iMy friend and former colleague Brian Lee, who has died aged 87, was a leading figure in the development of American studies in the UK, setting up the American studies department at the University of Nottingham in 1977.
His published works included The Novels of Henry James: A Study of Culture and Consciousness (1978), Hollywood (1986) and American Fiction: 1865-1940 (1987).
Born in Bispham, near Blackpool, to Leonard, a civil servant, and his wife, Ethel, who ran a B&B, Brian went to the local grammar school. After two years’ national service in Egypt (1951-52) he studied English at Bristol University, graduating in the mid-1950s. He undertook postgraduate research on Henry James and was appointed as a lecturer in English at the University of Nottingham in 1959.
From that position, despite much internal opposition, in the 70s he and a small group of colleagues set up a sub-department of American studies. I joined soon after, in 1973, as part of a team that would largely stay together until Brian retired 20 years later, having led the department to fully independent status.
He was an excellent head of department. A strong believer in equal opportunities, he adopted a selection process of making E grade offers to promising prospective students. This made for a fascinating and lively group of undergraduates.
Brian, too, encouraged an American thought and culture strand within the department’s academic portfolio – an exceptional and successful interdisciplinary innovation. And he encouraged his staff to pursue their own lines of research. He was a major figure in the development of film studies at the university and organised conferences and teaching exchanges with some of the most respected European universities.
He enjoyed socialising and sport in equal measure and was a keen player of squash, tennis and, later, golf.
Brian is survived by his second wife, Adrienne Gerber, their children, Adam and Rebecca, his three children, Martin, Nick and Sarah-Jo, from his marriage to Sheila Clark, which ended in divorce, and 12 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
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