Celebrity Studies Syllabi

This is a much delayed post. Last summer I had the opportunity to teach “Introduction to Celebrity Studies”, a course of my own design for my department. The original proposal was for a 400-level course; the syllabus for that proposal is below.


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I initially planned for this course to be more specifically focused on intersections of identity–particularly gender and race–and celebrity. However, the course was accepted as a 200-level class, so I had to readjust. I decided to make it into something more introductory. The final course number was C204, an open-topics course focused on media, culture, and society. It can work toward the Communication and Culture major or for Social and Historical Studies credit in the College of Arts and Sciences. The first version of my C204 syllabus is below.


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Breaking the syllabus down from a 400-level course to a 200-level one was unexpectedly difficult. Although I carried some readings and screenings over to the 200-level course, I felt the need to organize it completely differently. As an introductory course, it seemed like a good idea to arrange it in sections according to foundational concepts. It also seemed like it might be a good idea to reduce the length of readings and to include tests.

I also had to change the timeline based on the schedule of the class. Originally it was a six-week course, meeting at least one hour and fifteen minutes daily. I had to change it to be an eight-week course, meeting about fifty minutes daily. That was quite a challenge. Discussion sections are the only fifty-minute classes I’d ever had to teach up to this point. Figuring out how much lecture and discussion I could fit into that limited time was tough. I planned it and adjusted the best I could while teaching the course. If I could make changes for the future, I would probably try a longer class time meeting fewer days in the week.

The main project of the class was the Contemporary Celebrity Profile, a group project focused on analyzing the elements in the construction of a celebrity who rose to fame since 1980. When designing the C204 syllabus, I thought it might be useful for the students to have an example to go by, so I included a “Classic Case Study” section on Marilyn Monroe. The idea was that they would read and screen items that would parallel parts of their own Contemporary Celebrity Profile projects. However as we were going through the semester and coming closer to the students’ celebrity profiles, I started to realize that the case study would be more of a distraction than a benefit to them. I then rearranged the assignments in the syllabus so that the students would complete similar assignments from the “Classic Case Study”, but use the celebrity from their profile project. Those alterations are in the second version of the syllabus, below.


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For the contemporary celebrity profiles, the students had to do both an oral presentation and a blog. The students chose their celebrities by voting on individual pitches. The final selections were Tina Fey, Charlie Sheen, and Justin Timberlake; you can view their final projects at these links.

Like with my previous post on my syllabi for “Race and the Media”, please feel free to post comments or suggestions here, and download and share the syllabi as you think might be useful. Also let me know if you’d like to know more about particular assignment guidelines. I’m happy to share!


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