Parton’s Life Story Now A College Course Named ‘Dolly’s America’


Think you’re a big enough Dolly fan to earn an A+ in a college-level Parton history course? In “Dolly’s America,” the famous Appalachian singer’s life comes to the classroom. But don’t think you’ll skate by–this is no easy A.

Dolly's America
Dolly Parton (photo from

Dolly’s America

It isn’t surprising that the University of Tennessee would create a course around Parton. She was born in Sevierville, TN and has given a great deal to the Appalachian region.

The course, titled “Dolly’s America: From Sevierville to the World,” uses her life to explain events of the region. It’s a case study of breaking free from rural poverty, as well as a lesson in culture, music, and literature.

According to the University magazine, the course “pulls students in to study someone they thought they already knew and familiarizes them with analyzing popular culture as a historical source.”

It goes on to say, “Reading about how hillbillies and feuds began as made-up characters and tropes in novels and cartoons to the rise of hillbilly music to Christian entertainment and the thread of tourism, students see the processes by which fiction often becomes fact, and how heritage is a blend of the real and the imagined.”

Dolly's America
Dolly Parton (photo from NY Daily News)

Not An Easy A

The course isn’t intended to be a filler course. This may be why it’s only available to honors students.

Assigned materials include readings like Parton’s book (“Dolly: My Life”) and books such as “Appalachia like Hillbilly” and “Dear Appalachia.” Students will also watch television shows and movies that portray hillbilly culture, such as The Beverly Hillbillies and Coal Miner’s Daughter. They will also journal about their perceptions of this regional culture.

It’s an interesting mix of history, sociology, music, and literature. Dolly herself is a big advocate for education. In fact, her passion for education led the University of Tennessee to award her an honorary doctorate in 2009. 

Her response illustrated why the new course is so apropos. “Education and the arts are very important to me, and this degree is something that makes me and would have made my parents very proud.”

No doubt they are.