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Queen Mary Summer School

Taylor Swift and Literature

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Overview

Academic Lead: Dr Clio Doyle

Syllabus: SUM505D_Taylor_Swift_and_Literature [PDF 124KB]

Is the work of Taylor Swift literature?

You may have seen articles, in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to Teen Vogue, about seminars  on Taylor Swift that were recently offered at some American universities. These university-level classes on Swift's work and its form, context, and implications raise all kinds of questions about what should be taught, read, and studied. Is Swift's work literature, and is it worth studying in the same way that one would study Shakespeare or Dickens? In this module, we will grapple with ideas of canonicity and literary value and think about what it means to read something as literature. 

This module suggests that the lyrics of Taylor Swift can and should be read as literature. In doing so, we will pay close attention to formal elements such as rhyme and word choice. We will also analyze her songs with the help of key texts in critical theory and discuss the political, national, and historical contexts of her work. Queen Mary's London setting will encourage us to pay particular attention to the way in which the UK, and London in particular, figures in Swift's lyrics. 

Swift's songs reflect on literary history; for example, "the lakes" makes references to Romantic poets and "Love Story" revises Shakespeare. In this module, we will build an understanding of Swift as an artist who is deeply interested in the relationship between her lyrics and the literature of the past.

2023 Taylor Swift and Literature Syllabus [PDF 85KB]

Course content is subject to change.

Course aims

This course aims to: 

  • give students the opportunity to explore the relationships between contemporary popular culture, literature, and literary theory.
  • explore with students Swift's body of work and what it means to take her work seriously as literature.
  • provide students with a supportive framework in which to develop their ability to think critically about popular culture.
  • introduce students to basic tools of literary study such as close reading and theoretical approaches, and encourage them to apply these tools to particular texts.

Teaching and learning

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, practical workshops and field trips. 

Learning outcomes

You will gain:

  • a knowledge of the basics of literary study and critical theory
  • a critical and practical understanding of imagery, structure, and form in relation to poetry and song lyrics
  • an understanding of the contexts of Taylor Swift's work in relation to literary history and contemporary popular culture

You will be able to:

  • develop an effective and original critical voice
  • appraise the formal and structural elements of the text
  • apply theoretical concepts to the text
  • develop a sophisticated critical understanding of narrative and poetic technique
  • acquire the ability to respond constructively and critically to popular culture
  • develop as a critic by analyzing understudied texts 

Fees

Additional costs

All reading material will be provided online, so it is not necessary to purchase any books.

For course and housing fees visit our finance webpage

Entry requirements

We welcome Summer School students from around the world. We accept a range of qualifications

How to apply

Have a question? Get in touch - one of the team will be happy to help!

Applications close 24 May 2024

 

Teaching dates
Session 1: 30 June - 21 July 2024
Course hours
150 hours (of which 45 will be contact hours)
Assessment
3000 word essay

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