What Does Someone Actually Learn in the Taylor Swift Course at Harvard?

Travis Kelce is seemingly not on the syllabus.

Taylor Swift
(Image credit: Getty)

Imagine being fortunate enough to get into Harvard—arguably the best, most competitive university in the United States—and then being fortunate enough to get a seat in a course about Taylor Swift. (As one can imagine, it’s quite in demand.) But what is actually taught in the course, officially titled “English 183ts. Taylor Swift and Her World”? Stephanie Burt, a literary critic who will teach the course, says that students “benefit from studying art they love—art new and old, art in many genres,” per Entertainment Tonight. (Harvard, by the way, is but one university to offer a course on the pop culture phenomenon that is Swift; Stanford, NYU, and the University of Texas at Austin also offer their own iteration.)

The hour-long class at Harvard “will aim to explore Swift’s many genres and the economic impact she’s had in cities across the world when she arrives to perform her Eras Tour,” Entertainment Tonight reports. The class will also examine her catalog. 

Taylor Swift

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“We will learn how to think about illicit affairs, and hoaxes, champagne problems and incomplete closure,” the class synopsis reads. “We will look at her precursors, from Dolly Parton to the Border Ballads, and at work about her (such as the documentary Miss Americana). And we will read literary works important to her and works about song and performance, with novels, memoirs, and poems by (among others) Willa Cather, James Weldon Johnson, Tracey Thorn, and William Wordsworth.”

Burt said her students “will analyze Swift’s work, think in detail about it, maybe create footnotes to it, in order to see how the verbal skills and musical elements that move us are not just all in our head—they are choices Swift makes to communicate a particular message or feeling.” Burt called Swift’s writing both “witty” and “insightful” and said it’s incumbent upon her to help her students better understand Swift and her “oeuvre” with the help of novels by Cather and Weldon Johnson; the class will also study three centuries of “page-based poetry…on other topics central to Swift,” Burt said. In doing so, she hopes to “take advantage of a room full of Swifties to introduce hundreds of students to these poems.”

If all goes well, “you might notice how many students will come for the Taylor and stay for the other writers involved,” Burt said.

aylor Swift celebrates her birthday on December 13, 2023 in New York City.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The validity of teaching a Taylor Swift course—especially at an Ivy League like Harvard—has been under fire, but world-famous author James Patterson weighed in on the Harvard course specifically, standing up for it: “Hey there, #Swifties,” Patterson wrote on Instagram. “Should @taylorswift be taught at Harvard? That seems to be the plan in Cambridge, so why not? Her career is stunning, an object lesson for success. She’s not only an amazing entertainer, she’s a very smart business person. Would I take the course? Well, I might audit it.”

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.