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Belgian university to launch literature elective course inspired by Taylor Swift

By Melanie Uson Published Aug 15, 2023 3:26 pm

Swifties who are passionate about analyzing and interpreting Taylor Swift’s songs can now use their skills in the academe as a university in Belgium launched an elective course titled, “Literature: Taylor’s Version.” 

Speaking with media outlet The Guardian, Professor and “longtime Swiftie” Elly McCausland from Ghent University got the idea after she noticed the parallels between the singer’s lyrics and English literature. 

Prof. Elly shared that she saw the same theme of patriarchy and mental health in the song mad woman and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story The Yellow Wallpaper. Another one was The Great War from Taylor's Midnights album and its similarity of the theme of pain in war and battle to Sylvia Plath’s poem Daddy. 

“I sort of thought, why is no one talking about this?” Elly said. “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 added.  

“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."

Dubbed “Literature: Taylor’s Version,” the elective course is set to be made available for enrollment in autumn. Students can expect to use “Swift’s work as a springboard to explore everything from 14th-century writings to Margaret Atwood’s take on The Tempest,” the report said. 

Why Taylor? Prof. Elly shared that the ability of the American pop artist to shift between styles without losing the ability to write lyrics that “speak to the collective experience” made her the perfect subject.

In her 2022 acceptance speech, Taylor mentioned the varying writing styles she uses depending on the tool she imagined using, categorizing it in Quill, which mainly exudes the vibe of a vintage era of the 19th century; Fountain pen for modern, personal stories; Glittery-gel pen for “frivolous, carefree, and bouncy” songs. 

Elly shared that more students expressed their excitement about the new course. “I’ve never had so many emails from excited students asking if they can take the course,” she said. “And actually non-students as well, people who are not part of the university and who want to participate in some way,” she added. 

Elly said there were also criticisms about it, specifically on the approach, but she stressed that the course is designed grounded in academics to accommodate all students, may it be Swiftie or not. 

“I want the students to realize that the media they consume on a daily basis, whether that is music, Netflix, podcast, 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?” 

“There will be critics who think it’s sort of frivolous and silly,” she said. “The primary focus is literature, but also I want us to think critically about Swift,” she added. 

“I’m absolutely not gathering all of the Swifties and we’re going to spend three hours every Monday fangirling,” she stressed. 

Before this, Stanford also made headlines the past month for its plan to launch a second course focusing on the same artist dubbed "The Last Great American Songwriter," a student-led class that will delve more into the cultural impact of Taylor through her albums.