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The Globe and Mail

Fifty Shades of Grey becomes subject of university course

E L James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, poses for photographers during a book signing in London September 6, 2012.

Neil Hall / Reuters/Reuters

We've had the Fifty Shades hotel getaway package, the Fifty Shades shortbread cookie, even the Fifty Shades baby onesie.

Now, the mommy porn opus is getting its own course.

In January, American University, a private school in Washington, D.C., will launch the course "Contemporary American Culture: The 50 Shades Trilogy."

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Erotica author Rachel Kramer Bussel described the course materials in the Daily Beast: Under the tutelage of sexuality educator and adjunct professor Stef Woods, students will rewrite and ideally refine a chapter each – a good life skill for anyone who has to proofread for their superiors (in the office!), Woods said in the article.

Students will also debate the book's controversy, after critics suggested that author E.L. James portrayed domestic abuse, not BDSM, in Anastasia Steele's slave-like relationship with Christian Grey.

In a blog post, Woods said students would discuss questions like, "Are the leads in the trilogy in a healthy or abusive relationship?" and "What was the role of social media in perpetuating the trilogy's success?"

Bussel argues the professor found "the combination of number of books sold, media hype, and issues related to female sexuality, fan fiction, and social media compelling enough to successfully propose" the course, which will be taught to 25 students starting next month. (There's a waiting list and nearly all of the takers are female.)

Woods stressed the course was strictly cultural: "We're not looking at how these characters can inspire us to expand our sexual boundaries," she said, adding, "We're not doing dramatic readings."

Does the course make academia "more relevant," as proponents suggest? Or is it an academic mid-life crisis? Would you want your kid studying E.L. James?

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