SOCY 398: Lady Gaga and the Sociology of the Fame

Mathieu Deflem, Ph.D.
University of South Carolina
Department of Sociology 
Office: Sloan 217
email: ______________________________________________


First organized in the Spring of 2011, this course will next be taught in Spring 2018 (SOCY 398).

"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, especially 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 university calendar for important dates. Useful information on classroom policies is provided by the Office of Academic Integrity, including its policies (e.g., the Honor Code and the Student Code of Conduct). Online information is also available about academic regulations and the Student Success Center.

The course syllabus will be available on Blackboard to registered students (SOCY 398).


Part I: The Sociology of Fame and Celebrity
      1) Concepts and Theories
      2) Dimensions of Analysis
Part II: Case-Study: The Fame of Lady Gaga
      Introduction: A Gaga Biography
      1) The Business of Lady Gaga
      2) The Laws of Lady Gaga
      3) Gaga Media and Audience
      4) Gaga Activism and Feminism
      5) The Art of Lady Gaga
Part III: The Celebritization of Society
      1) From Fame to Celebrity
      2) From Lady Gaga to Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump


1) Books
2) Articles (on BlackBoard): socy398D
  • Alexander, Jeffrey C. 2010. “The Celebrity-Icon.” Cultural Sociology 4(3):323-336. 
  • Bennett, Lucy. 2014. “‘If We Stick Together We Can Do Anything’: Lady Gaga Fandom, Philanthropy and Activism Through Social Media.” Celebrity Studies 5(1-2):138-152. 
  • 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.


The final grade for this course is based on three tests, three discussion papers, and a final exam that is cumulative. The tests and final exam involve a combination of multiple-choice questions and short open-ended questions. The writing assignments involve three analysis and discussion papers. More detailed explanations on the assignments are provided in the syllabus.


More information is available via the course blog at: 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