Browning, John Edgar, and Caroline Joan Picart, Eds.: Draculas, Vampires, and Other Undead Forms: Essays on Gender, Race, and Culture

By McCarthy, Mark R. | Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Browning, John Edgar, and Caroline Joan Picart, Eds.: Draculas, Vampires, and Other Undead Forms: Essays on Gender, Race, and Culture


McCarthy, Mark R., Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts


Browning, John Edgar, and Caroline Joan Picart, eds. Draculas, Vampires, and Other Undead Forms: Essays on Gender, Race, and Culture. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2006. 338 pp. Hardback. ISBN 978-0810866966. $55.00.

The current zeitgeist is rife with the supernatural; zombies and otherworldly beings are making appearances everywhere in pop culture and academia. The vampire, however, is a recurring and ubiquitous creature that endures, defining cultural trends for several centuries. Draculas, Vampires, and Other Undead Forms, a collection divided into three sections grouped thematically as well as geographically, offers, as the title suggests, a critical look at this "undead" phenomenon in contemporary culture. The first section, "Tackling Race, Gender, and Modes of Narration in America," focuses on America, surveying questions of race, gender, and narration in settings as diverse as the vampire film, sf television, and filmic portrayals of serial killers. The second section, "Working Through Change and Xenophobia in Europe," moves to Europe, examining expressions of, and responses to, social change and xenophobia through vampire literature and film. The final section, "Imperialism, Hybridity, and Cross-Cultural Fertilization in Asia," locates the vampire well outside what is often considered its traditional haunts, exploring the intersections between the traditional Western vampire and related "undead forms" throughout the East, and paying attention to culturally specific and hybrid vampires like the goeng si and pontianak. Like the vampire form, this collection is an eclectic mix that is as varied as the mythos itself, showing the impact of Dracula and his kin on a global scale.

The vampire form's versatility is shown early, specifically in a pair of essays by Caroline Joan Picart and Cecil Greek in the first section of the anthology that explore the convergence of narratives surrounding the vampire and the serial killer, creatures that, according to the authors in "The Compulsions of Real/Reel Serial Killers and Vampires: Toward a Gothic Criminology," are "compelled to kill" (37). This essay investigates the similarities between the popular conceptions of serial killers and the vampire, showing how the "real/ reel" killer is Gothicized in his transition to screen, the result of a convergence of these myths. Here, the authors propose a convincing argument as to how society makes sense of the aberrant behavior of serial killers through Gothic tropes also in play in the vampire mythos, as well as a "slippage across the cinematic modes of 'documentary' and 'fiction'" (56). While this first essay focuses on the male serial killer, the authors' second essay, "Why Women Kill: Undead Imagery in the Cinematic Portrait of Aileen Wuornos," mobilizes the Gothic to examine the female serial killer.

The vampire's versatility is further demonstrated in this section through its appearance in the twenty-fourth century in the form of Star Trek: The Next Generation's Borg. Justin Everett argues in "The Borg as Vampire in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) and Star Trek: First Contact (1996): An Uncanny Reflection" that the post-human Borg, "like the vampire, consumes the human, eventually transforming the entire species into itself" (81). Everett focuses his inquiry on both the vampiric qualities of the Borg and the Borg queen as an analogue to Dracula himself, marrying the sometimes disparate traditions of the Gothic and sf in an entertaining and elucidating way. Lisa Nystrom's essay, "Blood, Lust, and the Fe/Male Narrative in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) and the Novel (1897)" inquires into the presentation of "feminine power" within Bram Stoker's Dracula and Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula and then extends this by interrogating the complex representations of such power in these works. Also included in the first section is Paul Lehman and John Edgar Browning's essay, "The Dracula and the Blacula (1972) Cultural Revolution," examining the reception, impact, and resonances of Blacula. …

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