About This Course

In this class we will look at various questions and analyze various kinds of writing; our readings are defined neither by an academic discipline (literary studies, sociology, psychology) nor by a genre of writing (poems, critical essays, instruction manuals). Rather, our course is defined by a topic or a set of related problems, problems I have attempted to introduce in an exceeding silly short video that you have likely already watched, a video that I may or may not be too embarrassed ever to mention again. (A shout-out to OU’s William “Biff” Farrell, Academic Multimedia Specialist & video producer extraordinaire, for all the good jokes; the bad jokes are entirely my own responsibility!)

Why has our culture celebrated creative figures, granting them fame or transforming them into celebrities? Why do so many of these famous artists have famously difficult lives? Why do we hunger for every possible detail about those lives? And does our obsession help us understand their art—or is that art ultimately something separate?

Beginning with the Romantic poet Lord Byron (who was called “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”–by his lover!), and ending with Tupac Shakur (who remains famous enough to need no further advertisement), we will look for answers to these and related questions, to better understand the co-dependent relationship between art and fame that characterizes modern cultural life.

Finally, a reminder: since this is, ultimately, a writing course, we don’t have to solve questions; our goal is to think about them honestly and self-consciously—which will include asking what’s at stake for us in thinking about these questions.