SOCY 398D: Lady Gaga and the Sociology of the Fame

Mathieu Deflem, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology
University of South Carolina
Department of Sociology 
Office: Sloan 217
Email: ____________________________________________

This course was first taught in the Spring of 2011.

“What music colors is the desolation of the inner sense. It is the decoration of empty time.”
–Theodor W. Adorno

"A few can touch the magic string, and noisy fame is proud to win them; Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them!"
–Oliver Wendell Holmes
Topic: Within a framework of the sociology of popular culture and music, this course focuses on the rise of Lady Gaga to her status as a pop music icon. The central objective of this course is to unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga. Specific attention will be devoted to the role of: business and marketing; entertainment law; the old and new media; fans and live shows; gay culture; religion and political activism; sex and gender; and New York

Framework: This is not a course in music or cultural studies. Although some familiarity with the artistry of Lady Gaga will be useful, this course instead focuses on the societal contexts of Lady Gaga’s rise to fame. These social issues, furthermore, are explored from a scholarly perspective that is grounded in the theoretical traditions of sociology. Thus, this is not a course in Lady Gaga but in sociology; and it is not a course about Lady Gaga as much as about the culture of the fame as exemplified by the career of Lady Gaga.

The syllabus will be handed out at the start of the semester to all registered students. 

More info is available at the course blog:

An article about the course experience has been published: Deflem, Mathieu. 2013. Professor Goes Gaga: Teaching Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame, in: The American Sociologist (May 8, 2013).


Part I – Analytical Framework: The Sociology of Popular Culture
a) Sociological Perspectives of Music
b) The Case of Pop & Rock
c) The Sociology of Fame and Celebrity
Part II – Topic of Inquiry: An Introduction to Lady Gaga
a) Life and Times
b) The Music
Part III – Dimensions of Analysis: The Fame of Lady Gaga
a) Business and Marketing
b) Law and Legalities
c) Old & New Media: From Radio to Internet
d) Fans and Live Concerts
e) Gay Culture
f) Religion and Politics
g) Sex, Gender, and Sexuality
h) New York


The required readings for this course include the following books, articles, and media sources.

1) Martin, Peter J. 1996. Sounds and Society: Themes in the Sociology of Music. Manchester University Press.

2) Frith, Simon et al., eds 2001. The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock. Cambridge University Press.

3) Lester, Paul. 2010. Lady Gaga: Looking for Fame. The Life of a Pop Princess. London: Omnibus Press.

4) Articles in the sociology of popular culture (available online):