Slayers and their Vampires

A Cultural History of Killing the Dead
Bruce A. McClelland
The first book to explore the origins of the vampire slayer


In contemporary Western popular culture, the vampire has evolved into one of the most recognizable symbols of evil. Yet less has been said—and even less has been understood—about its nemesis, the vampire slayer. Slayers and Their Vampires is the first work to explore how the vampire slayer began, and it goes further to ask why the true history of the vampire slayer has been so long ignored.

Author Bruce McClelland describes how the literary and screen dramas obscured the darker nature of the slayer, whose persecution of a corpse is accepted as heroic rather than corrupt. McClelland refuses to accept the heroism of most slayers like Dracula's Van Helsing or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who are routinely presented as superheroes acting above the law because of their special knowledge. Instead, he presents a nonromanticized history of the earliest vampire rituals that shows how much creative license figured into the refashioning of the vampire for the entertainment of the West.

With its wide range of inquiry, this book will appeal not only to fans of Dracula, vampire, Buffy, Anne Rice, and Anita Blake lore, but also to students of anthropology, sociology, European religious history, Slavistics, folklore, and cinematic and literary history.

Bruce A. McClelland is a writer, translator, and vampirologist in Gordonsville, Virginia. He received his Ph.D. in Slavic Studies at the University of Virginia. His work on vampires has appeared in Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies. He has published four books of poetry, a book of translations of the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, and his translations of Russian poetry have appeared in journals, books, and anthologies.

Praise / Awards

  • "A fascinating comparison of the original vampire myths to their later literary transformations."
    —Adam Morton, author of On Evil

  • "Shades of Van Helsing! Vampirologist extraordinaire Bruce McClelland has managed that rarest of feats: developing a radically new and thoroughly enlightening perspective on a topic of eternal fascination. Ranging from the icons of popular culture to previously overlooked details of Balkan and Slavic history and folk practice, he has rethought the borders of life and death, good and evil, saint and sinner, vampires and their slayers. Excellent scholarship, and a story that never flags."
    —Bruce Lincoln, Caroline E. Haskell Professor of History of Religions, University of Chicago, and author of Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship, Authority: Construction and Corrosion, and Death, War, and Sacrifice: Studies in Ideology and Practice

  • "McClelland's brilliant insight in Slayers and Their Vampires is how much the living need the living-dead. From the folkloric tradition down to the Buffy, the vampire slayer is twinned forever with the revenants she would slay, as though they, and we, can never escape our evil twin who lives in the shadows of death. The story of vampires is the story of the human soul struggling with its darkest desire, to become death in place of dying, as though one could master death by mimicking it."
    —C. Fred Alford, Professor of Government and Distinguished Scholar-Teacher, University of Maryland, College Park, and author of What Evil Means to Us

  • "The vampire slayer is our protector, our hero, our Buffy. But how much do we really know about him---or her? Very little, it turns out, and Bruce McClelland shows us why: because the vampire slayer is an unsettling figure, almost as disturbing as the evil she is set to destroy. Prepare to be frightened...and enlightened."
    —Corey Robin, author of Fear: The History of a Political Idea

  • "What is unique about this book is that it is the first of its kind to focus on the vampire hunter, rather than the vampire. As such, it makes a significant contribution to the field. This book will appeal to scholars and researchers of folklore, as well as anyone interested in the literature and popular culture of the vampire."
    —Elizabeth Miller, author of Dracula and A Dracula Handbook, and editor of Dracula: The Shade and the Shadow

  • "From the Balkan Mountains to Beverly Hills Bruce has mapped the vampire's migration. There's no better guide for the trek."
    —Jan L. Perkowski, Professor, Slavic Department, University of Virginia, and author of Vampires of the Slavs and The Darkling: A Treatise on Slavic Vampirism

  • "Slayers and Their Vampires is a particularly useful collection of essays, as almost all ten chapters are related to the [Slavic] region's history, culture, literature, and/or folklore in significant and most interesting ways. ... McClelland adds a contemporary and important thematic corolary to the established canon on the subject of vampires with his emphasis on the seer or slayer."
    Slavic and East European Journal

  • "Bruce McClelland's monograph... is a fascinating read for both specialists and fans of vampire folklore and fiction alike."
    —Svitlana Krys, Canadian Slavonic Papers

  • Winner, 2007 Lord Ruthven Award

Look Inside

Copyright © 2006, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 280 pages.
  • 2 maps and 2 illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2010
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02623-4

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