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LTWL 123: Vampires in Literature: Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, and Biographical Information

Getting short but authoritative background information

Encyclopedias and dictionaries are very useful places to start research on a topic, and even for helping select the specific topic you want to focus on for your research papers and for getting factual information about biography, terminology, history, and context when you have limited time for reading.  Wikipedia and similar online resources are often excellent sources of information, but very often the article authors are not as well-informed as they want you to believe, or they have particular biases, and frequently the articles focus on only a few aspects of the topic. Reference resources commissioned by reputable publishers have editors and contributors who are asked to contribute articles based on proven expertise. Often, encyclopedia articles end by citing a limited number of books or articles the author believes are most useful if you want to do more in-depth research on the topic of the encyclopedia article.

Encyclopedias and Biographical Information

The Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology. Ed. Theresa Bane. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2010.

The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead. 3rd edition. Ed. J. Gordon Melton. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 2011.  

The Encyclopedia of the Vampire: The Living Dead in Myth, Legend and Popular Culture. Ed. S.T. Joshi. Santa Barbara: Greenwood Press, 2011.

The Encyclopedia of the Gothic. General editors: William Hughes, David Punter, and Andrew Smith. Chichester, W. Sussex; Malvern, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

Includes over 200 newly commissioned essays by leading scholars writing on all aspects of the Gothic as it is currently taught and researched. Examples: "Polidori, John," "Vampire fiction," "Postfeminist Gothic," "Halloween (1978)" [the movie].

L'Encyclopédie Amoureuse des Vampires. John Bolton, Katherine Quénot. Paris: Hoëbeke, 2009. Print only. Geisel Oversize stacks BF1556 .Q46 2009

Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters. Ed. Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock. Farnham, U.K.: Ashgate, 2013.

A major survey article on "vampire" and dozens of shorter essays on specific topics, e.g. "Varney the Vampire" and "Lestat de Lioncourt." Requires your Active Directory username and password to access.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Scholarly resource with over 59,000 biographies of deceased notable British men and women in all fields. 

Examples: Le Fanu, Stoker, Polidori, Byron, Coleridge, Rymer, William of Newburgh.\

A New Companion to the Gothic. Ed. David Punter. Oxford; Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

Useful for putting vampires into the broader context of various aspects of the Gothic, particularly in Europe before the 20th century. 

Literature Resource Center

Examples: (For best results, use complete name): Goethe, Byron, Coleridge, Stoker, Polidori, Meyer, Tieck, Hoffman, Bürger, Matheson, Let the Right One In (title). After entering a personal name, select one of the subsets: Biography, Topic and Work Overviews, Reviews and News, Primary Sources and Literary Works, or Multimedia [includes selected websites].


Historical Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

The accepted authority on the evolution of the English language over the last millennium. A guide to the meaning, etymology,  and pronunciation of over half a million words, both present and past, with over 3 million quotations providing examples of how words, in all their different shades of meaning, have been used in actual literary and everyday documents.

From the OED we can learn:

  • What and when is the first recorded use of the word "vampire" or "vampyre" in English? (Answer: "These Vampyres are supposed to be the Bodies of deceased Persons, animated by evil Spirits, which come out of the Graves, in the Night-time, suck the Blood of many of the Living, and thereby destroy them." -- Harleian Miscellany, volume IV, p. 358, 1745.
  • Has "vampire" been used as a verb?
  • When is the first known published instance of using the abbreviation "vamp" to refer to a certain kind of woman? (Answer: 1911, and it wasn't in reference to a silent film actress.  "Thackeray [Victorian novelist] took it for granted that  Mary Stuart [Scottish queen, 16th century] was a vamp."--G.K. Chesterton.
  • What else has the word "vamp" been used for?  (Answer: In the U.S., it once--recorded in 1877-- was a slang term for a volunteer fireman!)