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

An undergraduate course taught by Dr. Mathieu Deflem.

COURSE DESCRIPTION- - - - SOCY398 - - - - SOCY398D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - gagacourse.blogspot

Announced in the Fall of 2010 and first organized in the Spring semester of 2011, this course has been taught on six occasions, the last time of which was in the Spring 2018 semester.

"I want the fame."  – Lady Gaga, May 2008 
"The last three years I spent trying to erase fame from my mind." – Lady Gaga, September 2016

Objectives: This lecture-based course is situated in the sociology of popular culture and fame/celebrity to examine the social conditions of the rise of Lady Gaga’s popularity to her current status as a global pop music icon. The central objective of this course is to unravel some of the sociologically relevant conditions of the origins of Lady Gaga's fame, including: the role of business and marketing; law and legalities; the old and new media; fans and live shows; religion and political activism; sex, gender, and sexuality; and the diverse styles of the singer’s artistry. The course will also explore the impact of this rise to fame in terms of the current age of celebrity and selectively explore its dynamics in other cases.

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

Learning Outcomes: Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to engage in sound scholarly thinking on selected aspects of popular culture, especially the culture of fame and celebrity as studied from the viewpoint of the discipline of sociology. Students should also have garnered empirical knowledge of some of the most important social dimensions of contemporary fame as exemplified by the career of pop musician Lady Gaga and other cases, inside and outside of popular culture, today.

Consult the academic calendar for important dates. Useful information is provided by the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity. Information is also online about academic regulations and the Student Success Center.

The course syllabus will be available on Blackboard to registered students.


Part I: The Sociology of Fame and Celebrity
       1) Concepts and Theories
       2) Dimensions of Analysis
       3) Teaching the Fame
Part II: Case-Study: The Fame of Lady Gaga
      Introduction: Biography & Styles
      1) Business and Marketing
      2) Laws and Legalities
      3) Media and Audience
      4) Activism and Feminism
Part III: The Celebrity Society
      1) Lady Gaga: From Fame to Celebrity
      2) From Lady Gaga to Kylie Jenner, et al. 


1) Book:
2) Articles by M. Deflem:  socy398D
      3) Selected Other Readings  socy398D
      • Alexander, Jeffrey C. 2010. “The Celebrity-Icon.” Cultural Sociology 4(3):323-336. 
      • Ferris, Kerry O. 2007. “The Sociology of Celebrity.” Sociology Compass 1(1):371–384.
      • Kurzman, Charles, et al. 2007. “Celebrity Status.” Sociological Theory 25:347-367. 
      • Miller, Toby. 2011. “Popular Culture.” Pp. 449-450 in The Concise Encyclopedia of Sociology, edited by G. Ritzer and J.M. Ryan. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
      • Van Krieken, Robert. 2012. Celebrity Society. New York: Routledge. 


      The final grade for this course is based on four tests, a mid-term paper, and a final paper. More detailed explanations on these assignments are provided in the syllabus.


      More information is available via the course blog at: gagacourse.blogspot. The blog includes extra materials such as media sources, videos, and news stories, which are helpful for the course, especially for the writing assignments.

      Instructor site:, includes related papers on fame and popular culture.

      The images below show the original course description when this course was first taught.


      Back to the Teaching Pages socy398D celebrity studies