First the Grammys, now the classroom: R&B icon Beyoncé is the subject of a course at Rutgers University called “Politicizing Beyoncé,” which uses the pop star’s music and career to “explore American race, gender and sexual politics.”
“This isn’t a course about Beyoncé’s political engagement or how many times she performed during President Obama’s inauguration weekend,” says class teacher Kevin Allred, according to an interview with the campus newspaper Rutgers Today. He is a PhD student who also lectures for the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the New Brunswick, New Jersey college. The course will compare and contrast the “Drunk in Love” singer’s music videos and lyrics with important works from the Black Feminist movement, including the writings of Alice Walker and the abolitionist Sojourner Truth.
Allred says Beyoncé is a fitting candidate for this kind of course, given her larger-than-life presence in American culture. “She certainly pushes boundaries,” he says. “While other artists are simply releasing music, she’s creating a grand narrative around her life, her career, and her persona.” Within that framework, the course will encourage students to be critical consumers. “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,” he added.
According to Allred, the course will tackle issues like “the extent of Beyoncé’s control over her own aesthetic” and “whether her often half-naked body is empowered or stereotypical.”
As the Rutgers Today story notes, Georgetown University is offering a course named “The Sociology of Hip-Hop: The Theodicy of Jay-Z,” which focuses on Beyoncé’s superstar husband. Meanwhile, Rutgers students may also be interested in a new Bruce Springsteen theology course, a freshmen seminar that explores 40 years of the rocker’s lyrics.