In The Universal Vampire: Origins and Evolution of a Legend, edited by Barbara Brodman and James E. Doan, the vampire is thoroughly examined as a literary and folkloric being. With subjects ranging from literature to medicine, this anthological text endeavors to examine the multicultural implications of the vampire figure as well as the nature of vampirism – both mythologically and as a collective imaginative reality. Brodman and Doan aimed to compile essays that “would explore in detail the origins and evolution of the legend” (vii). The text fulfills that goal in every capacity and provides readers with well-researched and comprehensive scholarship on the vampire.

The structure of the text guides readers through four spheres of vampiric study: “The Western Vampire,” “Medical Explanations for the Vampire,” “The Female Vampire,” and the “New and Old World Manifestations of the Vampire.” Each domain contains essays that explore more detailed subjects and present conclusions on how the monster has been reimagined to fulfill the needs of the current culture, evolving from demonic creatures of the night – like the Draugr – to the sex symbol of the last century.

Furthermore, the editors make sure to present each subsequent essay as a natural progression from the last (e.g. topical progression from broad to concentrated). In doing so, the text is fluid from section to section, and from essay to essay. While the essays chosen all fit into one of the four aforementioned categories, each includes a distinct topical focus not present in the essays that accompany it. Brodman and Doan’s arrangement of the essays ensures that the reader is not bogged down by the relevance or organization of any particular essay within the section. Rather, the placement mimics the intent to provide many analyses of varying facets within the mythology.

While the volume is cohesive and strong as a whole, there are particular essays that exemplify current practices of scholarship pertaining to the vampire. “‘Draugula’: The Draugr in Old Norse-Icelandic Saga Literature and His Relationship to the Post-Medieval Vampire Myth” by Matthias Teichert, gives thorough treatment to a variety of representations in Icelandic sagas that far predate Dracula. In the course of the piece, Teichert deftly examines how these sagas and written legends had a profound effect on modern interpretations of the vampire.

Second to Teichert’s essay, Edward O. Keith’s “Biomedical Origins of Vampirism” reflects a budding area of vampiric scholarship still in its infancy. With the explosion of scholarship in the medical humanities, it is no surprise that Brodman and Doan’s text devoted an entire section to essays exploring the connections between medical discovery and mythological evolution. It must be noted that this section remains the shortest in the volume – only three essays as opposed to four or five – but these essays provide insight into how medical discovery and anomaly has influenced the collective imaginations of mankind. Essays of varying topical foci contribute to the authority of the text as a whole.

The only perceived weakness of the text would lie in its placement of essays in sections that seem unrelated. Rather, these essays fill gaps in the analysis of origin and evolution that contribute to the multi-faceted study required by vampire criticism. One such piece is “Dracula’s Kitchen: A Glossary of Transylvanian Cuisine, Language, and Ethnography” by Cristina Artenie. Artenie’s essay analyzes significant inclusions of the exotic geography and culture of Eastern Europe as experienced by the “Englishman [Jonathan] Harker” (45) in Stoker’s Dracula. Furthermore, the essay expands on cultural foreignness and the relative isolation of Britain from the rest of Europe. The lenses used within the piece (e.g. food, language, and ethnography) provide a new look at a literary classic. While adhering to some standard practices of cultural criticism, Artenie’s fresh approach endorses her inclusion into The Universal Vampire.

A pitfall avoided by this particular text is the potential overuse of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In Part Three, or “The Female Vampire in World Myth and the Arts,” authors Nancy Schumann, Angela Tumini, Katherine Allocco, and Jamieson Ridenhour explore vampire lore in texts from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight to Carl Th. Dreyer’s Vampyr.  The range of literature examined within these essays speaks to the editorial expertise of Brodman and Doan. Rather than falling prey to the sheer quantity of vampire scholarship centered on Dracula, these two have included essays that explore the evolution of vampires in literary publications that represent the cross-cultural existence of vampire mythologies.

Though speculative interest in the vampire has undoubtedly risen due to a spike in public interest, this compilation proves the vampire never really left the academic mind.  Upon completion of the text, readers will be assured of its authority and significant contribution to current scholarship on the vampire. Though public interest will shift as new monsters occupy the foreground of consciousness, Brodman and Doan’s text proves that interest in the vampire will continue with the same fervor that it has for centuries. For any researcher in pursuit of modern scholarship on the vampire, The Universal Vampire: Origins and Evolution of Legend is both comprehensive in scope and detailed in research – a must read.

Brodman, Barbara and James E. Doan. The Universal Vampire: Origins and Evolution of a Legend. 1st ed. Lanham: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2013. Print.