What you will study
This six-week course is structured around the following key themes:
Week 1: ‘Coat of Many Colors’: defining Dolly Parton
The first week introduces Dolly Parton’s life, career and music. You'll begin to explore Parton’s relationship to musical authenticity, gender, and poor, white communities in the Southern United States. This week’s study will also introduce you to some of the ways that music can construct, express, and represent identity. As you'll discover, Parton’s relationship to identity has sometimes appeared ‘paradoxical’. This is part of what makes Parton and her work such a fascinating topic of study.
Week 2: Country music and the US South
Dolly Parton’s ‘Southern’ identity is part of what makes her recognisable as a country musician. You'll examine country music’s historical connection with the U.S. South. By listening to examples of country music from different historical periods, you'll learn how country music has been framed as a distinctly Southern music genre by record companies, academics and musicians. You’ll also consider the limits of claiming country for the South by learning about its connections to places, music and people from outside the region.
Week 3: When country goes pop
You’ll explore the idea of musical crossover and how some recordings seem to address more than one kind of audience simultaneously. You'll examine Parton as not only a country musician but also a pop musician with widespread appeal. You'll also discover how sounds, lyrics and sentiment can convey a sense of musical style, and how musical style is bound up with other aspects of social life.
Week 4: Performing gender and sexuality
Instantly recognisable by her tiny waist, large breasts and elaborate blonde wigs, Parton is as well-known for her extravagant, feminine image as she is for her singing voice. This week you'll explore Parton’s performance of gender and sexuality through her music, image and reception. You’ll consider different interpretations of her gender identity, including as a ‘real fake woman’, an astute businesswoman and an LGBTQ+ ally.
Week 5: Country music, work and leisure
Beginning with Parton’s hit song ‘9 to 5’, this week examines the relationship between country music, work and leisure. You'll explore work as a central theme in country music songs, country music as a leisure activity, and country music as an industry reliant on work. With reference to Parton’s theme park Dollywood, you'll also examine music tourism as an important segment of the leisure industry.
Week 6: Cover versions, interpolation and the musical colour line
In this final week, you’ll focus on two songs that take different approaches to reproducing aspects of Parton’s music – Whitney Houston’s I will always love you, and Pras’ Ghetto Supastar (that is what you are). You'll identify musical similarities and differences between Parton’s music and these songs. This week also interrogates the musical ‘colour line’ constructed by the recording industry, and the historical relationship between race and popular music.
You will learn
By the end of this course, you should gain the following learning outcomes.
Knowledge and understanding
You should be able to:
- demonstrate an awareness of how music can be understood within different social and cultural contexts
- understand some aspects of the complex relationship between music and identity
- explain what distinguishes country music as a genre.
You should gain an ability to:
- understand and use key concepts and terms when discussing country music
- use examples, illustrations and case studies when assessing an argument
- reflect on your standpoint and the standpoint of others with respect to the content discussed in the course.
You should gain an ability to:
- communicate effectively within an online learning environment
- use peer feedback and self-reflection to develop and direct your learning.
Practical and professional skills
You should develop an:
- ability to plan, study and manage a sequence of work that meets a deadline
- understanding of future study opportunities.
This course helps you to develop transferrable skills including communicating clearly through writing, self-reflection, time management and engaging in discussion forums.
Expert, confidential learner support is available when you need it from a Study Advisor, who will respond to you directly. Other support is available via the course forum, StudentHome website and computing helpdesk.
If you have a disability
The course is delivered online/onscreen and the material is visually rich, using video and audio. Descriptions of visual elements (including transcripts) will be provided where appropriate. There are no alternatives that fully replace aural experience. However, relevant details about musical materials will generally be described wherever possible as part of the activity discussions. Students with hearing or visual impairment may find an external study helper useful in order to achieve some learning outcomes.