Belgian University Launches Taylor Swift-Inspired Literature Course
Taylor Swift has made such a massive cultural impact that a European university is offering a class about her songs. Per The Guardian, a professor at Ghent University in Belgium added Swift to her list of English literature greats. Assistant professor Elly McCausland told the publication that the hype around studying Swift had been met with much excitement from students. McCausland adds, “And actually non-students as well, people who are not part of the university and who want to participate in some way.”
McCausland reportedly pitched the idea of a Swift-centered elective after being repeatedly struck by the parallels between the singer’s lyrics and the English literature she had studied. Comparing Swift’s Midnights (3 am edition) track”The Great War,” the professor points out how she saw “echoes of how Sylvia Plath jarringly spoke of war and battle to convey her pain in the poem ‘Daddy.'” Meanwhile, Swift’s folklore track, “Mad Woman,” tells the tale of “patriarchy and mental health harked back to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story The Yellow Wallpaper.
The course, titled “Literature: Taylor’s Version,” is set to start this autumn. It is set to capitalize on these works, using Swift’s songs as a springboard to explore everything from 14th-century writings to Margaret Atwood’s take on The Tempest. “What I want to do is show students that although these texts might seem inaccessible, they can be accessible if we look at them from a slightly different angle,” she said. “So, Shakespeare, in some way, is actually addressing a lot of the same questions as Taylor Swift is today, which seems crazy. But he is.”
With some skeptics of her idea, McCausland likened the reaction after Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2016. “It gets people talking about ‘What is literature?’ ‘What is the canon?’ ‘Can any text be literature?’” McCausland acknowledged other courses could be centered around the work of other artists. As a self-described “longtime Swiftie,” it was evident that Swift’s lyrics, which are often threaded with literary references, deserved a deeper look for McCausland.
McCausland said Swift’s ability to switch between styles while including deeply personal lines made Swift the perfect writer to explore. “I want the students to realize that the media they consume on a daily basis, whether that is music, Netflix, podcasts, TikTok, or whatever, I want them to think about that in the same way that they might think about the topics they study,” she said. “Why is this so zeitgeisty? Why does it speak to so many people?”