Fans have been dissecting the symbolism and multilayered meanings Beyoncé injected into her transformative album Lemonade since its release in April. Now, students at the University of Texas at San Antonio will put their Lemonade literacy to the test in the new fall course Black Women, Beyoncé & Popular Culture focusing on black feminism, female empowerment and racial tensions in the United States.
"I created the course myself," Professor Kinitra D. Brooks, who studies contemporary African American and black feminism, said about this semester's class in a recent phone conversation. "I was definitely inspired by Candice Benbow's Lemonade Syllabus," a project comprising works which celebrate black womanhood. Brooks describes her class as a group of nearly 40 students from all walks of life: black, hispanic, South Asian, Caribbean, white men and women who are all "quick on the uptake" with "a hunger and a willingness to learn more."
"The students realize that these larger topics are interconnected," she said. "Everyone is able to come together over Beyoncé, but a month into the class we've already moved onto focusing on so much more."
Lemonade, which arrived in a year of heightened awareness of police brutality against blacks and minorities and includes several nods to the Black Lives Matter movement, is the perfect artistic lens to explore such socio-political themes — but Brooks' course won't be a walk in the park.
"Studying race, gender, class and pop culture theory is incredibly fun... and incredibly hard," Brooks wrote in the course description.
"I was appreciative to Beyoncé because she got so many folks who wouldn't normally be interested in black feminism, in West African religious practices, involved in those topics," the professor said.
There is a tremendous amount of symbolism to unpack in Lemonade, related to the diaspora and West African culture. Symbols relating to the African diaspora abound, such as in in "Hold Up," where Beyoncé resembles the Yoruba water goddess Oshun, an African historical figure portraying female fertility, compassion and sensuality.
There's also been a discussion into how the shot of several black women walking into water in "Love Drought" appears to be a nod to the historical mass suicide of slaves at Igbo's Landing.
"There's two things: You have to watch [Lemonade] to watch visually and then you have to watch to listen," Amy Yeboah, associate professor of Africana studies at Howard University, told PBS in April. "The first time around, yes, there's the obvious conversation that people are having about her and her husband, just being a woman going through relationships. But it's also reflecting the power of women spiritually. She takes it deeper into African spirituality."
This isn't the first college class on Beyoncé. Rutgers University has offered a course called Politicizing Beyoncé since 2010, and the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, offered a course on Beyoncé's self-titled album, according to That Grape Juice. Other stars have had their moments as well. University of South Carolina offered a course titled Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame. Questlove taught a Prince 101 class at New York University's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. It was really only a matter of time until Lemonade, the queen's most literary work to date got it's own.
OK students, now let's get in formation.