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Dr. Tony Vinci
June 07, 2017 : Researching America's popular culture archives


Researching America's popular culture archives


For the second year in a row, Bowling Green State University hosted select scholars, which included Ohio University Chillicothe’s Dr. Tony Vinci, from around the world to research and develop projects from the Ray and Pat Browne Popular Culture Library.


More than 20 scholars attended the five-day summer research institute where utilized their time and research efforts studying aspects of the Ray and Pat Brown Popular Culture Library to publish works in the field of popular culture.  The Ray and Pat Browne Popular Culture Library for Popular Culture Studies was founded in 1969 and is the most comprehensive repository of its kind in the United States featuring such works as popular fiction, popular entertainment, graphic arts, magazines and more.


OUC Assistant Professor of English, Dr. Vinci, focused on three primary areas for his research while attending: ghost stories written by women in the 1950s and 60s; Philip K. Dick, a notable science fiction writer; and Rossum’s Universal Robots, a play written in the 1920s which introduced the word “robot” into the English language.


These three topics, in the realm of popular culture, are just the tip of the iceberg for areas that can be researched and written about, making the collection at the RPBPCL even more important to popular culture scholars.   


For Vinci, he’ll be digging deep into these unique topics – which he’s written extensively about -for future publications, books, articles and use in his teachings at OUC.


He was able to review the juxtaposition of advertisements, recipes and other articles in popular magazines from the 1950s and 60s beside the ghost stories that were published.


“It was really cool to see articles written by women for women on how you should watch a film, how to do your makeup, and how to deal with the pressures of growing up female in the ‘50s,” he explained. “So, I wanted to see what those were like in addition to this very strange, counter-cultural ghost story during that time.”


What he found was completely different than what he had been taught about the role of these magazines during this time frame.


“After reading all of these, it seems to me that they [the magazines] are much smarter, more politically progressive and thoughtful than they have ever been given credit for.”  He had noticed a unique undertone that contained shreds of feminism and counter-culture weaved into the writings in the “how-to” articles.


He plans to use portions of his findings in the women’s magazines as possible footnotes or fun tid-bits of information readers can pick up while entwined in his ghost story research. He also plans to bring these narratives to light in his classes when discussing the impact of the Holocaust in American literature and how our culture evolved in the 1950s post-Holocaust era.


Secondly, Vinci spent time researching the vulnerabilities associated with Science Fiction writer Philip K. Dick, which is a theme he works with often in his writings about Sci-Fi. 


He viewed personal letters written from Dick to his daughter that showcased this vulnerability. He plans on using them in his classes to highlight Dick’s motives behind his Science Fiction writing and also in a forthcoming book where he will pen a chapter on the author.


Lastly, Vinci was able to access rare, unpublished copies of Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti or Rossum’s Universal Robots in their American translated forms. Vinci noted that there are currently only two English translations and the copies he accessed were varied in their translations and one even contained photographs from the play’s first American production, which hadn’t been published. 


He described that he works extensively with this play to uncover the struggle with comprehending the women’s suffrage movement in the early 20th century and the European reaction to American women’s right to vote. He also looks at the introduction of the word “robot” into the English language and how this played a part in the culture at that time.


Vinci will include his research on R.U.R. in a future chapter for a colleague’s book.


In the short five-day span at the research institute, Dr. Vinci captured content that will drive future research, publications and classroom material, but that’s just a fragment of the work he’s accomplished recently. 


This year alone, he has had one journal article accepted for a special edition in Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts on how female bodies are portrayed in young adult fantasy literature through post human philosophy. He also won a travel research grant for the popular culture institute and has three book chapters coming out on: Clive Barker, where he discusses how a queer fantasy writer incorporates African American identities in his work; young adult fantasy on post human philosophy; and trauma, where he looks at how fantasy narratives help us understand the Holocaust in ways traditional writing can’t.


In addition to his scholarship, Vinci gave three conference papers presentations for: The Popular Culture Association on images of animal trauma in popular culture; On teaching spectrality, or the study of ghosts, into the classroom; and how to imagine history without human beings in it from the perspective of the apocalypse at a Science Fiction conference.


He also has other writings in the work that he hopes to get published in the future, as well as working to finishing his book and get it published.


Vinci has no plans of stopping in terms of his research on popular culture or introduction of new and exciting course work at OUC. He is a contributor on the campus’ cultural committee and also provides commentary for numerous events such as talk backs, film festivals and other presentations.

Students who are interested in gaining more exposure to popular culture teachings can enroll in any of the Fall classes Dr. Vinci will be teaching: Intro to Film, OUC’s first film class focusing on popular films from the last 20 years; 20th Century American Literature; Intro to Fiction and Non-Fiction; and Intro to College Writing.