, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 117-131

Professor Goes Gaga: Teaching Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame

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Abstract

This paper presents an account of the conditions and consequences of a university-level teaching experience in the sociology of fame centered on the case of Lady Gaga. When the course “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of the Fame” at the University of South Carolina was announced in the autumn of 2010, it became the number-one Lady Gaga news story, reported and discussed in a wide variety of internet sources and media outlets across the world. The unprecedented attention devoted to the course placed its instructor in an unexpected and unique position to experience various dimensions of contemporary celebrity culture while teaching on that very subject matter. This paper offers a sociological autobiography to discuss this experience as a manifestation of the reflexivity of social knowledge and the interplay between sociology and society.

A previous version of this article was presented at a conference on Divas at Haverford College, April 14, 2012. I am grateful to organizer Hannah Silverblank and conference attendants for feedback. I thank Frances Choe for research assistance and the Editor and reviewers of this journal for comments. I also thank the students who took my course on the sociology of fame discussed in this paper.