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A course on Harry Styles is coming to Texas State next spring

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Ever wondered what pop music can teach us? Well, next year, 20 students at Texas State University will be able to take a history class all about Harry Styles. Yes, I mean that Harry Styles.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AS IT WAS")

HARRY STYLES: (Singing) You know it's not the same as it was.

SUMMERS: But this class goes in more than one direction. Associate Professor Louie Dean Valencia just announced the full course title on Twitter. It's called Harry Styles and the Cult of Celebrity: Identity, the Internet and European Pop Culture.

And Professor Valencia joins us now. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

LOUIE DEAN VALENCIA: Thank you so much for having me.

SUMMERS: I'm so excited to talk to you about this class. Tell us a little bit about what the curriculum looks like.

VALENCIA: Well, the curriculum basically is starting off with the year 2010, when One Direction is formed on "The X Factor," and it brings us to 2022. So the idea of the course is that we're really going to do a deep dive into the last 12 years. So the way I like to think about it is in the same way that we can study The Beatles to learn something about the 1960s, we can study the music and life of Harry Styles to know something about the last 12 years or so.

SUMMERS: I don't want to spoil your course, but can you give us some examples of what type of assignments you have in mind that students at Texas State who are in this class will be completing?

VALENCIA: Yeah. So Day 1, the first lesson that we're going to talk about is Big Mama Thornton and Little Richard. So we're actually going to start a little bit in the past to be able to situate the history of rock 'n' roll music and also the very important issues that are related to race and gender and sexuality. And the assignments are really built around not just listening to Harry Styles, but also having complementary readings and listening to other musicians who also influence Styles - also looking at different readings, such as Murakami. We're going to read some Susan Sontag. We're going to read some Alain de Botton - who all are major influences on Harry.

And the assignments - eventually, what the students are going to be doing is building together a podcast series, hopefully about eight episodes or so, in which they learn how to work with one of our great sound producers in our library on campus, who's going to help them learn how to edit. We're also going to be learning a lot about just how do you tell a narrative, and what's the way that we use technology today to tell narratives?

SUMMERS: Sounds like you're creating the next generation of NPR producers and editors in that class.

VALENCIA: Maybe that's my secret plan.

(LAUGHTER)

SUMMERS: At the end of the course, the students, of course, will make that podcast series. But philosophically, what do you hope that students will take away from studying someone like Styles and all of the culture that you're going to introduce them to?

VALENCIA: I think that part of what this class does is it gives them a little bit of an anchor to the last 12 years to kind of know what was coming out, roughly, in X moment of their lives. So we'll look at issues that Harry's made very specifically part of his activism. So we are going to look at issues like gun control, sustainability, Black Lives Matter, changing ideas of masculinity and what does it mean to express one's gender identity or sexuality in the public sphere. And so a lot of this is not just thinking about the music specifically, but also trying to think about, how do we engage students in a way that they're really able to better learn? And, well, for me, I'm a huge Harry Styles fan, too, so that's kind of an easy entry point for me as well.

SUMMERS: Since you are such a big Harry Styles fan, I have to ask you, you think there is a Harry Styles song we should go out on in this segment?

VALENCIA: Right now, just because I'm feeling like I'm a little lightheaded, just enjoying it, let's go with "Watermelon Sugar."

SUMMERS: Louie Dean Valencia is an associate professor at Texas State University. Thank you so much for being here.

VALENCIA: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WATERMELON SUGAR")

STYLES: (Singing) Watermelon sugar high. Watermelon sugar high. Watermelon sugar high. Watermelon sugar high. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
Erika Ryan
Erika Ryan is a producer for All Things Considered. She joined NPR after spending 4 years at CNN, where she worked for various shows and CNN.com in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Ryan began her career in journalism as a print reporter covering arts and culture. She's a graduate of the University of South Carolina, and currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her dog, Millie.
Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.