Popular Culture Studies — This past week several members of our English Department traveled to New Orleans to participate in the 2018 Conference of the Popular Culture Association in the South. Shannon Bauerle, a graduate of our MA program and a faculty member in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, organized a roundtable discussion of the program’s annual performance based on Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. The participants in the roundtable discussion included Shannon, Roberta Dunn, Tiffany Morin, Angie Williams, and Alison Walsh. During their presentation, they discussed how this annual performance has evolved beyond the scope of Ensler’s original work. Aaron Toscano also attended this conference where he delivered a paper titled “Video Games and the Neoliberal Hero: Capitalism, Postmodernism, and American Exceptionalism.”
Our English Department’s presence at this conference reflects the department’s varied contributions to the study of popular culture. Over the years, many of our faculty members have taught courses that deal with popular culture. A few examples include Chris Arvidson’s course on Baseball in Film, Aaron Gwyn’s course on the television series Breaking Bad, and Katie Hogan’s course titled Girl Cultures. Our faculty have also published scholarly works that deal with popular culture. A few examples include Pilar Blitvich’s Real Talk: Reality Television and Discourse Analysis in Action, Sarah Minslow’s recently published essay that deals with the impact of Winnie-the-Pooh on children’s popular culture in America, and Alan Rauch’s scholarship on the portrayal of dolphins in popular culture.
The field of popular culture studies as an academic specialty got its start at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), which is where I earned my doctoral degree. Ray Browne, a longtime English professor at BGSU, began building the field of popular culture studies shortly after he joined the English Department at BGSU in 1967. He founded the Journal of Popular Culture in 1967, established the Center for Popular Culture Studies in 1968, and launched the Popular Culture Association in 1970. He went on to establish BGSU’s Department of Popular Culture in 1973 and then founded the Journal of American Culture in 1979. He and his wife, Pat Browne, also organized and developed what is now known as the Ray and Pat Browne Popular Culture Library.
When I arrived at BGSU in 1980, Ray was still teaching, and I had the privilege of taking several courses from him. Also at BGSU, I met my friend and frequent collaborator, Kathy Merlock Jackson. Since we both were strongly influenced by Ray, we decided to dedicate our book Disneyland and Culture to Ray and Pat Browne. In our dedication, we praise their “enduring work in popular culture.” As I see it, the prominent role that popular culture studies plays in UNC Charlotte’s English Department is a testament to Ray’s enduring legacy.
Kudos — As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of the English Department. Here is the latest news:
Janaka Lewis recently participated in a roundtable presentation titled “Teaching in the Age of Trump and Black Lives Matter: Possibility, Pedagogy, and Positionality” at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) Conference held in Indianapolis.
Heather Vorhies recently learned that her article titled “Ordering the Mind: Reading Style in Hugh Blair” has been accepted by Rhetoric Review. This is a top-tier journal in Heather’s field.
Upcoming Events and Meetings — Here is a list of upcoming events and meetings:
October 12 — The English Department meeting will take place on Friday, October 12, from 11:00-12:15 in the Conference Room (Fretwell 280C).
Quirky Quiz Question — When the members of our English Department went to New Orleans to participate in the 2018 Conference of the Popular Culture Association in the South, they flew in and out of the major airport in New Orleans. This airport is named for a famous former resident of New Orleans. What is the name of this famous person?