Skidmore College, a private campus in New York state has announced that a new course on the sociology of Miley Cyrus will be available this summer, according to The Guardian. The course, taught by visiting assistant professor Carolyn Chernoff, will use Cyrus as a “lens into cultural conflict,” as well as a way to explore race, class, gender and the “core issues of intersectionality theory.”
Chernoff has high hopes for the course titled “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus: Race, Gender and Media.” It is a summer course and will consist of three two and a half hour sessions per week.
As for Chernoff’s reasoning for creating the sociology course on Cyrus? “Miley Cyrus is a surprisingly complicated cultural moment,” she explained. “I created [the course] as a creative and rigorous way of looking at what’s relevant about sociology and sociology theory.”
The idea for the course came to the assistant professor last summer after Cyrus’ controversial twerking performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Chernoff took note that after Cyrus’ performance, students who claimed to not have an interest in the pop star, suddenly did. Chernoff then wrote up a lecture for Skidmore’s Centre for Sex and Gender Relations, which she presented in January. Her lecture was titled “The Rise and Fall of Miley Cyrus.”
According to Today.com, the course on Cyrus will examine the way women and their bodies are represented in society. Chernoff also explained that the course will provide a “better understanding of the way we see social problems play out through mass media, the way even trivial things, like entertainment, reflect larger cultural conflicts on race, class and social inequality.”
The syllabus for the Cyrus course is not yet ready, but the list of topics that will be explored include what happens to Disney stars as they age, “gender stratification and the hyper-commodification of childhood,” and “bisexuality, queerness and the female body.”
The Skidmore sociology course on Miley Cyrus is just the most recent college course to be centered on a pop-cultural figure like Cyrus. At Rutgers University, for instance, there is a course titled “Feminist Perspectives: Politicizing Beyonce.” Other celebrities with college courses focused on them include Beyonce’s husband, Jay Z, Lady Gaga and Bruce Springsteen.
One reason for a college course to focus on a particular celebrity is because the students of today are “native users of technology,” according to Chernoff. This provides a way to showcase case studies through the use of celebrities such as Cyrus, reality TV and social media.
The Cyrus course starts in late May. Registration has already begun.
Those looking to register for the course simply because they are Miley Cyrus fans need not apply. After all, as Chernoff says of the Cyrus course, “this is sociology. Learn to twerk on your own time.”
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