks.

What is a vampirologist? Quite simply, someone who studies vampires. You don't even have to believe in 'em to do it. I mean, how many folklorists actually believe in pixies, unicorns and ogres?

Nor do you actually have to be a vampire. As Stephen Kaplan, founder of the Vampire Research Center, said in Vampires Are (Palm Springs, CA: ETC, 1984):

". . . being a criminologist does not make a person a criminal; being a bacteriologist does not make you bacterium; so why would being a vampirologist make you a vampire?" (3)

Vampirology is a much more complex field than you'd probably think. There's a variety of perspectives and disciplines under this umbrella heading. In one of my blog entries , I mentioned that David Lavery wrote a paper on one of its sub-branches, Buffy Studies, and managed to isolate fifty "disciplines, methods, and/or approaches." Can you imagine how many more exist in vampirology itself?

Still interested? Then let's move onto the basics.

1. Read!

My first piece of advice is to read, read, read and don't forget - read. There's no escaping it, folks. To be somewhat informed on the subject, you'll need to read as much as you can.

For a solid introduction into the field, I recommend J. Gordon Melton's The Vampire Book: Encyclopedia of the Undead (1994). I prefer it over the 1999 second edition, which has many superfluous entries.

Despite its horrible title, Jay Stevenson's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vampires (2002) gives a pretty decent run-through, and even dedicates its third chapter to vampirology.

Bibliographies are a handy resource to this end, whether they're the references that appear at the end of the book, or bibliographic monographs like Martin V. Riccardo's Vampires Unearthed: The Complete Multi-Media Vampire and Dracula Bibliography (1983). You'll also note that vampire books aren't the only sources of vampire info. For instance, John Cuthbert Lawson's Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion: A Study in Survivals (1910) contains a massive chapter on vampires and also impacted on Montague Summers' The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd., 1928), who acknowledges it in his introduction:

"I have already pointed out that it were impossible to better such a chapter as Mr. J. C. Lawson has given us in his Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion, a book to which as also to Bernhard Schmidt's Das Volksleben der Neugriechen und das Hellenische Alterthum, I am greatly indebted." (xii)

Summers' own work, along with his The Vampire in Europe (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd., 1929) are considered to be classics in the genre. Both have been reprinted multiple times since their original publication.

2. Choose Your Discipline

As I said, there are many perspectives and disciplines in vampirology. So what interests you about vampires? Is it the novels? The films? The folklore?

I'm personally into the latter. If you are, too, then I suggest Paul Barber's Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality (1988), Jan L. Perkowski's The Darkling: A Treatise on Slavic Vampirism (1989) and David Keyworth's Troublesome Corpses: Vampires & Revenants, from Antiquity to Present (2007).

However, literature studies take up the bulk of the field. The Library of Congress has 110 listings in this division, alone. That's not even including the multitude of journal articles devoted to the subject.

Psychological perspectives are moderately popular, too. Nina Auerbach's Our Vampires, Ourselves (1995) straddles both these fields, but Laurence A. Rickels' The Vampire Lectures (1999) is much more of a challenge.

3. Write!

Now that you've chosen which approach you want to take, why not write something about it? This can be an essay, a journal article, a book or even scribblings in a blog (heh).

Niels K. Petersen's Magia Posthuma was born out of his search for the near-legendary work of the same title.

Truth be told, I was initially threatened by his blog. Its wanton sharing of resources felt like a dangerous incursion into my own "secret" studies. But, over time, I came to appreciate his approach. After all, why hoard everything like a dragon on a mound of gold coins, if it's just gonna sit there and get dusty?

4. Network

If you write or seek enough, you'll find other people with similar interests. I originally stumbled onto Niels' blog when I was conducting my own search for de Schertz's Magia Posthuma (I found a copy, by the way).

Thanks to a commentator on my blog (thanks Erwin!) I was able to follow a lead in identifying the original source of a mis-attributed "vampire" picture.

In not-necessarily-blog-related matters, I've also had the fortune of corresponding with authors I grew up reading (or reading about), like Paul Barber, Jeanne Keyes Youngson, Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Bruce A. McClelland. I even landed an interview with Martin V. Riccardo (which you can read here and here ).

It's also been interesting discovering what got other people into the field. Inanna Arthen's account is particularly interesting and you can read my own , on this very blog.

And, hell, why would Michele have even invited me to provide my contributions, at all, if I hadn't started Diary of an Amateur Vampirologist ?

5. Conclusion

But, a couple of words of warning before I wrap this thing up. Firstly, don't get into it cos of the money. Vampirologists aren't exactly millionaires.

If you really wanna make money with vampires, your best bet is to write novels. And even then, notably few actually hit paydirt, unless you happen to be Bram Stoker (who didn't even get to enjoy Dracula's overwhelming success until after his death), Stephen King, Anne Rice, Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlotte Harris and, of course, Stephenie Meyer.

Second, there's a high chance you'll come across nutters and other nasty folk [link edited out at VampChix's discretion]. Certain vampire fanclubs and research societies are also bombarded with letters and e-mail from folk proclaiming to be the real deal undead.

If you think you can handle these things, by all means, go ahead with vampirology. We could always use young blood!

That's better!

~ Anthony

13 comments:

Elie said...

I did not realize your passion stretch to dedicated research. I think what you are researching is fascinating, not just in the stories we love, but in origin.

Derek Tatum said...

I have to disagree with you on Jay Stevenson's book. It's section on gothic culture is misinformed and unreliable. While that's hardly the focus of the book, if a book has passages that I know to be false and poorly researched (if the author bothered at all), how am I to know if the more obscure material is accurate?

I do enjoy Melton's work, though - the guy has an enthusiasm that shines through.

Vampirologist Connie said...

Huh. Interesting. I have been a vampirologist for quite some time and never realized I had a title. I tell people I am a webmaster or a fine art broker for vampire themed art pieces but now I have a new title to add to my list. Thanks Anthony.

Bertena said...

I have a MA in Sociology and Criminology and only realized after people say i am weird and I have an obsession that it is a legitimate academic subject. I have done presentations across the country, wrote a few papers that are to be published, and even have a few websites.
Now that my son is going to college next year I am hoping to pursue my PhD in American Culture Studies with an emphasis in film and media and guess what subject of study is going to be - vampires. I am to find out if I am accepted into the program soon. They only take 8-10 students each YEAR.
So yes it is actually becoming a respected academic study as well.

Here are my websites. and I do love your comments. they were so on the mark

Bertena Varney
Lexington-Vampire-Examiner
http://www.examiner.com/x-12968-Lexington-Vampire-Examiner

Official Webiste-
http://searchforthelure.webs.com/

Anthony Hogg said...

Ellie,

In the long-run, my intention's to produce things much more substantial than my blog! But DOAAV keeps me occupied in the meantime.

Derek,

I more than welcome your criticism of Stevenson's work. I'd love to read your refutation to it, if you've written one up. But what I was conveying in terms of recommending is work, was it provided fairly decent coverage of the overall vampire genre.

I definitely see your point though. One angle I didn't cover in my post (which could have been much lengthier, is that one develops a heightened critical ability when they read enough material on the subject, as demonstrated by yourself.

Vampirologist Connie,

You're more than welcome! The word's been around since (roughly) the '70s, but has found common usage in the last 10 years or so. Welcome aboard!

Bertena,

I just noticed you joined my Twitter! I was glad to see someone with an actual interest in the subject jump on board!

All the best on your enrollment into the course!

I had a quick peek through your website and I'm gonna add it to my reading list.

-----

As a note to all who read my blog entry the link censored out was "Public Service Announcement", which you'll find in my blog within the Feburary 2010 category. Out of respect for Michele's sensibilities, I won't post the direct link here!

Isis Aquarian said...

ok..has anyone heard of
THE DRAGON LEGACY BY NICOLAS DEVERE
he is Prince de vere drankenburg who lives out of england and is the heir apparent to this title of original vammpire, elven and fairie lore!

his next book, DRAGON CEDE proves everything is said in Dragon Legacy
I like real over fantasy especially when the real is what the fantasy was taken off of.
isis aquarian

Anthony Hogg said...

I've heard vaguely about it.

Did a search for the item and came across its Amazon entry.

Going by the reviews, it seems to be an alternative history/conspiracy theory work along the lines of David Icke and Laurence Gardner's output.

I also looked up some info on Nicolas, himself.

Regarding this Dragon business as related to Dracula (as I think you're inferring), let it be noted that "Dracula" was Vlad's nickname. It meant "son of the Dragon" and was a reference to his father's membership of a Christian "monarchical chivalric order" called the Order of the Dragon.

Also, the real Dracula certainly wasn't a vampire.

Anyhoo, let's say I find Nicolas' claims highly contentious.

Bertena said...

I emailed Dr. Melton and a new edition of the Vampire Encyclopedia was completed in September and should be out by the end of this year.

I didn't get into the PhD program. Any advice on what to do now. Melton's book is kindda like what I wanted to do. Now I don't know what direction to go. Thanks for any advice.
Thank you

Anthony Hogg said...

I'm looking forward to the new edition, meself.

Hopefully, its coverage will be a lot more diverse than the second.

I'm sorry to hear you didn't get into your program. It'd be pointless doin' Melton's thing. There's a slew of encyclopedias out there, after all. Heh heh.

Unless it's from a unique angle, like Theresa Bane's upcoming, The Encyclopedia of Vampire Folklore.

You can e-mail me, if you like, and we'll talk about it further. :)

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to add a book to the list of ones that are good for Vampirologists, I've had it for a while now and It is a very good guide through history,folklore, and even fiction and film of vampirisme. The Element Encyclopedia of vampires, an A-Z of the Undead by Theresa Cheung is rather large hard cover book that has to be my favorite of many books written primarily to share real information about vampires.
(You can find the book at Chapters, Barnes and Nobles, and really anywhere, I've seen it around alot already.)
anyway I just thought I'd share,
Love your Blog,
Liv.

Anthony Hogg said...

Hi there Liv,

I've got a copy of that book, too. However, despite its dearth of entries and a pretty solid bibliography, I can't really recommend it, myself.

Its layout isn't very scholarly, but what concerns me about it is certain erroneous information that could have been easily double-checked.

J. Gordon Melton's The Vampire Book: Encyclopedia of the Undead (1994/1999/2010) is a way, way better encyclopedia. I'd even go so far as to say it's one of the best ever books on vampires, period.

Its third edition will be available on September 1st, according to Amazon.

Anonymous said...

Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

- Daniel

Kyle Van Helsing said...

Hey, Anthony! When I first read this article, I was thrilled! I've chosen my path (Vampire folklore), and I've already got the reading and writing angle covered. In fact, it seems that all I ever do is read and write (not necessarily on Vanpires, though)! As you probably know, I myself am working on a book on the subject (something that I think you should do, too). So, would you qualify me as a Vampirologist?