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Gaga for Gaga

English course takes inspiration from Lady Gaga

If you've traipsed across Grounds during the past week, you've surely heard the whispers. The stifled screams of frenzied fans. The murmured moans of hapless souls scrambling for tickets.

"Everyone is talking about the concert and asking who is going and who has a ticket," first-year College student Wilson Pillow said. "I hear something about it everyday."

Lady Gaga's concert at John Paul Jones Arena is one of 31 stops she will have made by the end of the 2010 North American leg of her Monster Ball tour, described by the artist as "the first-ever pop-electro opera." The concert will primarily feature songs from her recent album, "The Fame Monster."

But the University community's obsession with Lady Gaga does not stop with tonight's concert - the pop star has made her way into the classroom, as well.

In Graduate Arts & Sciences student Christa Romanosky's ongoing ENWR 1510 class, "GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender, and Identity," students analyze how the musician pushes social boundaries with her work. For this introductory course to argumentative essay writing, Romanosky chose the Lady Gaga theme to establish an engaging framework for critical analysis.

"We're exploring how identity is challenged by gender and sexuality and how Lady Gaga confronts this challenge," Romanosky said.

The writing instructor described the appeal the pop star held for her students.

"She's in style, she's smart and she's powerful," she said. "Girls want to be her. Some guys want to be her. She has an alter ego. She's not afraid to be herself, which seems to be completely amorphous and reinvented at every curve in the road."

Often, ENWR classes choose off-the-wall topics such as Harry Potter or Lady Gaga to spice up what is usually seen as just another prerequisite. Or at least that's how first-year College student and Lady Gaga fan Evan Ayres saw it when he registered for classes this summer during first-year orientation.

"It's an interesting topic for what could be a very boring class," he said.

Ayres bought his Lady Gaga concert tickets months ago for $210, complete with a VIP package deal, he said.

Although the title of this course may cause it to appear as more of a novelty, Ayres said it does not merely consist of listening to songs such as "Bad Romance" or watching the performer's most shocking new videos. Rather, the class uses these tools as starting points for analysis, in which they read articles that relate not only to Lady Gaga and feminism but also to her role as a public figure and her influence on society.

"We don't just sit there and squawk about Gaga the whole time," he said. "We use her as a model that relates to gender, sex and identity. She's often referred to because she pushes boundaries of gender and identity roles. She's a big figure."

The ENWR students are not the only ones who recognize the singer's originality. Pillow, for example, commented on her defiance of normalcy. For her fans, he said, Lady Gaga means more than just music.

"Her work tells us to remember to have fun and not be caged in by what might be considered the normal thing to do," Pillow said. "I think the fact that she has so many U.Va. fans shows that we're not as straight-laced as we may seem."

Whatever it may mean to fans, Romanosky said she believes tonight's show will be an event to remember.

"Lady Gaga is a performer," she said. "She is going to enchant, inspire, enrage and dazzle. I'm sure kids without tickets will cry, scalpers will grow rich, and many a Halloween costume will imitate her monstrous fashion. Who knows the extent of the pandemonium"