NYU offering Taylor Swift-centered course that will ‘deconstruct both the appeal and aversions’ to the star

New York University’s Clive Davis Institute has introduced its first-ever course on Taylor Swift, which launched on Jan. 26 and continues through March 9.

Taught by Rolling Stone’s Brittany Spanos, the class will cover Swift’s evolution as a creative music entrepreneur, the legacy of pop and country songwriters, discourses of youth and girlhood, and the politics of race in contemporary popular music, according to a rep for the program, who noted that the course has a long waitlist. Swift has been invited to speak to class, although the status of that request is still pending.

Chaired by veteran music writer and musician Jason King, the Davis Institute has included classes taught by Questlove, “Dilla Time” author Dan Charnas, Q-Tip, legendary producer-engineer Bob Power and many others.

The course description reads in part, “This course proposes to deconstruct both the appeal and aversions to Taylor Swift through close readings of her music and public discourse as it relates to her own growth as an artist and a celebrity. Through readings, lectures and more, the class delves into analyses of the culture and politics of teen girlhood in pop music, fandom, media studies, whiteness and power as it relates to her image and the images of those who have both preceded and succeeded her. We’ll also consider topics like copyright and ownership, American nationalism and the ongoing impact of social media on the pop music industry.

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“Course Objectives:

  1. Students will develop an understanding and appreciation for Taylor Swift as a creative music entrepreneur; Students will learn to deconstruct the way her creativity and songwriting have made her a durable presence in a quickly evolving music industry;
  2. Students will learn about the legacy of pop and country songwriters that have influenced Swift as well as the discourses around “prodigies” in pop music history;
  3. Students will gain an understanding of how discourses of youth and girlhood are often exploited in the media and music industries;

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  1. Students will learn about the politics of race in contemporary popular music, and to interrogate whiteness as it relates to Swift’s politics, songwriting, worldview and interactions with the wider cultural world around her;
  2. Students will develop greater sophistication in their artistic appreciation, critical thinking, research and writing skills.”
Swift has been invited to speak to the class.

Swift has been invited to speak to the class.
(Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy )

King tells Variety, “To me, the class was a no-brainer when Brittany first suggested it. She’s a Taylor fan but she also understands how to contextualize her culturally, and get students to think more deeply about her and her music through the lens of gender, feminism, race, and class, and other categories related to identity, and that deeper thinking is what this program is all about. She’s also an NYU alum and a former student of mine and I’ve watched her rise as a journalist and as a person and I’m so excited to bring her in.”

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Spanos adds, “Teaching a course at Clive Davis has been a dream of mine since I attended NYU. I took several of the Topics in Recorded Music courses in the program while an undergrad and they were foundational to my work as a music journalist. I’ve been covering Taylor Swift since I began my writing career a decade ago and have been a super fan of hers for even longer. It’s such an honor to be able to share my Swiftie expertise with a sharp group of students. I hope to help them rethink how to engage with one of the things world’s biggest and sometimes divisive stars, in the same way Clive professors like Jason King, Vivien Goldman and Joe Levy did for me when I took their courses.”

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