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Harvard students enrolled in Taylor Swift class pull all-nighter for ‘Tortured Poets Department’ release

Students at Harvard University, which is offering a class dedicated to Taylor Swift this spring, are taking the release of her new album “The Tortured Poets Department” very seriously.

The highly anticipated album was released Friday, and so-called “Swifties,” the nickname given to her die-hard fans, started playing the album on loop. So, apparently, did a group of Harvard students enrolled in the undergraduate English course “Taylor Swift and Her World.”

“On Thursday night, about 50 students from the class gathered in a lecture hall on campus to listen to Ms. Swift’s new album,” the New York Times reported. “…When the clock struck midnight, the classroom erupted into applause, and the analysis began. First, the group listened through the album once without discussing, just taking it all in.”

The Ivy League students, some of whom reportedly made friendship bracelets, proceeded to dissect certain lines that resonated with them.

“Speaking with the New York Times together on a video call Friday morning, several students from the class discussed their thoughts on the 31 new songs and brainstormed their final papers, which are due at the end of the month,” the newspaper reported.

Swift songs are often known for agonizing over the angst of heartbreaks.

“I hesitate to say that the song was anywhere near the genius of Sylvia Plath — no offense to Taylor Swift — but I can definitely see some similarities in the themes, like sadness, depression and mental health,” one sophomore told the Times.

According to Harvard’s website, the course moves “through Swift’s own catalogue, including hits, deep cuts, outtakes, re-recordings, considering songwriting as its own art, distinct from poems recited or silently read. We will learn how to study fan culture, celebrity culture, adolescence, adulthood and appropriation; how to think about white texts, Southern texts, transatlantic texts, and queer subtexts.”

“We will learn how to think about illicit affairs, and hoaxes, champagne problems and incomplete closure. We will look at her precursors, from Dolly Parton to the Border Ballads, and at work about her (such as the documentary “Miss Americana”). And we will read literary works important to her and works about song and performance, with novels, memoirs and poems by (among others) Willa Cather, James Weldon Johnson, Tracey Thorn, and William Wordsworth.”

Swift lore has been a focus of academia for quite some time now, not just at Harvard.

The University of Florida’s Honors Program has a course on Swift this semester. “In this class, students will fearlessly jump then fall into 13 gorgeous weeks of discussing Taylor Swift’s discography, with a focus on her evergreen songwriting,” its website states.

An entire academic conference was dedicated to Swift last November, zeroing in on topics such as gender, capitalism and feminism.

A daylong conference focused on Swift in 2021 focused in part on the “whiteness of her fans,” The College Fix reported at the time.

MORE: ‘Slightly racist to be a Taylor Swift fan,’ professor says

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.