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Class is in session: Taylor Swift course coming to Harvard next year

‘Taylor Swift and Her World’ will dive into the singer’s evolution and her artistic counterparts, according to professor Stephanie Burt.

Taylor Swift spoke during a graduation ceremony for New York University at Yankee Stadium in New York, Wednesday, May 18, 2022. A class centered around the singer will launch at Harvard in 2024.Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Taylor Swift’s music isn’t just sweeter than fiction, it’s also Ivy League bound.

Harvard University is offering a new course next year centered around the pop star and occasional Rhode Island resident, titled “Taylor Swift and Her World.” The class will launch during the spring 2024 semester, with poetry critic and Harvard professor Stephanie Burt at the helm.

According to a description for the course, students will examine Swift’s work as a songwriter, as well as “study fan culture” as it relates to the singer’s legion of Swifties.

“It is, to some extent, a class about fans and followings and celebrities,” Burt told the Globe in a phone interview Tuesday. “But the focus is on the evolution of this major songwriter and the relationship between the music that she makes and other kinds of arts that use words.”

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Taylor Swift performed during "The Eras Tour" in Nashville, Tenn., May 5, 2023. Harvard is one of several universities now offering courses related to the singer.George Walker IV/Associated Press

Burt estimates that around 300 students have already signed up for the course and has no plans to cap the open enrollment class, saying that “everyone who’s interested in the material gets a chance to study.”

While the course will look at everything from her hits to deep cuts, Burt notes that the class is about more than “just studying Taylor and her reception.” The Harvard professor reveals that students will explore Swift’s connection to “a variety of other and older kinds of literary creation,” such as the English poet William Wordsworth, who is name-dropped in Swift’s 2021 song “The Lakes.”

“It is a literature class in the English department about songwriting,” said Burt. “We are going to be looking at music as well as images as well as words, and we are going to be reading novelists and poets and essayists and critics and memoirists.”

Praising Swift’s “tremendously supple melodic vocabulary and really wonderful verbal gift,” Burt compares the singer’s bona fides as an artist to music icons like Prince, Carole King, Dolly Parton, and even George and Ira Gershwin, although the professor concedes, “she’s a lot less interesting harmonically than the Gershwins.”

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“I would set her beside the great songwriters of the recorded music era who’ve had popular success as well as created work that really resonates,” said Burt.

Harvard isn’t the first university to offer a course for Swifties. Berklee College of Music launched its “Songs of Taylor Swift” course in the fall, giving students a chance to break down the Grammy-winning pop star’s lyrical and compositional choices.

Outside of the Boston area, other schools are also bringing Swift into the classroom, including University of Florida, which launches its “Musical Storytelling with Taylor Swift and Other Iconic Female Artists” class in the spring. Additional universities now offering Swift classes include UC Berkeley, University of Texas at Austin, and Stanford University.


Matt Juul can be reached at matthew.juul@globe.com.