In the halls of academia, few subjects are too small for serious scrutiny. Or, perhaps, too big.
As such, Harvard recently announced a new course that delves into the artistry of one of the most influential people in the world: Taylor Swift, the woman just crowned Spotify’s top artist of 2023 with more than 26 billion streams worldwide.
The university’s Taylor Swift and Her World course will be taught by English professor Stephanie L. Burt, a longtime Swiftie who plans to connect the singer’s life and work to broader American culture. Students can take it starting in spring 2024.
“Taylor Swift is someone who establishes complicated and changing relationships to the idea of Americanness and to the idea of white Americanness and of middle America,” Burt told the Harvard Crimson.
Using Swift’s music as a guide, Burt said she hopes to show students the deeper meanings and references within the musician’s body of work. It’s not just listening to pop tunes — the syllabus includes works by Willa Cather, William Wordsworth and Harlem Renaissance luminary James Weldon Johnson.
“I love that I’m able to do this in a way that both gives people the chance to study and write about things they already love, and maybe build some bridges to things they would not have otherwise encountered that they might also love,” Burt told Boston news station WCVB.
Harvard isn’t the first major university to offer studies in Swift. The University of Texas at Austin, for example, announced a T-Swift class in its English department in 2022.
And another Boston school, Northeastern University, will host Speak Now: Gender and Storytelling in Taylor Swift’s Eras as a mini-course in January between semesters, with hopes for it to eventually expand into a semester-long class.
None of this would surprise Harvard professor Burt, a prominent literary critic and poet in her own right.
“We are lucky enough to be living in a time when one of our major artists is also one of the most famous people on the planet,” Burt told the Crimson. “Why would you not have a course on that?”