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12/4/2003 5:14:42 AM
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University of Washington Offers Tupac Shakur
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The reach of late gangster-rapper Tupac Shakur is making its way from the airwaves and silver screen to the classroom at the University of Washington.

His life and influences are the subject of "The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur," a UW class this fall created by teaching assistant Georgia Roberts, a third-year graduate student.

Roberts got the idea for a course dedicated to Shakur while teaching a class on the history of hip-hop.

The UW is not the first college with a class dedicated to Shakur -- classes on the rapper have been offered at the University of California Berkeley and Harvard -- but it is the first to relate Shakur's work to literature.

"I wanted to show students there is something to be gained from taking a closer look at why so many people consume a figure like Tupac and why he is important," Roberts said.

Shakur, raised by his mother, Afeni, a one-time Black Panther activist, wrote songs about life on the street, gang violence and teenage pregnancy. He died at the age of 25 after a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996 -- an attack believed to be a result of an East Coast/West Coast hip-hop feud that later claimed the life of friend-turned-rival Notorious B.I.G.

Shakur, also known as "2Pac," released four albums and starred in three films and has had several CDs and films released posthumously, including the recent documentary biopic, "Tupac Resurrection."

The class, offered through the comparative history of ideas (CHID) program, explores the literary and historical influences present in the work of the rapper.

"We've always been an experimental program and one of the ways we keep our curriculum bubbling is by giving the opportunity to take and teach experimental courses," said John Toews, director of the CHID program..............

, the course is examining Shakur as a black Jesus figure, a theory popularized by Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of religious studies at DePaul University in Chicago and author of the book "Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur," which Roberts uses in the class.

Along with Dyson's theory, the class is discussing the religious themes present in Shakur's lyrics and the recent film "Tupac Resurrection."

Roberts said some of her students have told her the messages in Shakur's music were motivating factors in their decision to attend college. She said her own decision to pursue higher education also was influenced by the rapper's music.

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