Friday, 25 May 2012

Undead, but not as we know it

According to Wikipedia, undead, 'is a collective name for beings that are deceased and yet behave as if alive. It could also describe a dead body animated by supernatural forces (or some other life force) or by either its own soul or the soul of a malevolent creature (such as a demon). Undead may be incorporeal, such as ghosts, or corporeal, such as vampires and zombies.' 

Its modern usage is likely derived from Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). Van Helsing introduces it, thusly:
Before we do anything, let me tell you this. It is out of the lore and experience of the ancients and of all those who have studied the powers of the Un-Dead. When they become such, there comes with the change the curse of immortality. They cannot die, but must go on age after age adding new victims and multiplying the evils of the world.
The word resonated with Stoker. Before Dracula went to print, its original title was The Un-Dead; it even appears in the novel's contract. When Stoker adapted his novel into a play—actually a dramatic reading to ensure copyright—it was titled, Dracula, or the Un-Dead.

The word is associated with Dracula to such a degree, I've long agreed with Elizabeth Miller's assumption that 'Stoker apparently coined the word "un-dead" as a synonym for "vampire."'1 And not just as a synonym, but the originator of the word, itself. She elaborates:
The word "undead" does appear in the Oxford English Dictionary as a synonym for "not dead" or "alive." The 1989 edition adds "In vampirism, clinically dead but not yet at rest," adding citations from Dracula.2
While it's probable Stoker was the first to use 'undead' as a synonym for vampire, I now know he didn't invent the word. Not only that, but current usage effectively acts as a mockery of the word's original intent.

On Tuesday, I typed in the 'undead' and its variant, 'un-dead' into Google Books. Just for the hell of it, but with Miller's assumption in the back of my mind. The results surprised me. I found a dictionary definition of the world, alright. But it was much older than I was expecting: 

Google Books

'Not decayed, wasted, destroyed, killed; not mortal,' it reads. Easy to see how it's been associated with vampires, but not in the original context. The entry appears in the second volume of Charles Richardson's A new dictionary of the English language. It was published in 1856—beating Stoker's use by 41 years. 

However, this was a new edition. Was an older edition available? Yep: the word also appears in the second volume of the dictionary's 1839 edition. Same definition. 

Thankfully, the definitions were accompanied by examples of its usage. After Googling about, I figured out the first example—'Wiclif. 1 Tymo. c. 1.'—was actually a reference to a John Wycliffe Bible translation. In this case, 1 Timothy 1:17:
And to the king of worldis, vndeedli and vnvysible God aloone, be onour and glorie in to worldis of worldis. Amen.
At this point, I should mention the rendering of undead ('vndeedli'), here, dates 1395. That makes the prior 41 year gap look like a drop in the ocean. 

Using the Blue Letter Bible, I juxtaposed the verse with other English translations. For instance, the King James Version:
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, [be] honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
'Immortal' in lieu of 'vndeedli' (undeadly) appears time and time again. Therefore, that is the word's proper meaning. The word appears a second time in the 1856 edition:

Google Books

'For God made man vndeadli [undeadly],' it reads. 'L.V. unable to be distried [destroyed]'. Basically, something indestructible. With Dracula's religious overtones, I can't help wondering whether Stoker was aware of these Biblical usages. If so, another layer's added to his text.

Update (25 May 2012)

During the 19th century, the term's religious overtones were overt. In 1852, Thomas J. Vaiden wrote: 'They read the scriptures of an immortal God, undead and undying, written on the universe.'3

1. E Miller, Dracula: sense & nonsense, Desert Island Books Limited, Westcliff-on-Sea, UK, 2000, p. 52 

2. ibid, p. 55, n 43.  

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Book spree, pt. 2

More books from my spree have arrived. I actually did two sprees, as you'll see from the 'Date ordered' section. The second was triggered by a 10% off coupon, which I had to take advantage of. Anyway, without further ado...

14 May 2012  

Title: Bitten by Twilight: youth culture, media, & the vampire franchise (New York: Peter Lang, 2010)  
Author: Melissa A. Click, Jennifer Stevens Aubrey & Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz (eds)
Date ordered: 6 May 2012 
Price: £10.19 + £8.04 postage
Why'd I buy it? As I've mentioned before, I'm not a Twi-Hard, but I am fascinated by the impact Stephenie Meyers' books have had on the public. They've arguably mainstreamed vampires more than any other vampire work, and in such a short space of time, too. What is it about these works that makes them so popular? Why did they catch on more than the hundreds—even thousands, maybe—other vampire works out there? So it's really the 'franchise' bit of the title that catches my attention. Vampire fandom also intrigues me greatly, i.e. what gets people into vampires? I think the fact that this book's got an essay titled 'A Twilight fan community in Norway' sold me.

15 May 2012

Title: Bram Stoker: Dracula (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)  
Author: William Hughes
Date ordered: 6 May 2012 
Price: £14.45
Why'd I buy it? Another book that's been on my Amazon wish list for a while. It's essentially an overview of Dracula studies from a variety of disciplines. In this case, psychoanalysis, physiology, politics and gender studies. I enjoy works that provide these overviews. Makes my job that much easier. However, there are some confusing matters in association with this book. The book's copyright page says it was first published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2008, but the copyright date is 2009. Also, this book is part of a series—'Reader's guide to essential criticism'—which initially made me think Hughes' Bram Stoker's Dracula: a reader's guide (Continuum, 2009) was one-and-the-same book under a different title. But it doesn't seem to be.

Title: La stirpe di Dracula: Indagine sul vampirismo dall'antichità ai nostri giorni (Milano: Oscar Mondadori, 1997)  
Author: Massimo Introvigne
Date ordered: 6 May 2012 
Price: £16.67 + £12.14 postage + £4.02 extra due to 'Shpping costs for Australia'
Why'd I buy it? Though I can't read Italian—I should've paid more attention in class!—I'm a fan of Introvigne's English writings, namely 'Antoine Faivre: father of contemporary vampire studies' (2001) and 'Satanism scares and vampirism from the 18th century to the contemporary anti-cult movement' (1997). Simply put, the guy knows his shit. He also heads the Italian branch of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula and the Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni, 'Center for Studies on New Religions'—an organisation that's attracted controversy. Nonetheless, CENSUR's website features an excellent section on vampires.

16 May 2012

Title: Vampires through the ages: lore & legends of the world's most notorious blood drinkers (Woodbury, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 2012)  
Author: Brian Righi
Date ordered: 6 May 2012 
Price: £8.03
Why'd I buy it? It was cheap, to be honest. Also, I thought it might provide a nice little stroll down vampire lane. I also dig the 'lore' angle. We'll see if it bears fruit. However, on a brief flick through the book, I was pleased to see some in-text citations. You don't often see those with mainstream books of this type, which suggests a scholarly bent. Bring it on.

Title: Theorizing Twilight: critical essays on what's at stake in a post-vampire world (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2011)  
Author: Maggie Parke & Natalie Wilson (eds)
Date ordered: 6 May 2012 
Price: £26.32
Why'd I buy it? Same reason as Bitten by Twilight: what's the deal with these books? Also, McFarland consistently turns out quality contributions to the vampire genre. Couldn't resist. Once again, it explores the impact of the franchise and fandom—and entwines them. One notable paper's titled, 'Fanpires: utilizing fan culture in event film adaptations'. Sidenote: it turns out the book's co-editor, Natalie Wilson, has ventured into Twilight before. Her 2011 book, Seduced by Twilight: the allure and contradictory messages of the popular saga is on my to-get list.

Hack n mod
I received a few more books today, but they'll stay under wraps till the thrilling conclusion of 'Book spree'! Stay tuned!

In the meantime, if readers have other recommendations for my trolley (dramatisation, left), feel free to make suggestions. I've already been eyeing off a few yet-to-be-published works, which'll be featured in an 'Upcoming books' segment.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Book spree, pt. 1

Been a while since I've been on a book-buying spree. However, this time, it wasn't Amazonian but AbeBooks...ian. Specifically, I was inspired by their free postage option and my vampire book 'starvation'. No surprises I tend to 'binge' when the opportunity presents itself.

I find buying in bulk to be far more beneficial than ordering individual items, especially when postage is factored in. My Amazon wish lists are bursting at the seams: they feature over a hundred book listings in total. Thought I'd lighten the load.

Several books I ordered via AbeBooks arrived during the week. Each will be accompanied by a brief overview. Dates at the top signify when the books arrived.


9 May 2012

Title: The theology of Dracula: reading the book of Stoker as sacred text (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2012) 
Author: Noël Montague-Étienne Rarignac
Date ordered: 1 May 2012
Price: £29.82
Why'd I buy it? The book's cover has captivated me for a long time. Fortunately, that superficial appreciation has been offset by an interest in the book's contents. What makes Dracula a 'sacred text' akin to the Bible? What are the theological angles explored? And so on. I got into a brief discussion of the book with John W. Morehead—and it arrived that same day! He warned me it would be a 'plodding read'. After reading his interview with Rarignac, that wouldn't surprise me. Nonetheless, it'll be interesting to see how the author makes his case.

Title: Vampires, burial, and death: folklore and reality (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2010) 
Author: Paul Barber
Date ordered: 1 May 2012
Price: £11.49
Why'd I buy it? Though I've known its not a new edition for a long time, I'm familiar with its updated contents: specifically, its new preface. You might recall that I gave a copy of the book to a mate as a birthday present (see: 'Second anniversary'). What you wouldn't know—or probably her, either—is that I read the book's preface in Reader's Feast before buying it and handing it over to her. Muhahaha! The preface is great and features a revision to one of his pet vampire theories, re: the origin of staking the undead. Part of the reason I finally decided to get it, was a brief Facebook convo I had with Kyle Germann.

Title: It started with Dracula: the Count, my mother, and me (n.p.: Bettie Youngs Books, 2011) 
Author: Jane Congdon
Date ordered: 1 May 2012
Price: £10.04
Why'd I buy it? I get a kick out of books devoted to vampire fandom. This book relates Congdon's interest in Dracula after watching Horror of Dracula (1958) and wraps it up in a personal journey. It's probably the only book of this nature that I've seen billed 'Self-Help/Inspiration'. It's also the first book out of this lot that I've started reading. As of this writing, I'm up to the twelfth chapter. I'm impressed by Congdon's candidness, comparable to Barbara Green's in Secrets of the grave (2001). It's certainly an interesting ride.

11 May 2012

Title: Vampyrernas historia (Stockholm: Norstedts, 2011) 
Author: Katarina Harrison Lindbergh
Date ordered: 1 May 2012
Price: £14.12 + £11.79 postage
Why'd I buy it? My rule of thumb is, if Niels recommends a vampire book: buy it. Sometimes, this goes beyond reason. In this case, the book's Swedish and I can't speak or read it. Nonetheless, it slakes my collector tastes. He mentioned the comparatively obscure tome in 'A matter of corporeal evidence' and 'This year's harvest'. It concerns itself with vampire archaeology—a subset of vampire research that interests me, along with folkloric aspects.

Title: The horror readers' advisory: the librarian's guide to vampires, killer tomatoes, and haunted houses (Chicago: American Library Association, 2004) 
Author: Becky Siegel Spratford and Tammy Hennigh Clausen
Date ordered: 1 May 2012
Price: £2.51 + £7.29 postage
Why'd I buy it? To be honest, I'm not entirely sure. I guess I liked the obscure angle to it; a book with a very specific focus. Plus, it was cheap. For some reason, I had it in my head that this would cater specifically to Young Adult fiction, but it doesn't. The 'advisory' angle is basically a list of recommendations for various horror subgenres. The vampire chapter is fairly small (pp. 39–48). Overall, the book reminds me of Patricia Altner's Vampire readings (1998). A nice little tome.

Title: In the shadow of the vampire: reflections from the world of Anne Rice (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1997) 
Author: Jan Marcus
Date ordered: 1 May 2012
Price: £2.51
Why'd I buy it? Mainly because it was referenced in Susannah Clements' The vampire defanged (2011), but also because it was cheap, too. However, I thought the 'reflections' would originate with Anne Rice, herself. Instead, the book is primarily composed of interviews with various people who've been inspired by Rice's vampire novels (pp. 1–138). Not what I had in mind. I guess it might be a useful insight into vampire fandom, though.

Title: The Halloween encyclopedia (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2003) 
Author: Lisa Morton
Date ordered: 1 May 2012
Price: £6.85
Why'd I buy it? I love Halloween. Simple, really. Better yet, I love books that give comprehensive coverage to the holiday, like Lesley Pratt Bannatyne's Halloween: an American holiday, an American history (1990). I've had my eye on Morton's book for a while. There's a second edition—prohibitively priced at US$75—but I prefer getting first editions, anyway, as they're like 'primary sources'. I get updated editions later. Not that I necessarily expected it to, but this edition features only the briefest of brief mentions of vampires/Dracula. I'm also disappointed to see that its entries don't feature references. I know this isn't standard encyclopedia practice, but J. Gordon Melton's The vampire book (1994; 1999; 2011) and Theresa Bane's Encyclopedia of vampire mythology (2010) have spoiled me.

Title: Der Vampirglaube in Südosteuropa: Studien zur Genese, Bedeutung und Funktion; Rumänien und der Balkanraum (Berlin: Weidler Buchverlag, 2001) 
Author: Peter Mario Kreuter
Date ordered: 1 May 2012
Price: £17.18 + £7.32
Why'd I buy it? I've heard a lotta good things about this. Also, it is devoted to my favourite vampire research angle: folklore. Kreuter's one of few vampire authors who concentrate their works on this field. This is the published version of his dissertation. For an insight into the author, check out my interview with him (part 1; part 2).

I've got a few more books on the way, so stay tuned for that write-up.
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