Belgium students’ love story with Taylor Swift

GHENT-A hubbub grips the class in the Belgian city of Ghent as university students eagerly discuss whether US pop star Taylor Swift is a “literary genius”. The question elicits passionate responses from students, and it’s an exercise their professor hopes will enliven their engagement with more traditional figures of the English Literature canon. The course is among a handful that have popped up at universities around the world as pop titan Swift has racked up hits and awards and as her Eras Tour is expected to set a record for the first billion-dollar tour. “To read her lyrics without the context of the song, it can feel like poetry,” one student says, after the teacher opens the floor to discussion. Another student pipes up to suggest it’s too soon to say Swift, 33, has had the same cultural impact as William Shakespeare, known around the world for many centuries. While Shakespeare wrote at least 38 plays, Swift has recorded 10 albums. Some will wonder what Shakespeare and his peers share in common with today’s biggest US singer-songwriter. Well, they are all the subject of Elly McCausland’s course called “Literature (Taylor’s Version)” for Master’s degree students at Ghent University, which will run until the end of the year. During the first class on Monday, assistant professor McCausland piqued the students’ curiosity with controversial questions, including why certain authors and literature are considered timeless, while other books are not valued the same way. McCausland’s goal? To make literature more accessible. “I’d like to get people excited about literature, thinking about literature in a new way and realising that actually even literature from centuries and centuries ago still has something to add to our conversations,” she told AFP at the class.

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