Throughout the past semester, 68 students have devoted their academic endeavors to studying one arguably revolutionary figure: Beyoncé.
The instructor for the course, Prof. Riché Richardson, Africana studies, said Beyoncé Nation, a course cross-listed with the English, American Studies, Africana Studies, and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, aimed to evaluate “the post-Lemonade moment.”
Coming out of Richardson’s writing, which focuses on black women’s impact on femininity, students examined Beyoncé’s centrality to the black feminist movement, as “arguably one of the most famous black women in the world,” one student said.
For their final presentations on Thursday, eight separate groups gave their interpretations and analyses of Beyoncé’s influences. The presentations detailed the influences of Beyoncé herself as well as those of her family members, specifically her sister Solange, husband Jay-Z and parents Tina and Mathew Knowles.
The students discussed the range of Beyoncé’s influence as well as her role in a variety of media.
One group compared Renaissance-era paintings of Madonna to Beyoncé’s Instagram announcement of her twins, placing the two side-by-side and identifying the common themes.
Another group touted her philanthropy with large organizations, including the Global Citizen Festival and the United Nations. They also identified other, more personal endeavors, including donations to assist with the ongoing Flint, Michigan water crisis or scholarships for college students.
A group also focused on the iconic symbolism of both Solange and Beyoncé.
Discussing songs like “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “Formation,” the group detailed the sisters’ relationship to black culture, because these songs “centered around articulating the experience of the black women,” a group member said.
While the group drew allusions to Beyoncé’s music, they also stressed and dissected the far-reaching effects of Beyoncé not only as an artist but also as an individual icon.
The political tones of her albums are diverse in medium and message, a group said, referencing music video scenes alluding to police brutality, feminist statements and Instagram posts like her first-ever Instagram post: her in a tee-shirt reading “Texans for Obama.”
As one group member put it, “her art speaks for herself.”
Correction: A previous version of this article said there were nearly 50 students in the class. In fact, there were 68.