Whedon Studies and Whedon Resources


"Joss is never about the stuff, but about the stuff behind the stuff" (Jane Espenson, Introduction to Finding Serenity)

Joss Whedon 

Joss Whedon is the creator of the TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly (with its movie sequel Serenity) and Dollhouse, as well as the Internet- and DVD-based Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, film scripts and a number of comic books. His TV productions have received a great deal of academic interest. Many scholarly works discussing them have been published - articles as well as books. New books on Buffy, Angel and Firefly still surface every year, although Buffy ended in 2003 after seven seasons, Angel in 2004 after five seasons, and Firefly originally only aired for a few episodes in 2002. The first Dollhouse book was published in 2010. There is a peer-reviewed journal, Slayage, dedicated entirely to Whedon studies. Academic meetings are held frequently, both as local symposia and as part of a series of international conferences organized by the Whedon Studies Association.

Why this unparalleled academic interest? I think the answer can be found in the quote from Jane Espenson above. Every single episode of Joss Whedon's show deals with something else than just the superficial goings-on, the "stuff". Whedon, and the brilliant writers that he choose to work with, also consistently bring up underlying themes that address what it means to be human: morality, gender issues, the role of science... For this reason there is a richness of topics to discuss, as should be evident from the list below.


Slayage. The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies/The Whedon Studies Association Journal. This site contains - besides essays published in the journal since its launch in 2001 - links to an encyclopaedia of Whedon scholars/critics, bibliographies of Whedon studies etc, and to "Watcher Junior", a journal for papers by undergraduate students. Information about the Slayage Conferences on the Whedonverses can also be found here.


Academic studies

The academic interest is to a high degree interdisciplinary, but can roughly be described as dealing with Whedon's work from the aspects of English/Art studies, Gender studies, Philosophy/Ethics/Religion, Science/Technology, Psychology and Fandom/Media theory. I will list the books that I am aware of in each field, and comment on them in the cases where I have read them. I end with cross-disciplinary collections.


English/Art studies

Scholars in these fields discuss the TV shows as works of Art, in the same way as they would a film, novel or play. Thus these subjects by their nature overarch the ones below, but also have their own specific themes such as the use of language, sound and light.


Academic works:

Adams., M. 2003. Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon. Oxford University Press USA. One of the most characteristic aspects of Buffy is its unique and innovative use of the English language, and Dr. Michael Adams has written a detailed treatise on this subject. With an introduction by Buffy writer Jane Espenson. The first part of the book is worth reading for anyone professionally interested in theory about jargon and slang. I'm not, but I enjoyed it anyway, and it made me appreciate the writers' linguistic talents even more.  The second half of the book is a glossary, showing where Buffyverse words first appeared and how they have been subsequently derived (including not only scripts to the show, but also spin-off novels, fan postings etc.). 

Wilcox Why Buffy Matters

Wilcox, R. V. 2005. Why Buffy matters: the art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. IB Tauris. Written by Professor of English Rhonda Wilcox, the world's foremost academic authority on Buffy, this is the book that convinced me that Buffy is really worth all the attention it is receiving by scholars (and fans!). It is a very enjoyable book which will show the reader new dimensions of the show.


Battis, J. 2005. Blood Relations: Chosen Families In Buffy The Vampire Slayer And Angel. McFarland. Dr. Jes Battis is an assistant professor in English at the University of Regina. The "chosen family" is an important concept in Whedon's shows, i.e. your family is the people you choose to live with, not necessarily your blood relations. According to descriptions in reviews, this book could also have been placed under "gender studies".


Pateman, M. 2006. The Aesthetics of Culture in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". McFarland. Matthew Pateman is a professor of literature and expressive arts at the University of Hull. He teaches popular culture using Buffy as the focus, and this book presumably summarizes some of his insights.


Abbott, S. 2009. Angel (TV Milestones). Wayne State University Press. Dr. Stacey Abbott follows up her edited volume "Reading Angel" (see below) with a book of her own discussing the spin-off from Buffy.


Attinello, P., J. K. Halfyard, and V. Knights, editors. 2009. Music, Sound and Silence in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". Ashgate. Dr. Paul Attinello is based in the School of Arts and Cultures at the University of Newcastle, UK, Dr. Janet K. Halfyard is Head of Undergraduate Studies at the UCE Birmingham Conservatoire, UK and Dr. Vanessa Knights formerly University of Newcastle, UK. They have edited a volume focusing entirely on the use of music and other sounds and non-sounds in Buffy. And, yes, they do cover the amazing musical episode of Buffy.

Comeford, A. and Burnett, T., editors. 2010. The literary Angel: Essays on influences and traditions reflected in the Whedon series. McFarland & Co. AmiJo Comeford is an assistant professor of English at Dixie State College, Utah, and Tamy Burnett is a lecturer in English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This collection bring together essays that focus on Angel as a text to be addressed within the wider fields of narrative and literature.



Gender studies

Whedon has proclaimed himself to be a feminist, and has said that his vision for Buffy the Vampire Slayer was to create an iconic strong female character. Perhaps for this reason, the show attracted the interest of scholars and critics in the field from the start, and Buffy is used as study material for gender studies in university courses all over the world.


Academic works include several chapters in the collections below and in Slayage, and also:

Jowett Sex and the Slayer

Jowett, L. 2005. Sex and the Slayer: A gender studies primer for the "Buffy" fan. Wesleyan University Press. Dr. Lorna Jowett is a senior lecturer in Media and American Studies at The University of Northampton, UK. This, just as the title says, is the perfect introduction to gender studies, not only of Buffy but in general. A sample chapter can be found here.


Natale, M. 2005. Gender in Buffy, die Vampirjägerin. Diplom.de. For those literate in German.

Waggoner, E.B., editor. 2010. Sexual rhetoric in the works of Joss Whedon: New essays. McFarland & Co.
Erin B. Waggoner is an adjunct professor in Kentucky. This is a collection of essays on the "sexual rhetoric" not only in Buffy but also all the other Whedon works, including even the comics. Topics include virginity, lesbianism,  homoeroticism, gender stereotypes and sexual binaries.


Whedon's shows have strong morals, although far from black and white in its depiction of good versus evil. Furthermore, Buffy became a major target for "Moral majority"-type organisations seeking to purify TV, in turn leading others to rise to its defence. And Whedon has stated that he is an atheist, but his shows often have themes touching on religion, such as redemption and the nature of the soul. Thus there is a lot to debate, and many have used the shows as springboards for discussion of philosophy, ethics and religion.


Academic works:

Stevenson, G. 2003. Televised morality: the case of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Hamilton Books. Greg Stevenson is Professor of Religion at Rochester College, Michigan
. His book is a very readable treaty of the moral discourse in Buffy, and is sure to give new insights to scholars and fans alike.

Riess What Would Buffy Do? 


Reiss, J. 2004. What would Buffy do? The Vampire Slayer as spiritual guide. Jossey-Bass. Jana Riess holds a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University. She was Religion Book Review Editor for Publishers Weekly 1999-2008 and now works as editor and writer. This book explores the moral, spiritual and religious themes in Buffy in a very accessible way; it is enjoyable reading for both fans and scholars. It was the first "academic" Whedon study that I read, and it made me come back for more!

A sample chapter can be found here.


Richardson, J. M., and J. D. Rabb. 2007. The existentialist Joss Whedon: evil and human freedom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Serenity. McFarland. Doctors of English and Philosophy, respectively, Richardson & Rabb argue convincingly that Whedon's productions should be read as a sustained argument in favour of an existentialist moral philosophy. Some early passages are a bit hard to get through for us non-philosophers, but it's definitely worth it to persevere.


Koontz, K. D. 2008. Faith and Choice in the Works of Joss Whedon. McFarland. K. Dale Koontz is a communications instructor at Cleveland Community College in Shelby, North Carolina. This work examines several of Whedon's characters from the point of view of religion and belief systems.



Firefly and the movie sequel Serenity belong to the Science Fiction genre, in that they are set in the future. Buffy, Angel and Dollhouse also contain SF elements in the form of futuristic technology. Whedon's productions follow the traditions of the SF genre in that they are often critical in their presentation of science and technology, delivering warnings about possible misuse and consequences for humans. Buffy and the spin-off series Angel also contain strong Fantasy elements, and some scholars see the magic in these shows as metaphors for technology, as well.

This subject is most frequently discussed as a subdiscipline of the ones mentioned above, i.e. in relation to literature and to moral or philosophical aspects. My own contribution to Whedon studies is no exception; it can be found here.



This is another subject which is most frequently discussed in relation to others mentioned above, for instance moral psychology or comments on the futuristic neuropsychological technology employed in Firefly, Serenity and Dollhouse.

Examples of academic works include:

Davodson Psychology of Joss Whedon

Davidson, J., editor. 2008. The Psychology of Joss Whedon: An Unauthorized Exploration of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. BenBella Books. Dr. Joy Davidson has collected works from all over the broad field of psychology - evolutionary psychology, neuropsychology, clinical and moral aspects etc. The book seems to be intended more as an introduction to psychology, using the Whedon shows as an entry point, than as a contribution to Whedon studies. There is still a lot in here that will interest both scholars and fans.


Fandom/Media theory

The very devoted fan base for Joss Whedon's productions, which is very active on the Internet, has in itself attracted academic interest. One reason for this is that Buffy is one of the first TV shows where writers and actors interacted closely with fans, discussing the episodes online. Fan fiction (fans writing short stories featuring the show's characters) even seems to have influenced the writers.

Examples of academic works include papers in the final section of Wilcox & Lavery, Fighting the forces; see below) and:

Kirby-Diaz, M., editor. 2009. Buffy and Angel Conquer the Internet: Essays on Online Fandom. McFarland. Mary Kirby-Diaz is a professor of sociology at Farmingdale State College in New York, with a study specialty in pedagogy and community mediation. This volume collects ten essays analyzing the sociology and psychology of the Buffy fandom and how it uses the Internet.


Cross-disciplinary collections

A number of edited volumes have been published (and more are in the pipeline), collecting the works of scholars and critics in many fields:

Wilcox & Lavery

Wilcox, R., and D. Lavery, editors. 2002. Fighting the Forces: What's at Stake in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"? Rowman & Littlefield. This is the book that started it all, in a way. Professors of English Rhonda V. Wilcox and David Lavery write - on the Site History page of Slayage - that they received over 140 proposals for inclusion in this volume. They also learned that two other collections were on the way. Because of this scholarly interest they started the online journal. The book collects a great number of essays covering just about every aspect. It is necessary reading for the Whedon scholar/critic, and there is a lot that will interest the serious fan.


Kaveney, R., editor. 2002. Reading the "Vampire Slayer": The Unofficial Critical Companion to Buffy and Angel. Tauris Parke Paperbacks.

Kaveney, R., editor. 2004. Reading the "Vampire Slayer": The new, updated, unofficial guide to "Buffy" and "Angel", 2nd edition. Tauris Parke Paperbacks.

The first edition of "Reading the Vampire Slayer", edited by Roz Kaveney, was presumably one of the other collections that Wilcox & Lavery had heard about (see above). This collection contains very interesting and useful contributions by scholars from various fields, and brief episode summaries in the end, which I refer to constantly. The second edition is updated to include all seasons of Buffy and four seasons of Angel, and some chapters have been replaced.


Abbott, S., editor. 2005. Reading Angel: The TV Spin-off with a Soul. IB Tauris. A collection of essays by academics from mostly the U.K. edited by Dr. Stacey Abbott, a Lecturer in Film and Television Studies at Roehampton University.


Levine, E., and L. Parks, editors. 2008. Undead TV: Essays on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". Duke University Press. Dr. Elana Levine is an assistant professor in the Dept of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Lisa Parks is Associate Professor of Film Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The book collects eight essays plus an introduction by the editors.


Wilcox, R. V., and Cochran, T., editors. 2008. Investigating Firefly and Serenity: Science Fiction on the Frontier. I.B. Tauris. A collection of over 20 essays on Firefly and its movie sequel, edited by Wilcox & Cochran of the Whedon Studies Association.


Dial-Driver, E., S. Emmons-Featherston, J. Ford, and C. A. Taylor, editors. 2008. The Truth of "Buffy": Essays on Fiction Illuminating Reality. McFarland. Emily Dial-Driver is a professor of English and Sally Emmons-Featherston an associate professor of English, both at Rogers State University. Jim Ford is an associate professor of Philosophy and Carolyn Anne Taylor an associate professor of Political Science. This should ensure a wide scope in this recent collection of essays on Buffy by fifteen authors.


Edwards, L. Y., E. L. Rambo, and J. B. South, editors. 2009. Buffy Goes Dark: Essays on the Final Two Seasons of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" on Television. McFarland. Lynne Y. Edwards is associate professor of media and communication studies at Ursinus College. Elizabeth L. Rambo is associate professor of English at Campbell University. James B. South is associate professor and chair of the philosophy department at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The book collects fourteen essays discussing seasons six and seven of Buffy from various perspectives. Sometimes I think these two last seasons are the best, because they really take the  show to a more adult and mature level, and when you re-watch the earlier seasons they resonate so much more because of having experienced seasons six and seven. I really liked how the contributors  to this collection clarified all the various aspects that are so different in these seasons - and yet equally lovable!


Durand, K., editor. 2009. "Buffy" Meets the Academy: Essays on the Episodes and Scripts as Texts. McFarland. Kevin K. Durand is an associate professor of philosophy at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He has collected a number of academic essays on Buffy covering various topics, with the common intention that the text of Buffy should be the primary subject, rather than it being used as a way to explore other concepts. Sounds promising. A sample chapter can be found here.

Kreider, J.A. and Winchell, M.K., editors. 2010. Buffy in the classroom: Essays on teaching with the Vampire Slayer. McFarland & Co.  Jodie A. Kreider is an academic historian and lecturer in arts, humanities and social sciences at the University of Denver. Meghan K. Winchell is an associate professor of history at Nebraska Wesleyan University. As the title reveals, this book collects essays exploring the ways in which Buffy is used in teaching various subjects at colleges and universities all over the world.

Other resources for Whedon studies

Lots of books on the Whedon shows have been published (and a couple about Whedon himself) many of which are enjoyable and also useful resources for academic Whedon studies. The Whedonverse has also expanded to include fiction novels and comics.

Non-fiction but not quite academic books


Havens, C. 2003. Joss Whedon: The genius behind Buffy. BenBella Books. Funny and useful biography of Joss Whedon.

Yeffeth Seven Seasons

Yeffeth, G., editor. 2003. Seven seasons of Buffy: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Discuss Their Favorite Television Show. BenBella Books. I didn't include this collection (and the three similar ones below) among the "academic" titles, because most of the contributions are written by writers of fiction rather than academics. Reviews suggest that it is well worth reading, in spite (or precisely because) of this.


Yeffeth, G., editor. 2004. Five seasons of Angel: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Discuss Their Favorite Vampire. BenBella Books. And here Angel got the same treatment.


Espenson, J., editor. 2005. Finding Serenity: Anti-heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers In Joss Whedon's Firefly. BenBella Books.

Espenson, J., editor. 2007. Serenity Found: More Unauthorized Essays on Joss Whedon's Firefly Universe. BenBella Books.

Jane Espenson, one of the writers of Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse (but also a linguist) has edited these two collections of essays written by fiction writers (and one by actor Nathan Fillion, who plays Captain Malcolm Reynolds).


Billson, A. 2005. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. BFI Publishing. This is film critic Anne Billson's personal take on Buffy - and why, according to her, the show is one of the most important television shows in the history of the medium.


Lavery, D. 2011?. Joss: A Creative Portrait of Joss Whedon, Maker of the Whedonverses. IB Tauris. A new biography by Professor of English David Lavery, one of the founders of Slayage. Described as an "intellectual biography", so we'll see if I have to move it up one notch to the academic titles. This title seems to have been delayed, I haven't seen it for sale yet.

Espenson, J., editor. 2010. Inside Joss's Dollhouse: From Alpha to Rossum. Ben Bella Books. Jane Espenson has edited also this collection of essays that discuss a range of aspects touched upon in the two seasons of Dollhouse. They were picked from the contributions to a competition where scholars and fans and scholarly fans all could enter.


Companion volumes


Tracy, K. 1998. The Girl's Got Bite: The Unofficial Guide to Buffy's World. Renaissance Books. Kathleen Tracy's unofficial guide to Buffy came early and thus focuses on career backgrounds of the actors, interviews and such, besides episode summaries.


Genge, N. 1998. The Buffy Chronicles: The Unofficial Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Three Rivers Press. Another early guide.


The Watcher's guides, volumes 1-3 1999-2004 (Pocket Books) are the "official" companions to Buffy. They contain episode summaries, actor biographies, interviews with cast and crew, trivia etc. Available in a boxed set of all volumes.


Golden, C., Holden, N. 1999. The Sunnydale High Yearbook. A fake yearbook for Buffy's graduation from high school after season three, complete with fun scribbling by her friends. Only for the die-hard fan.


Golden, C., Bisette, S.R., Sniegoski, T.E. 2000. The Monster Book. Pocket Books. This volume contains background on the vampires, demons and other monsters in Buffy but also far more than this; it is a full treatise on such characters in fiction - generally and historically.

Topping Complete Slayer

Topping, K. 2004. The Complete Slayer: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Every Episode of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Virgin Books. A new edition of Keith Topping's earlier guides, now covering all seasons in one volume.     


Buffy Script Books were published by Pocket Books from 2001, ending in mid season three. Scripts of all shows can however be found on the Internet, for instance here. However, they lack Whedon's funny stage directions.


The Musical Script Book: Once More, With Feeling was published by Pocket Books in 2002. This book contains not only the script and lyrics to the musical episode, but also background material and the music sheets to the songs (which were composed by Whedon himself and sung and danced by the actors).


Holder, N., Mariotte, J. 2002. Angel: The Casefiles: Volume 1. Pocket Books.

Gallagher, D.G., Ruditis, P. 2005. Angel: The Casefiles. Volume 2. Pocket Books.

These volumes do for Angel what the Watcher's Guides did for Buffy.


Miles, L., Pearson, L., Dickson, C. 2003. Dusted: The Unauthorized Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Mad Norwegian Press. What the title says. One of several unauthorized episode guides to Buffy.


Stafford, N. 2004. Once Bitten. ECW Press. Unauthorized episode guides to Angel by Nikki Stafford.


Topping, K. 2004. Slayer: A Totally Awesome Collection of Buffy Trivia. Virgin Books. Trivia, lists and miscellaneous information from Buffy.


Topping, K. 2005. Hollywood Vampire: The Apocalypse. Keith Topping has also written companion volumes to Angel, and this one covers the final season.


Brezenoff, S. The Quotable Slayer. 2005. Pocket Books. A collection of some of the most memorable quotes from Buffy.  


Serenity: The official visual companion. 2005. Titan Books.

Firefly: The official companion Volume 1. 2006. Titan Books.

Firefly: The official companion Volume 2. 2007. Titan Books.

These beautiful volumes contain shooting scripts, pictures etc. In the strange world of Firefly, companion volumes first appeared after that of the movie sequel, several years after the show aired briefly in 2002 - and a third volume was published in 2010 (Firefly: Still Flying). The dedicated fans of Firefly (the "Browncoats") ensure that spaceship Serenity of the Firefly class will not stop flying anytime soon.


Angel Scriptbooks Volumes 1-2 were published by IDW Publishing 2006-2007. They contain shootings scripts from select episodes and artistic illustrations by Jeff Johnson.


Stafford, N. 2007. Bite me! ECW Press.  Updated edition of Nikki Stafford's very thorough and insightful episode guides to Buffy. Lots of other material as well.


Norris, G.L. 2008. The Q Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Alyson Publications. The most amazing thing about this little book is probably that new guides are still being published, so many years after Buffy ended. Much of the book consists of short episode guides arranged according to context rather than chronically, which is not very practical, and it is thus not a very useful book for someone who already has another guide. Contains brief interviews with Christopher Golden, Armin Shimerman (Principal Snyder) and Camden Toy (who played several monsters).


Mestre, R. 2008. The Big Book of Buffy Bites 2008: The Ultimate Resource for the Buffy Fanatic. Lulu.com. And to prove the point, here's yet another new companion volume to complement the official ones.    





Tales of the Slayer (Pocket Books). Several collections of novels featuring the Slayers that came before Buffy Summers. By various authors, including Joss Whedon.


Buffyverse novels (Pocket Books). About seventy novels set in the Buffyverse were published, 1997-2008. Publication has now ceased. At first, the novels were intended for a teen audience, just like the early seasons of Buffy, but they matured along with the show. I particularly like the ones by Christopher Golden, who has also written comics, computer games, role playing games and companion volumes to Buffy.

Starting in 2010, the novels are being re-published by Simon Pulse in collections of several novels, in a new order consistent with the inner chronology of the show.



Comic Books

 Buffy Comic

Buffy comics have been published by Dark Horse since 1998, culminating in Joss Whedon taking the helm himself for Buffy Season Eight - telling the story of what happened after the show ended.

The comics before this (where Whedon was not personally involved) can be found collected in a series of Buffy Omnibus volumes (1-7), whereas Season Eight can be found in TPB (trade paperback) collections of five original magazines in each (making up an "arc", usually written by the same author and more or less connected to each other), starting with Long Way Home (2007), written by Whedon himself. Other writers known from Whedon productions, such as Jane Espenson, have also contributed arcs.

New issues of Season Eight are published monthly (plus some one-shot issues) until the series ends with issue #40 around New Year 2010/2011, and a Season Nine is planned.


Various authors. 2007. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Panel to Panel. Dark Horse. A beautiful introduction to the Buffy comics - and to the writers and artists that have worked on them over the years.


Tales of the Vampires. Collections of vampire comics set in the Buffyverse, published by Dark Horse.


Serenity comics, set in the universe from Firefly and Serenity. Published by Dark Horse.


Fray, Future Slayer, written by Joss Whedon, published by Dark Horse. As the title indicates this is set in the future. Fray also makes an appearance in Buffy Season Eight when Buffy travels to the future.  


Angel and Spike comics (set in the Buffyverse) are published by IDW Publishing.
"Angel after the fall" is a recent series that was at least initially supervised by Joss Whedon and thus tells the semi-official story of what happened after the show ended.
The titles will move to Dark Horse in 2011, bringing all Buffyverse characters together under the same roof.


Astonishing X-men and Runaways: Dead End Kids comics written by Joss Whedon are published by Marvel.

Other useful links

Alysa Hornick's very useful Bibliography of  Whedon studies - articles in journals as well as books

Joss Whedon on Internet Movie Database

Buffyverse Wiki

Even more information than on Wikipedia proper. Constantly updated.

Firefly Wiki
And the same thing for the Firefly universe.


Dollhouse Wiki

Dollhouse has not yet found the heart of the fans to the same extent as the earlier shows, so updates are still slow here.



This is one of several blogs that report news from around the Internet concerning Joss Whedon's productions as well as everything remotely linked to them. However, it is the most "official" one in that Whedon himself posts here when he has something to say to the fans. The comments following each front page entry often evolves into serious discussion. Highly recommended.



Here's another, more graphically oriented and less serious blog. A must for fans.



One of many sites with episode guides, scripts etc. for Buffy. Many old sites of this type are not working anymore, but at last check this one still was, and it's extremely useful.


Buffyverse Dialogue Database

Who said what and when?


All Things Philosophical on BtVS and AtS

The complete compendium to everything related to philosophy in the Buffyverse.



A forum where Whedon fans can discuss just about everything.



Another Whedon fan forum.


A site focusing on the Buffyverse novels, which also includes interviews, even recent ones.


Buffy the gene

A fruit fly gene presumably named from Buffy. Molecular biologists are such geeks.

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