Gym, Tan, Learn: University of Chicago Hosts ‘Jersey Shore’ Conference

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Danny Moloshok / Reuters

The cast of 'Jersey Shore' at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards.

Stop your fist-pumping and get ready to take some notes.

Who would have thought that one day our eight preternaturally tanned guidos and guidettes would be placed in a proverbial academic fishbowl for careful examination and study?  Apparently the time has come; last week the University of Chicago held a conference centered around MTV’s controversial reality show.

The Conference on Jersey Shore Studies was organized by University of Chicago senior David Showalter, a self-professed huge fan of the series. Showalter secured funding from his university by proposing to look at Jersey Shore through the lens of cultural studies, examining topics such as gender politics, the perks and perils of fame, and construction of an ethnic identity.  By looking at a subject that many academics would dismiss as lowbrow, he hoped to encourage thinking and researching outside the box.

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Out of about 50 submissions from scholars, half were chosen to present at the symposium.  Some of the lectures included: “Guidosexuality,” “ ‘Pickles Is My Thing’: Snooki and the Ascendancy of Ordinary Celebrity,” and “ ‘You Dirty Little Hamster’: The Abject and the Monstrous Feminine in Jersey Shore.”

Hundreds of professors and students attended the conference, which was free and open to the public.  Discussions ranged from the sociolinguistics of the series, which has coined many new phrases and features novel uses of syntax, to domestic violence in relationships (hello, Ronnie and Sammi).  Some participants even proposed historical parallels, including – wait for it –  “The Jersey Saga: Honor Culture in Medieval Iceland and Modern Seaside.”

The four seasons of the series seem to have provided a wealth of material to mine in the name of cultural analysis.  Or maybe scholars just like to throw a little Ron-Ron Juice into their work once in a while.  Either way, students of pop culture left satisfied.

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Allison Berry is a contributor at TIME.  You can continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.