Celebrity 101: 5 Pop Stars Who Have Inspired Courses at U.S. Colleges
English, history, chemistry … twerking?
Several colleges and universities across the country have made pop stars the subject of academic study over the past few years, and Miley Cyrus is only the latest celebrity to inspire a syllabus.
A brief survey of the pop culture personalities who have appeared in course catalogs.
1. Skidmore College: “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus”
Skidmore College, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., recently announced plans to offer a summer course called “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus: Race, Class, Gender and Media,” in which students will be “using Miley as a lens through which to explore sociological thinking about identity, entertainment, media and fame.” Professor Carolyn Chernoff explained to ABC News, “Unfortunately, the way we talk about female pop stars and female bodies, class matters, gender matters, sexuality and sexual performance matters, but race matters a lot [too] and the way we talk about white pop stars is quite different than how we talk about the bodies of women of color.” She added, “[Cyrus] complicates representations of the female body in pop culture in some ways that are good, bad, and ugly.”
2. Rutgers University: “Politicizing Beyoncé”
In January, New Jersey’s Rutgers University made headlines for a course titled “Politicizing Beyoncé.” “She certainly pushes boundaries,” Kevin Allred, a doctoral student and lecturer in the school s Department of Women s and Gender Studies, told Rutgers Today of Queen Bey. “While other artists are simply releasing music, she’s creating a grand narrative around her life, her career, and her persona.”
3. University of Missouri: “English 2169: Jay-Z and Kanye West“
In fall 2013, the University of Missouri introduced an English class on the Watch the Throne duo. A description on the school’s website says the course “looks at the career and work of Jay Z and Kanye West from three perspectives: (1) Where do they fit within, and how do they change, the history of hip-hop music? (2) How is what they do similar to and different from what poets do?, and (3) How does their rise to both celebrity and corporate power alter what we understand as the American dream?” According to The Huffington Post, the course’s popularity prompted the department’s decision to offer it again this coming fall.
4. Georgetown University: “Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z”
If Jay Z has 99 problems, academia isn’t one. The rapper has also been the subject of a course at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. “I think he s an icon of American excellence,” the course’s professor, Michael Eric Dyson, told the Associated Press of “Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z” in 2011.
5. University of South Carolina: “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame”
Mother Monster was the subject of a class at the University of South Carolina, “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame,” in spring 2011, according to the New York Times. “The central objective is to unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga,” professor Mathieu Deflem told the Times.
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