Academic journal article Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)

Popular Culture Studies across the Curriculum

Academic journal article Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)

Popular Culture Studies across the Curriculum

Article excerpt

Popular Culture Studies across the Curriculum Ray B. Browne, Editor. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co., 2005.

Who, having published some seventy-five books, having helped found the Popular Culture Association, and having edited the Journal of Popular Culture, would edit a new provocative book in 2005? Only one name pops up: Ray B. Browne. And this is the book.

The theme emerged in many earlier Browne books but is carried forward here. No discipline is complete unto itself. In interdisciplinary studies, popular culture is a universal theme.

The eighteen essays, four by Browne, explore the way that popular culture studies and deepens study in specialized fields, including the humanities, social sciences, religion, philosophy, geography, women's studies, economics, and sports. They deal not only with colleges and universities, but also suggest how popular culture is or should be used in business college curricula and other specialized institutions.

Why? Because popular culture is the engine that drives culture toward more democracy. To comprehend the powers that control society today and have always controlled them, we must understand everyday cultures. No discipline is an island unto itself.

Browne's introduction and essays do indeed cut across the curriculum. He begins by exploring English literature departments as centers of the humanities. Having received his own PhD in English at UCLA in the 1940s, he explored the concept of what constitutes literature. It has undergone a radical change since then, fired by political and social energies.

One result was the founding of American studies programs that included not only literature, but also history and folklore, all important to Browne. He wanted to combine and integrate them. "From that platform," he writes, "I have kept reaching out throughout my career" (10). The bounds of fiction would have to include peoples and cultures hitherto largely ignored. Browne's urge to reach out continued. American studies continued to be largely by, for, and about the elite. New approaches must be fostered.

At the first annual meeting of the American Studies Association in 1969, Browne offered to sponsor the next annual meeting at his university in Bowling Green, Ohio, if the sponsors would agree to give him a time slot to establish a Popular Culture Association, which had been formed in 1967. …

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