Taylor-made: Belgian university launches Taylor Swift-inspired literature course

Taylor-made: Belgian university launches Taylor Swift-inspired literature course
Credit: Belga

Students starting their degree in English literature at one Belgian university will be analysing iconic works by Robert Frost, Jane Eyre, Emily Dickinson, Shakespeare, and... American singer Taylor Swift.

While the US pop star will not be making a stopover in Belgium during her 'Eras' world tour, she will be making a special appearance in another way. From the next academic year, the University of Gent (UGent) will add a new elective English literature course Literature (Taylor’s Version)  to the master's degree in Language and Literature.

The concept is not entirely new: at the start of last year New York University's Clive Davis Institute launched the very first Taylor Swift Course, taking the definition of a liberal arts education to another level. The class considered the "culture and politics of teen girlhood in pop music, fandom, whiteness and power as it relates to Taylor Swift's image."

The course at UGent is however a European first. It highlights the themes, styles and techniques of iconic literary writers from the perspective of today’s pop star. Professors argue that her work is often inspired by English literature classics and touches on themes that also appear in Romeo and Juliet, Jane Eyre and even Alice in Wonderland.

Making literature fun

British professor and 'Swiftie' Elly McCausland will teach the course and hopes that this approach will excite young students to explore the pioneers who helped shape literature between 900 and 1900.

"I want to show my students how much fun historical English literature can be," she told Het Laatste Nieuws. Based on Swift's songs, the course will make links to stylistic devices and topics that writers have used for centuries. McCausland added that "enough books have already been written about Shakespeare and other dead white men."

It is also important to study modern female stars, says the professor. "After all, sometimes students lose the sense of studying something useful and recognisable because it is so old. You need to learn how our history influences our modern literature."

Students do not need to have a Spotify account but they will have to spend €90 on specific editions of six English classics, including Shakespeare.

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