Gaga for Gaga

USC's upcoming course promises to engage students

She has sold over 13 million albums and 51 million singles.  She has been likened to Madonna, with fans arguing that she is a social phenomenon.  Now, she will enter academia.  This spring, students at the University of South Carolina will have a chance to study this icon through the course “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame.”  Taught by Mathieu Deflem, a USC professor of sociology and a self-proclaimed Gaga fanatic, the course will examine Gaga as a “social event.”  While some critics may argue that Gaga is not worthy of academic discussion, we approve of the course to be taught at USC, especially as many professors struggle to make the material they teach in class relatable to students attempting to learn complex concepts.

Focusing on Gaga is a positive way for the professor to encourage students to engage with sociological subject matter. Lady Gaga is a unique figure in society, and, since the point of the course is to study how people become famous, it makes sense to examine her trajectory.  Of course, the professor and students should keep in mind that this is a sociology class, and thus Gaga should be taken as a case study. The instructor would do well to refrain from evangelizing the star, instead treating her in an appropriately academic manner.

We hope that Professor Deflem will succeed at translating his infatuation for Lady Gaga into a thoughtful exploration of how she became famous, ideally instilling in students an interest in studying more about human behavior. Since our culture today tends to fixate on celebrities, the study of fame as a phenomenon is certainly a relevant endeavor. For those who assume the course will be simple because of the title, the fact that it has a prerequisite suggests otherwise. The professor has demonstrated through his life choices that he feels inspired by the material he will be teaching, and we believe students will benefit from his personal interest.

Ultimately, “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame” has the potential to be a unique course—the kind of class that students will be excited about out of a genuine interest in the subject matter.  We encourage professors to bring their passions into the academic arena more frequently, for the benefit of students.

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