Dan Barnes was a brilliant scholar of American literature and folklore. He was a beloved professor in the Department of English at The Ohio State University for 28 years, from 1967 to 1995, when he was honored with the title Emeritus Professor. Students loved his quick wit and unending repertoire of jokes, which he used to grab their attention while also explaining complex literary theory. His range of knowledge was remarkable, both in his teaching and in his scholarship.
The titles of a few of his many published articles give some indication of how vast his expertise was: "An Early American Collection of Rogues' Cant," Journal of American Culture (1966); "Folktale Morphology and the Structure of Beowulf," Speculum (1970); "The Bosom Serpent: A Legend in American Literature and Culture," Journal of American Folklore (1972). This list covers both a variety of different topics, including British and American literature, folk speech, and legend, and multiple approaches, such as structuralism, contextualism, and genre studies. He was especially interested in legends and made several important contributions to studying that genre: "Some Functional Horror Stories on the Kansas University Campus," Southern Folklore Quarterly (1966); "Interpreting Urban Legends," ARV: Scandinavian Yearbook of Folklore (1985); and "The Contemporary Legend in Literature: Towards an Annotated Checklist," Contemporary Legend (1991). He also wrote several valuable studies of American literature, including "Ritual and Parody in 'A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,'" Cithara (1966); "The Names and Faces of Reynolds Price," Kentucky Review (1968); and "Ford and the 'Slaughtered Saints': A New Reading of The Good Soldier," Modern Fiction Studies (1968). He was an active member of the International Society for Folk Narrative Research and gave many well-received papers at ISFNR conferences in Europe.
I first met Dan at an American Folklore Society meeting in 1969. He was already teaching at Ohio State, and I was being interviewed by Fran Utley for a job there. I wasn't sure I would be hired, so I didn't tell Dan I was being interviewed, but once I arrived in Columbus I let him know I was there, and we became lifelong friends. His sense of humor in the classroom easily transferred to social settings, where he was the proverbial "life of the party" on many occasions.
I can't write about Dan without mentioning that he was a wonderful piano player. He always had a loyal following of fans whether he was playing at the Worthington Inn just north of Columbus, at the Inn at Roscoe Village in Coshocton, Ohio, or in his own home where he and his wife, Holly, had a baby grand piano. He will be deeply missed by his academic friends and his loyal fans.