Harry Styles inspires more questions than he does easy answers. Questions like: How does one make the leap from boy band stud to formidable solo artist, or successfully style sweater vests and high-waisted trousers? And what, exactly, is the true meaning of “watermelon sugar”?
We may never get the answers from Styles himself. But a lucky group of Texas State University students will get to parse the particulars of the British pop star for a grade.
Louie Dean Valencia, associate professor of digital history at Texas State, announced last week that he’ll helm a spring 2023 class entitled “Harry Styles and the Cult of Celebrity: Identity, the Internet and European Pop Culture.” Styles’ legion of fans quickly took notice, prompting many to contemplate transferring to Texas.
But this sojourn through Styles’ career is no fluff-filled blow-off class. The course centers the ever-popular Brit in a wider discussion on the “cultural and political development of the modern celebrity as related to questions of gender and sexuality, race, class, nation and globalism, media, fashion, fan culture, internet culture and consumerism,” according to a flier for the class Valencia shared.
Phew. That’s complex stuff for the man who once wholeheartedly serenaded a love interest by telling her she didn’t know she was beautiful. But as Styles’ musical gifts have evolved, so has his place in the cultural lexicon, Valencia told CNN in an email.
“I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with students over the last two years that started with a shared love of Harry’s music, but that quickly went into larger societal questions about gender, sexuality, race, gun control, sustainability because of Harry’s art,” he said.
Materials for the class will span One Direction’s early albums to Styles’ solo outings and his growing filmography, Valencia said, as well as the art that inspired Styles, from the writing of Susan Sontag to the philosophy of Alain de Botton, among other subjects.
Valencia, who’s been a fan of Styles since his One Direction days, said that Styles, like The Beatles, Billie Holiday and even Shakespeare, provides a lens through which students can better understand their world. Styles’ major tenets are positivity and self-love, he said.
“Self-expression, and comfort with oneself, is a big part of Harry’s message – along with treating people with kindness,” Valencia said. “A lot of people, myself included, feel like they’ve grown up with him – and so there is a connection.”
He said he hopes that students who take this course, one that invites them to consider history as they’re living through it with one of the world’s biggest musical superstars, will inspire the same self-acceptance and unbridled joy that a Styles concert does.