A college in NYC is offering a course in drag HerStory. RuPaul’s Drag Race and Its Impact is described as an
“in-depth exploration of the award-winning reality television show and its far-reaching impact on contemporary culture.”
Taught by noted drag historian, Joe E. Jeffreys at The New School’s Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts (the first class was yesterday) in addition to the history of drag it will feature guest speakers associated with the RPDR throughout the semester. (Although the course listing leaves out the word “Race”, we’re pretty sure it’s still the same class.)
Professor Jeffreys says,
“The class will examine all seasons of the show, exploring its audience demographics, historicizing the show’s lineage and scrutinizing such concerns as race, ethnicity, aesthetics, and body image as presented in the broadcasts. We look to understand how the media phenomenon has shaped the way a wide public view the art form of female impersonation and how the program has changed the profession itself.
“Students will read selections from the large body of scholarly writing surrounding the television program and the class will contextualize the show through the lens of vaudeville female impersonators like Julian Eltinge and the stories of drag in documentaries, from Queens at Heart and The Queen to Paris is Burning and Wigstock: The Movie. RuPaul’s career before the show, autobiographical writings and interviews will be considered alongside changing ideas and practices around gender impersonation, drag kids and DragCon as part of the interrogation into the show’s impact.”
As far as we know, this is the first semester-long college course devoted to an in-depth study of RuPaul’s Drag Race and its cultural influence.
Entering its 11th season (and now casting Season 12) according to The New York Times, the multi Emmy-winning show
“has evolved to reflect an era fixated on gender and identity.“
Jeffreys has written on female and male impersonation in academic journals, and essay anthologies. He’ll use video documenting the NYC drag communities, creating a unique moving image archive of more than 1,500 hours of footage have screened as shorts at video festivals, museums and galleries like the Tate Modern and The Museum of Arts and Design.
You can see more some archival video footage by Jeffreys here.