The syllabus resembles a typical undergraduate English course, featuring works by William Wordsworth, Willa Cather, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. However, the inclusion of one name might come as a surprise to aspiring academics: Taylor Swift.
Harvard University's English professor, Stephanie Burt, will be teaching a new class titled "Taylor Swift and Her World" in the upcoming spring semester, with almost 300 students already registered.
Taylor Swift To Take Over Various Academic Classrooms
This course is part of a trend at academic institutions nationwide, with New York University and the University of Texas at Austin among those embracing it. Stanford is taking inspiration from Taylor Swift's song "All Too Well (Ten Minute Version)" for a class scheduled for the next year, aptly named "All Too Well (Ten Week Version)." Additionally, Arizona State University previously provided a psychology course centered on Ms. Swift's work.
In the upcoming year, the University of California, Berkeley, is set to present "Artistry and Entrepreneurship: Taylor’s Version," while the University of Florida aims to educate undergraduates in Ms. Swift’s storytelling. The course description for the Florida class starts with the phrase "... Ready for it?"—a subtle reference to the song from the "Reputation" album.
Interview With Stephanie Burt, Course Teacher At Harvard
In an exclusive interview with The New York Times, Professor Burt, aged 52, shared her admiration for Ms. Swift’s music and provided insights into the specific focus of her students' studies.
She particularly highlights the impact of the song "You Belong With Me" on her appreciation for her artistry, further reflecting on the documentary "Miss Americana" as a pivotal moment that deepened her understanding of Swift as an artist. She acknowledges Swift's privileged background but also commends her journey in becoming a self-driven individual who doesn't alienate people.
The conversation then shifts to the professor's favorite Swift era, oscillating between "Red" and the combined era of "Folklore" and "Evermore." The interview provides insights into the syllabus of a Harvard class centered around Taylor Swift, detailing the weekly pairings of her work with pieces from other artists, including novels by Willa Cather and James Weldon Johnson, as well as a contemporary novel by Zan Romanoff.
The coursework involves connecting Swift's songs to literary works, such as Coleridge's "Work Without Hope," drawing parallels and exploring themes. The professor outlines the written assignments, including academic essays that require well-supported arguments on Taylor Swift-related topics and other subjects covered in the course.
The interview touches upon the potential for a guest lecture by Taylor Swift, with the professor expressing her openness and having already reached out to her on social media.
Finally, it concludes with the professor defending the academic merit of a Harvard class on Taylor Swift, emphasizing the inclusion of traditionally admired figures in English departments. She argues that Swift's work serves as the spine of the course, and while acknowledging potential criticism, she highlights the historical precedent of studying low-prestige popular art forms in English departments and quotes Wordsworth to underscore the importance of connecting unfamiliar subjects to existing interests. The quote has been edited and condensed by New York Times, "Others shall love what we have loved and we will teach them how. If you’re going to teach people to love something that they see as obscure or distant or difficult or unfamiliar, your best shot at doing that honestly and effectively is to connect it to something that people already like."