Belgium University Explores English Literature Through Taylor Swift's Songs

Assistant Professor Elly McCausland's course "Literature (Taylor's Version)" creatively intertwines Swift's lyrics with literary greats like Shakespeare, Bronte, Chaucer, and Thackeray

Belgium University Explores English Literature Through Taylor Swift's Songs

A literature professor at the Ghent University in Belgium has launched a course that uses songs by American singer and songwriter Taylor Swift to explore the greats of English writing and the themes of their work. 

The course "Literature (Taylor's Version)" by Assistant Professor Elly McCausland uses Swift's lyrics as a gateway into reading some of the greats of the literary canon, such as William Shakespeare, Charlotte Bronte, Geoffrey Chaucer and William Thackeray. It explores feminism with the song "The Man" and the anti-hero trope through her song "Anti-Hero" from her 2022 album, "Midnights.

The pop spin on the course has helped it become very popular amongst students, and the professor says she has even received requests from students outside the university to join.

While this may be the first course of its kind in Europe, similar courses have been launched in New York and London.

Despite some criticism online, the professor insists that the course is a way to make literature "more accessible" and not to create a Swift fan club.

"The whole point is to get people to think that English literature is not a load of old books from a long time ago festering in a library. But it's a living, breathing thing, and it's continually evolving and changing," she said.

McCausland pointed to how Swift also refers to other classical works by several more writers, including Charles Dickens and Emily Dickinson, in her songs, all of which could make it into her course.

Moreover, in prose, she noted that Swift's style had similarities with other writers, including British Romantic poets of the early 19th century.

Swift is a big literature buff and admitted as much in an interview with Paul McCartney for Rolling Stone, noting that she read Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca" among other classic books during the pandemic.