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If there's going to be a college class about Prince, it makes sense that it's in his hometown of Minneapolis. Right?

Elliott Powell started teaching a University of Minnesota course about Prince in 2016, shortly before the music icon died. The class has become so popular that it's offered twice per school year.

Powell, an associate professor of American studies, calls the class "Prince, Porn and Public Space. The Cultural Politics of Minneapolis in the 1980s." He sometimes brings in guest lecturers, including keyboardist Dr. Fink of Prince & the Revolution, podcaster/author Andrea Swensson and yours truly.

Powell, a Florida native, didn't become a Prince fan until the late '90s and saw the Purple One perform only once, in 2013.

Now fully steeped in Purpledom, Powell also is involved with symposiums around the nation such as "Prince on Screen: Images and Ideology, an Academic and Fan Conference" set for June 17-18 at the University of Minnesota.

In an interview that ran past the classroom bell, the professor discussed his class, which he believes is the only ongoing college course about His Royal Badness. Here are excerpts.

Q: When and why did you start to teach the class?

A: I first got the idea when I was hired in fall of 2014, and I was teaching a class called "Pop Culture Politics in America 1945 to the Present." I was doing the syllabus and by the time I got to the 1980s, I thought it would be great if we talked about Prince, the Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Soul Asylum. In part because of my background, [I knew] the Minneapolis City Council had passed a pornography ordinance so I thought it would be interesting to bring these things together. So I told my [department] chair: "What if we could make a Minneapolis in the '80s class, around Prince, issues of pornography?" It got approved to be taught in spring of 2016. It was the first time and supposed to be the last time.

Q: What timing. Prince died in April 2016.

A: The news broke while we were in the class. There was a Skype interview I was doing with this journalist who went by Stereo Williams; he'd written for Daily Beast and Buzz Feed. His phone kept going off during the conversation and he was trying to ignore it. By happenstance, someone entered the classroom by mistake. [After escorting the person to the hallway], I looked at my phone and I got a text from someone who worked at the U and, at the time, worked part time at Paisley [Park]. It was her text that broke the news to me. So I had to make the announcement to my students.

A couple weeks later, my department chair had to convince me to make it a permanent class. I was still very much in my feelings about Prince passing away and I didn't know if I wanted to teach it again. I got a fellowship that gave me a year off and I decided to make it a permanent course. Fall of 2018.

Q: How's the enrollment?

A: In spring 2016, it was allotted for 20 students and I had 20 students. When we made it permanent, we upped it to 30 then 40, 50 and now it's at 100 students. It's a fun course to teach. This time, I taught the Sheila E album for the first time. And the Apollonia 6 album for the first time. So I'm finding interesting and new ways to add things to it.

Q: Why the provocative title?

A: It was done on purpose. And I love alliteration. We spend the first half of the semester talking about what then was referred to in feminist circles as the "Feminist Porn Wars," with Prince albums mixed in. The second half is fully on Prince.

Q: How much do these students know about Prince?

A: They seem to know less and less as the years progress. A lot of students take this class 1) they heard about it from other students and 2) their parents loved Prince and they were trying to understand why Prince had such a hold on their parents. I thought this generational connection was endearing.

Q: What percentage of them have seen the "Purple Rain" movie prior to class?

A: Not as many as you would expect. Maybe a quarter of the students. They knew the song and at least two songs from the album.

Q: What does the class cover?

A: We definitely cover a little more than the '80s. Students have an opportunity to do their own independent work. For homework, they have to listen to every Prince solo album from the '80s, starting with "Dirty Mind" and finishing with "Batman." Then they have the associated acts the Time, Sheila E, Jill Jones, Apollonia 6, Vanity 6. For their final paper, it's a long review of a Prince album from the '90s or 2000s and compare it to one of his albums from the 1980s.

Q: What's the biggest surprise for the students about Prince?

A: Three things come to mind. One, they are surprised how petty Prince can be. When I tell them about the various firings, like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the rivalries with Rick James, they're shocked at his public displays of pettiness. The other thing that has shocked them is the level of sexual explicitness. They understood him being sensual, but they're never prepared for some of the lyrics. The other thing is Prince's dating history, the number of quote unquote "girlfriends" and the number of women he was seeing at the same time.

Q: What's the biggest surprise for you about the students?

A: They have fresh ears and they're hearing things in his music that never would have occurred to me — or occurred to Prince. How they interpret "Let's Pretend We're Married," they think about that song that gay folks can relate to. Same-sex marriage was illegal then. They're bringing contemporary ears that are informed by LGBTQ+ politics to bear on Prince songs. It forces me to listen to these songs differently, and it shows 30, 40 years removed, his music can still resonate in a contemporary moment.

Q: Does Prince's family or estate know about the class?

A: I haven't heard from anyone from the estate. When the approval for the course came through in January 2015, someone in my department said, "Wouldn't it be amazing if Prince found out about this course?" I said, "Absolutely not." I'd be afraid he'd show up and tell me he doesn't like the class or he'd say, "I hear you're teaching a class about me, so tell me about myself."

Q: How do you balance your fandom vs. scholarship?

A: For students, this is the first time they're encountering Prince. So I'm not going to do a deep, nerdy dive with certain kinds of things. I tell students at the beginning: My goal is not to turn you into a Prince fan. If you do turn into a Prince fan, that's great; if you don't, that's also great. My goal as an educator is to help you understand why Prince matters and why Prince matters in the 1980s.

So when I'm doing lectures, it's about why a song like "Darling Nikki" matters in relation to Tipper Gore and PMRC [Parents Music Resource Center, founded to increase parental control over music with drug, sexual or violent content]. What does it mean for Prince to make an allusion to the AIDS epidemic in "Sign o' the Times" in 1987 before [President Ronald] Reagan talks publicly about AIDS? I want to get them to understand Prince's relationship to Minneapolis, to the state of Minnesota. That's where my scholarship comes through that's separate from my fandom.