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POP COURSE

Lady Gaga and sociology of stardom

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CLASS ACT: The course will be led by professor Mathieu Deflem, 48, who has been to 29 Lady Gaga concerts around the world and has met her on five occasions

Pop provocateur Lady Gaga is only 24 but she has won a string of awards and can now add another feather to her many hats: a university course in her name. "Lady Gaga and the sociology of fame" is one of the latest courses to be added to the curriculum at the University of South Carolina for the spring 2011 semester. And it already has the campus buzzing. "The case of the fame of Lady Gaga is sociologically relevant as a study in popular culture and the social conditions of the current culture of fame, " said Matthieu Deflem, who will lead the course.


A self-proclaimed fan of the American music diva who has raised eyebrows with her over-the-top costumes, gravity-defying heels and stunning music videos, Deflem is also a huge follower of pop culture since the 1960s. "The fame of Lady Gaga is a current occurrence that will also tie in with students' interests, " said the professor, who has been teaching courses on policing and terrorism for 15 years.


The 48-year-old professor has met Gaga five times and seen her perform live 29 times. And he argues that her meteoric rise to stardom is unique to today. "Her fame has taken place over the past two years in a society which is very different from some decades ago, " Deflem said. "Especially the influence of the Internet and technology will be relevant. "


Gaga's 2008 debut album The Fame has sold over 15 million copies. On her website, Lady Gaga charts her rise from the "precocious child" who would "dance around the table at fancy West Side restaurants using the bread-sticks as a baton" to the "exhibitionist, multi-talented singer-songwriter with a flair for theatrics that she is today. " She admits to making a name for herself in New York with her "wild and often tongue-in-cheek shock art performances. "


At 17, the singer, who took her name from the British group Queen's single "Radio Gaga, " won early admission to the Tisch school of the Arts at New York University, and was signed for her first record label by the age of 20. "My goal as an artist is to funnel a pop record to a world in a very interesting way, " she says. "Pop culture is art. It doesn't make you cool to hate pop culture, so I embraced it. . . But it's a sharable fame. I want to invite you all to the party. I want people to feel a part of this lifestyle. "


Some students at South Carolina think the pop culture-themed class will be beneficial for the university, which is better known for a recent national championship in baseball and head football coach Steve Spurrier. "I think the course will have a positive impact on the university because it shows the school is diverse and has courses that aren't necessarily standard, " said Kirk Broome. "There's also the old adage any publicity is good publicity so I think there's been a buzz around the nation that brings USC into people's minds. "

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