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The Study of Beyonce: Rutgers starts college course about pop star

Scott Levin's picture

A Rutgers student thinks there is more to Beyonce than just music, and he plans to inform others in a newly-created class.

The Department of Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University announced that it now offers a new course: "Politicizing Beyonce." The class will examine the singer's influence both socially and culturally through her music and image.

Kevin Allred, a Ph.D candidate on campus, will teach the course, but he stresses that it will involve deep, critical thinking about the life of Beyonce.

"This isn't a course about Beyonce's political engagement or how many times she performed during President Obama's inauguration weekend," Allred told the Rutgers website. "She certainly pushes boundaries. While other artists are simply releasing music, she's creating a grand narrative around her life, her career, and her persona."

According to Rutgers, the course will delve into how Beyonce's work can be used to view race and gender issues. Black feminism will be explored, as students will debate whether Beyonce's skimpy wardrobes are empowered or stereotypical. Beyonce's alter ego "Sasha Fierce," who often produces sexually-charged music, will also be studied.

Additionally, other powerful female performers, including Billie Holliday, Lady Gaga, Nina Simone and Adele, will be touched on.

The university's choice to head the new course may be a surprise. Allred, a white male, feels qualified but understands there will be questions regarding both his own credentials and the merits of such a course.

"Of course, there are people who’ll say, ‘You’re not black. You’re not a woman,’” he told the Rutgers website. “It’s something I’m always questioning and staying aware of so as not to overstep any bounds or make any claims for a group that I don’t belong to. It’s a fine line and I want to remain respectful of that.”

"It’s important to shift students away from simply being consumers of media toward thinking more critically about what they’re engaging on a regular basis."

Beyonce joins her husband, Jay-Z, as musical stars who have inspired college courses. Georgetown University created a "Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z" class to further examine the rapper's influence on society.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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