US singer Taylor Swift (C) addresses graduates at New York University 2022 commencement ceremony after receiving an honorary doctorate in fine arts. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE


Belgian University to offer course on Taylor Swift and dump ‘dead white men’


The literature department of the University of Ghent in Belgium is to introduce a course on US pop-star Taylor Swift given by a professor who believes that there are “already enough books written about Shakespeare and other dead white men.”

In the upcoming academic year, Master’s students in historical language and literature can enrol for the optional course English literature: Taylor’s version. The course examines Taylor Swift’s music as its starting point.

The British professor teaching the course, Elly McCausland, is a fan of the singer. Swift is known for using classical writers as inspiration for her pop songs and as such her work will be used as an introduction to the classics.

Swift will be featured alongside iconic titles and authors such as The Great Gatsby, Robert Frost, Jane Eyre, Emily Dickinson and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Other works including Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and Romeo and Juliet.

“Sometimes students lose the sense that they are studying something useful and recognisable because it is so old,” McCausland told Belgian newspaper HLN.

“There are already enough books written about Shakespeare and other dead white men. It’s also important that we study modern female stars.”

McCausland pointed to the twist Swift gives to classical themes. “For instance, [Swift] often talks about the ‘prince on the white horse’,” she said, adding: “Although she writes in her lyrics that she prefers to get on that horse herself.”

The British professor joined UGent just last year. The course aims to give students the choice between an academic paper or a “creative assignment”.

New York University’s Clive Davis Institute introduced a course covering Swift in February 2022. The class looks at the singer’s evolution as a creative music entrepreneur, the legacy of pop and country songwriters, discourses on youth and girlhood and the politics of race in contemporary popular music.

Stanford University is also said to be offering a similar course.