Harry Styles fans at Texas State University will soon be able to earn college credit for their love of the English pop star.
Professor Louie Dean Valencia announced on Twitter Saturday that a new history course entitled, “Harry Styles and the Cult of Celebrity: Identity, the Internet, and European Pop Culture” will be offered as an in-person honors course at the university beginning in spring 2023.
Roughly 20 undergraduate students will be able to take the course studying Styles and European popular culture, to better understand the cultural and political development of the modern celebrity, according to the course description.
Valencia is an associate professor of digital history at Texas State. He spoke to Texas Standard about what he hopes students will gain from taking the course. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: Are you a fan yourself?
Louis Dean Valencia: I’m a huge fan. I can’t hide it. And I think most of my friends would out me as that.
So I presume that was the genesis for your idea to have a course on Harry Styles?
Well, partially. The idea started with one – I’m just a huge fan. But also over the last two years, I’ve had really good conversations with students. When people were on Zoom or masked and really having a hard time connecting with some other people about music. And so one of the things that we did was introduce each other to our favorite songs and music. And oftentimes when I had conversations with those students about Harry Styles, it opened up all sorts of really interesting conversations about social issues that they were engaged with themselves.
Give us an example.
An example is a lot of Harry’s music is based about inclusivity, so there’s an attempt to have inclusive spaces at concerts. There’s some political things around gun control, there’s some issues around supporting Black lives that have been at the forefront of some of his work. And there’s also been a lot of issues around sustainability and how do you create a sustainable project. During his first tour, a lot of his concerts gave to local charities that were in the towns and cities that he visited on tour, which is kind of unusual for a lot of musicians to give up some of their money to support local causes and the places that they’re visiting.
So it sounds like what you seem to be focusing on is both his lyrical content and some of the things that Styles considers personally worthwhile and has undertaken on his own, given his social capital, I suppose you could say.
Exactly. And that’s one of the ideas for the class is really trying to delve into the idea of celebrity and how do you use your platform to make change in the world today. And I think for a lot of students, that’s a question that they’re constantly asking themselves as they get new followers or are sharing their lives or trying to make some sort of change. And a lot of ways what the class is doing is it’s also a history of the last 12 years. So since his rise to fame and for an 18-year-old or a 20-year-old the last 12 years, a lot has changed. And so while most history classes don’t have the opportunity to really delve into the recent past, this class will give them an opportunity to explore things that they’ve lived through, but maybe with a little bit more distance than, say, if it had been talking about very political ideas.
It seems like in a way you’re also holding up a mirror to students themselves. This is what you’ve been living through.
Exactly. And I think that students really appreciate that. And that’s also part of my interest as well. I started actually writing a book about Harry during the pandemic in summer 2020, when I couldn’t leave the country to go do my usual research in Europe. So this kind of was a way for me to also look around the world and think about how can I think differently about studying history, which was really helpful for me. So hopefully there will also be a book coming out of it.
Wow, I think saying that the public’s reaction has been largely positive is a bit of an understatement. Your announcement went viral overnight. Any chance that the British pop star might actually, you know, make a little stop off in San Marcos and say hello to your students?
I would absolutely love that. I have no idea how to make that happen. But if there’s somebody else out there that does, please help me out. I think that would be fantastic. And also, give him a little bit of an idea of what the average fan is thinking about his art. And I think that’s one of the really interesting things about this class, is that students get to think about this in a way that I think will hopefully be both critical but also self-reflective.