Queen’s English department running Taylor Swift course

Curriculum to explore scholarly merit and cultural impact of Swift’s work

Taylor Swift’s success has earned her a class dedicated to her lyricism.
Amna Rafiq

Queen’s English department is introducing a course this fall with Taylor Swift at its forefront.

In fall 2022, the department is offering a new course called “Taylor Swift’s Literary Legacy (Taylor’s Version),” taught by PhD student Meghan Burry. The subject is part of the department’s second-year cultural studies course. 

The course will look at the literary and cultural impact of Swift’s works on 21st centurysociety, using her texts, as well as canonical works she alludes to in her music. 

“We’re going to look at her as an author and a storyteller,” Burry said in an interview with The Journal. “I want Swift’s voice and Swift’s narrative to be at the centre of the course.” 

This is Burry’s first time teaching a course. She proposed its concept as a part of the Teaching Fellowship opportunity offered to fifth-year PhD students in the English department.

The course, dubbed ENGL 294, has no prerequisites, so any second-year or above Queen’s student can take it. Currently, there are 75 spots available.

Burry is hoping the course will increase accessibility to literature, noting the longer-ago a text was written, “the more difficult it is for students to relate to the art.”

“I think that because Swift has such a huge following and so many fans, I know that it’s already an accessible body of work,” she said.

The primary texts students will study are Swift’s own creations—her songs, music videos, and documentaries. To supplement these texts, students will read canonical works such as Romeo and Juliet and The Great Gatsby.

“One of the challenges of designing this course is paring the subject material down. Swift has no shortage of literature to work with,” Burry said. 

Throughout the summer, Burry will continue sifting through material to create the syllabus. She said students will definitely look at “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” and “Love Story.”

Burry said she’s excited to investigate Swift’s older works, like Speak Now—the only album on which Swift is the sole writer.

“Taylor Swift fans often cling to an era,” Burry said. “I’m really excited to encourage students to get out of their comfort zone a little bit.”

The course will also include discussions about the media’s representation of Swift as a writer with no scholarly merit. Burry hopes the course prove this “couldn’t be further from the truth.”

She explained how literary scholars know Swift’s “Easter eggs” as literary devices, like similes, metaphors, and allusions. According to Burry, this connection will be used to teach the younger generation about literary criticism. 

“I’m really excited to get students excited about that,” she said.“Throughout the course, I hope [students] cultivate a more inclusive understanding of what literature is.”

Burry said the response to this course has been “ultimately pretty positive,” but she has noticed “quite a few” negative comments online questioning the course’s academic merit. 

“If anything, it’s a good challenge [for] me going into the course,” Burry said.

“I’m very confident in the work that I’ve already put into it […] and I’m very confident in the material, and I’m just excited to see how it goes.”

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