Remember when you actually had to pass classes like English, chemistry and statistics to earn a Bachelor’s degree? Well, the times they are a-changin’. Now all you need to earn an easy A is a frequently updated iPod and an uncanny wealth of Destiny’s Child trivia: Rutgers University has dedicated a class to analyzing Beyoncé’s illustrious career.
Every semester, Ivy Leaguers at Washington’s prestigious Georgetown University crowd lecture halls for a popular nine-week course of study about the Life and Times of S. Carter — perhaps best known to music aficionados as Grammy-winning emcee Jay-Z.
It was only a matter of time before the hip-hop heavyweight’s wife became the subject of a college course of her own. Beyoncé is more than an international superstar, the songbird/new mom is at the center of a recently-introduced class at Rutgers University.
The 30-year-old “Bug a Boo” hit-maker’s rise from the streets of middle-class Houston to the ranks of pop royalty is being charted in Politicizing Beyoncé. The class, approved by the school’s Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, examines the pop singer’s lyrics and videos in comparison to the writings of Alice Walker and Sojourner Truth.
“This isn’t a course about Beyoncé’s political engagement or how many times she performed during President Obama’s inauguration weekend,” says Kevin Allred, a doctoral student and lecturer who teaches the class.
“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.”
The former Destiny’s Child frontwoman is known as much for her “Bootylicious” bod and bust-baring stage attire as she is for her infectious dance anthems. The idea for Politicizing Beyoncé was conceived after Allred overheard a group of Rutgers students debating whether or not the star is an appropriate role model for today’s youth.
“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,” Allred explains. “When students don’t respond to theory or dense readings, it’s often easier to see things play out in the world around them.
Renowned hip-hop scholar Michael Eric Dyson had the same idea when he brought his Jay-Z-inspired course to the halls of Georgetown last fall. That class, SOCI-124-01 or Sociology of Hip-Hop — Urban Theodicy of Jay-Z, has quickly become one of the institution’s most popular courses.