Sociology course serious academic endeavor
USC Professor Mathieu Deflem’s new class “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of the Fame” is no doubt the most famous and controversial class on campus, but one student says it’s still not sexy.
Malia Griggs, a fourth-year anthropology student and the editor-in-chief of Garnet & Black magazine, made that conclusion in the second post on her Gaga class blog, which has been picked up by The Huffington Post.
“This is a serious course about the sociology of music,” Griggs wrote. “What it does not cover: the coded symbolism behind ‘Alejandro;’ Gaga’s decision to wear a dress made of Kermit the Frogs; whether she has a disco stick for real. This is, as my professor underlines, a class about the social conditions that contribute to the fame of Lady Gaga.”
But the media has not covered Deflem’s as a mere sociology class. Ever since SOCY 398D appeared on the registration list last semester, news of it has exploded like Gaga’s career. Multiple news outlets, from The State to The New York Times, featured stories about the course.
Griggs’ first post on her “Blogaga” reveals she initially learned about the class from The New York Times article.
“This is not how I usually find out about my possible electives,” she wrote.
As Griggs and the class’ defenders point out, university courses centering on specific celebrities or groups are nothing new. USC even has another new course focuses on the alternative rock band Radiohead. But MUSC 113 hasn’t attracted nearly as much attention as the Gaga class.
The reason may be that the professor is as enigmatic as the subject. In the university setting, Deflem is a prolific professor whose curriculum vitae lists research interests such as policing of terrorism, the history and systematics of the sociology of law and abortion policy. Outside of USC, Deflem is Gaga superfan who has his own fan site, gagafrontrow.net, and owns hundreds of her records and EPs.
Deflem declined an interview, saying he did not want to directly or indirectly involve members of the class.
Joanna Harrison, a third-year sociology student in the class, said that SOCY 398D is a serious academic endeavor rather than a mere study of Gaga’s life.
“It’s not lacking in substance at all,” Deflem said. “It’s pretty tough; there’s a lot of reading, and if you want to do well you kind of have to invest a good amount of time in it.”
Harrison is one of several students in the class who has been in Deflem’s classes before.
“I’ve had Professor Deflem for Sociology of Deviant Behavior. I think he’s great, really insightful.”