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The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Taking class in Styles: Bobcats learn about the pop icon

Texas+State+Associate+Professor+of+Digital+History+Louie+Dean+Valencia+%28left%29+teaches+his+Harry+Styles+class%2C+Monday%2C+April+17%2C+2023%2C+at+Lampasas.

Texas State Associate Professor of Digital History Louie Dean Valencia (left) teaches his Harry Styles class, Monday, April 17, 2023, at Lampasas.

Insightful conversations, lessons about gender identity and literature and chats about a curly-haired boa-wearing performer are what someone might hear when walking past room 501 in Lampasas Hall at Texas State.
The honors course, Harry Styles and the Cult of the Celebrity, began this spring semester and students and fans were excited to attend.
Louie Dean Valencia, associate professor of digital history, was inspired to create the course after his summer 2020 research trips to Europe were halted due to COVID-19. While locked down at home, Valencia turned his research toward some of his interests, including Harry Styles and his views on masculinity, gender, activism and more. He began to write a book about the pop star, collecting materials and diving into the world of Styles.
“I was just going at it as if it were my regular research project, but instead at home during a pandemic,” Valencia said.
When returning to class in the fall of 2020, Valencia had chats with some of his students who were also fans of Styles and his music. He realized Styles’ music was a way to connect to people during an alienating time and it opened up interesting conversations about politics and the state of the world.
Valencia began creating a curriculum for a Harry Styles class that went beyond the singer and that covered topics like music history, sexuality and the internet. The course was officially announced on Valencia’s Twitter in July. It sent the internet into a frenzy and attracted media attention worldwide.
Sarah Habeeb, a public history graduate student, said she set her expectations low because she didn’t know what to expect in a class about Harry Styles. She said she was blown away by the discussions and the diversity of the class.
“Just to get the student’s perspectives on things is really incredible because I’ve been focused on history for so long,” Habeeb said. “It brings a better class discussion rather than being all one-sided.”
The class of 24 students ranges from die-hard Styles fans, also known as Harries, to new fans, casual fans and students interested in learning about pop culture and its societal impact. Valencia said it’s been a dream getting to talk and bond with students over a mutual appreciation of Styles.
“Our classes are just great vibes,” Valencia said. “The thing that I’ve appreciated most is just the students’ willingness to engage with the material.”
The syllabus includes some of Styles’ favorite books, musical inspirations, films he’s acted in and even his cosmetic company Pleasing. The class also discusses Styles’ influence on his fans regarding activism, such as voting, ending gun violence and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Veronica Cantu, vice president of marketing at the Moody Center in Austin, visited the class in February to discuss the venue’s preparation process for concerts. Natalie Libby, an elementary education freshman, said she learned what went into Styles’ six-day residency at the venue, from promotion to the photo ops outside and inside of the venue.
“A lot of work went into setting up the Moody Center to be Harry’s House,” Libby said. “The Moody Center is a relatively new venue, so she talked about getting themselves out there and advertising.”
As the semester begins to wrap up, students are starting on their final project for the class: a podcast episode. The mini-series of all the episodes will be released in the near future for all interested in listening. Podcasts episodes, which will be written, recorded and edited by the students, will focus on all things Styles, the concept of celebrities and class discussions.
Habeeb will work on her podcast episode with her roommate and fellow classmate Hannah Martin, a public history graduate student. The two will discuss one of Styles’ most recent viral hits and how it was an excellent pandemic anthem.
“We were looking mainly at ‘As It Was’ as this pandemic anthem in a way and how the idea of celebrity was going on during the pandemic,” Habeeb said. “We thought that’d be a really cool idea, especially since it has happened so recently.”
“As It Was” has dominated radio stations and charts, staying at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for 15 nonconsecutive weeks in 2022, according to Billboard.com. People seem to can’t get enough of Styles, including Bobcats.
“You’re able to relate to his songs in a way. They don’t really gender a lot,” Habeeb said. “You’re able to connect to the songs no matter who you are and that’s a big part of why people flock to him.”
Libby said not only is Styles a charismatic performer on stage, but his kindness is contagious. Styles’ motto “Treat People With Kindness” is attractive to both fans and non-fans, particularly minority groups such as women, people of color and young LGBTQ+ people.
“It’s not often that, unfortunately, you can find a space where you’re accepted for who you are,” Libby said. “I think the environment that he creates by being kind and accepting is very appealing to people.”
Valencia said his expectations were high after having non-stop media coverage from outlets like BBC, NPR and TODAY. He said the students made the class what it is, and it’s been better than he could have ever imagined.
“This course is not something that I made, or that comes from Harry Styles’ work, but it’s something that the students themselves bring to the class,” Valencia said.
Harry Styles and the Cult of Celebrity will be offered again in spring 2024.
To keep up with Louie Dean Valencia and his class, visit his Twitter and Instagram.

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