Lady Gaga 101

There is more than meets the eyes and ears when it comes to Lady Gaga, and an Arizona State University creative writing professor understands what this entails. This professor wants to help students to reach their own personal “Edge of Glory.”

Last week, Dr. Rosemarie Dombrowski, professor of a variety of women’s literature and creative writing courses at ASU, began the online course “Bad Romances, Edges of Glory, Lady Gaga and the Poetic Ideology of Otherness,” which will explore the connections that Gaga’s work has to other literary texts through a theoretical and literary approach.

As Dombrowski says excitedly, the first readings of the class will examine theories of identity, theories of otherness and how Gaga uses those theories to redefine herself and perform as alternate selves.

The understanding of these theories will transition the class into conducting a conversation in a more theoretical way that will allow the discussion of gender manipulation, identity manipulation and, as Dombrowski adds with a smile, fashion designer Alexander McQueen and the role he played in making that possible for Gaga.

Dombrowski says that she will have the class look at pop icons that have influenced Gaga and some of the women, like novelist and poet Sylvia Plath, which she references in the Fame Monster album.

That will be the starting point, Dombrowski says, of understanding how Gaga is attempting to resurrect these women in a way that will empower all women.

“I think she is reexamining their cases and their lives in an attempt to pay homage to them, but also use them as examples of famous women who were abused by the system [and] the men in their lives,” Dombrowski says. “From that, I’ll have hopefully built a foundation of a lot of the poetic texts.”

Poets like Rainer Maria Rilke and Plath, Dr. Dombrowski says, have greatly influenced some of Gaga’s recent videos, performances and tattoos.

“The things that I love about Gaga besides her being well-read, classically trained, an amazing performer and a great appreciator and a purveyor of couture art and fashion is the perpetual misunderstanding and misappropriation of her artistry,” Dombrowski says.

In order to create a more communal atmosphere among the online students, Dombrowski will be having round-table discussions at a coffee shop with recent graduates and current students of ASU about topics that the class will be thinking about and will record and upload them for online students to view.

“Obviously, Lady Gaga is a huge pop star at this point in time, and that alone is what I think has drawn a lot of students to this class,” Cassidy Olson, an ASU graduate participating in the round table discussions, said in an email interview. “I think students will walk away learning much more than they ever expected both about literature, pop culture and the allusions Lady Gaga uses in her work as an artist.”

Although the class is a recent addition to the curriculum at ASU, Dombrowski and her students had already begun discussing Gaga and her social effects before the proposal for the class was approved.

Two years ago, a group of students found themselves constantly discussing the latest Gaga news, along with the endless connections that Gaga developed to literary texts that Dombrowski previously discussed in class.

It was then that students began to encourage Dombrowski to propose a literature class on Lady Gaga.

“Long before there was a ‘Marry the Night,’ we saw the connections between Gaga and [Sylvia] Plath, and we saw the connection between Gaga and literary texts,” Dombrowski says while sitting in her office with her coffee at hands reach. “We called ourselves a group. More students started joining in on these conversations, and it was coming up more frequently in literature class. I guess that’s when we started discussing this as a more serious thing.”

Dombrowski says she is extraordinarily excited for the class to begin, and recently was asked to teach the class again in the upcoming summer and fall.

“I’m a huge fan of Lady Gaga,” Dr. Dombrowski says. “I’ve followed her career since the early Fame Monster days. She was just someone that seemed to rise in the surface of the pop world. I thought of her as something special, something I wanted to defend, [to defend] the intellectualism behind everything she does.”


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