Belgian University Opens Literature Course On Taylor Swift's Lyrics

Students of Ghent University can now take a Taylor Swift-centered elective that analyzes the songwriter’s lyrics alongside critical works of English literature. 

If Swifties took a course on Taylor Swift, they’d probably get straight As or 100s with no trouble. Though this might sound like a jest that’s too good to be true, it’s actually becoming a reality. The singer-songwriter’s influence is so powerful that she’s inspired entire university classes on her oeuvre.

READ ALSO: Empowering Evolution: Taylor Swift Revises Misogynistic ‘Better Than Revenge’ Lyrics

Taylor Swift in her Seattle Eras Tour
Taylor Swift in her Seattle Eras Tour/Photo via Instagram @taylorswift

Recently, Belgium’s Ghent University made headlines with the announcement of a new elective called “Literature: Taylor’s Version.” Assistant professor Elly McCausland will be teaching the class, which focuses on the analysis of Swift’s lyrical compositions alongside touchstone pieces of English literature. As per a report from The Guardian, the elective is the first of its kind in Europe, and will begin in autumn. 

Assistant professor, Dr.Elly McCausland
Assistant professor, Dr.Elly McCausland/Photo via Twitter @nutmegs_seven

With both a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a Master’s degree in Medieval English Literature from Oxford University, as well as a Ph.D from University of York, McCausland is more than equipped to take up this new and exciting task. She tells CNN that she’s been thinking about launching a class on Swift’s lyrics “for a while” and believes that it’s well worth the serious scholarly study. 

“I’ll be delighted with everything that happens during this course,” she shared in the CNN interview. “I’m really excited to see what the students come up with.”

Among Literature’s Greats

Ask any fan or casual listener of Swift, and they’re likely to agree that her songwriting skills are impeccable. Part of what draws many people to her music are their lyrics—which feel personal yet relatable, poetic but not inaccessible. 

McCausland started the course after realizing the number of parallels between Swift’s songs and various pieces of English literature, as per her interview with The Guardian

Swift in a concert in Foxborough, Massachusetts
Swift in a concert in Foxborough, Massachusetts/Photo via Instagram @taylorswift

For example, the professor cites that themes on misogyny and the patriarchy in “Mad Woman” easily connect to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”—a short story about a woman suffering from postpartum depression, who eventually goes mad due to neglect from her husband and doctors. Meanwhile, the incisive discussion on war in Swift’s “The Great War” is similar to the theme and tone of Sylvia Plath’s poem, “Daddy.”

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's famous and haunting short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, is among the works to be studied in the new Swift-inspired course
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s famous and haunting short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, is among the works to be studied in the new Swift-inspired course/Photo from the Australian National University

The course intends to draw these kinds of comparisons with many other great literary works throughout the centuries, from Margaret Atwood’s writings to Shakespeare’s body of work. 

The Study of Swift

McCausland states that the course is open to all of Ghent University’s students—even those who aren’t fans or listeners of the artist. “The purpose of the course is to think critically about Swift as an artist and writer, and to use the popularity of her music as a ‘way in’ to a corpus of literature that may have shaped her work,” wrote the professor on her official syllabus

Swift in Glendale, Arizona
Swift in Glendale, Arizona/Photo via Instagram @taylorswift

Though McCausland’s class is certainly a trailblazer in Europe, it’s not the first scholarly class on Swift—and with the singer’s unbeatable popularity, it likely won’t be the last. Many universities across the United States have also recently opened an assortment of interesting classes dedicated to the artist and her work. These include New York University, with a course that focuses on Swift as a musician-entrepreneur, and Arizona State University, with a psychology class that draws from Swift’s life experiences and songs.

Banner photo via Instagram @taylorswift.

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