April 02, 2005

Alan Dundes, R.I.P.

With the deaths of Pope John Paul and Terry Schiavo dominating the news, I wanted to acknowledge the passing of one of the great figures of popular culture scholarship -- folklorist Alan Dundes.

People often ask me what do you study when you get a degree of popular culture. It's difficult to answer, since popular culture isn't a discipline. It isn't even an approach. Popular culture is a body of subject matter, usually the stuff that they don't let you study in school.

But Alan Dundes, a fixture at the University of California Berkeley, spent a lifetime analyzing the texture of everyday life. The New York Times published a wonderful obituary today that captures his spirit well (free registration might be required).