Browne Popular Culture Library
PCL MS-107: Ray B. Browne Collection
Ray B. Browne was born on January 15, 1922 in Millport, Alabama. His father, a banker, moved the family around the South until the stock market crash of 1929. They returned to Millport where Ray would graduate from high school in 1940. Browne would receive a BA in English literature from the University of Alabama in 1943. He enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II and spent two of his three years of service in Europe.
After the war, he enrolled at Columbia University and received his MA in English Literature in 1947, writing his thesis on '"H.G. Wells and the 'New Woman.'"' He taught from 1947 to 1950 at the University of Nebraska before enrolling in graduate school at UCLA in 1950. From 1951 to 1956 Browne was a graduate assistant and acting instructor. It was here that he pursued his interest in Alabama folk culture, mentored by Herman Melville scholar, Leon Howard as well as Wayland Hand, professor of German and folklore. He received his PhD in American literature, folklore and history from UCLA in 1956. He accepted a position in the English department at the University of Maryland. While at Maryland his interest in American Studies expanded after meeting Carl Bode, one of the founders of the American Studies Association. Bode was part of a growing number of scholars who believed that academia needed inter and multi-disciplinary approaches to the study of the humanities and of literature. Browne embraced this view.
After not receiving tenure at the University of Maryland, he assumed a post in the English department at Purdue in 1960. Between 1965 and 1966 he was instrumental in arranging two Purdue conferences intended to broaden the traditionally narrow approach to studying culture. Browne would remain at Purdue until Bowling Green State University offered him a folklore professorship in 1967. In 1968 research facilities began to emerge as the Center for the Study of Popular Culture and the Popular Culture Library. In 1970 the Popular Press was established. Gradually he introduced a popular culture curriculum into his folklore classes, creating much unpopularity within the English department. This in turn would lead to the establishment in 1971-1972 of a separate Department of Popular Culture at BGSU chaired by Ray Browne. After being away for a year at the University of Maryland, he returned to BGSU in 1976 and remained until his retirement in 1992.
Browne had essentially created an academic base of action for the study of popular culture at BGSU that would advocate an approach that would avoid the narrow intellectual and elitist thinking endemic to much academic inquiry.
He carried this initiative to the national level understanding the strengths and weaknesses of such organizations as the American Studies Association, the American Folklore Society and the Modern Language Association. In 1969 Browne sponsored a national meeting of the ASA in Toledo for the purpose of establishing the Popular Culture Association. The PCA would hold its first meeting in 1971 at Michigan State. In 1979 the American Culture Association would be formed and both organizations would hold joint national meetings annually. By the late 1970's an international PCA would be established.
In addition to founding the Journal of Popular Culture, Browne, working with his wife Pat, was instrumental in launching such publications as Clues, Popular Music and Society, Abstracts of Popular Culture, Journal of American Culture and the Journal of Popular Culture and Film. He has written or co-edited over fifty books of his own and published articles and reviews too numerous to mention. In 1986 the Popular Culture Library collection was named for Ray and Pat Browne.
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