From 'Folklore' to finals: Weber State's Taylor Swift-themed English class hits all the right notes

OGDEN, Utah — Weber State University’s Department of English launched a new “era” of elective courses focused on Taylor Swift Studies this spring with more than 30 undergraduate and graduate students signing up to study the award-winning songstress and her recent pop culture dominance. 

Associate Professor Emily January is teaching the elective course, which filled up “almost immediately” once spring class registration opened. A blonde girl with a gray Taylor Swift Eras Tour sweatshirt sits in a classroom while attending a Taylor Swift Studies class.

“We also ended up opening a master’s level class for our graduate students, because they were jealous they didn’t get class on their side of things,” she said. “There’s lots of people in there, just really excited every week.” 

Teaching Taylor Swift is a growing trend in higher education institutions, with Weber State joining schools like Brigham Young University, the University of California-Berkeley and Harvard in offering classes focused on the “Cruel Summer” singer. Electives like “Taylor Swift Studies” are a good way to introduce students to topics or areas of study they might not otherwise explore, January said. 

“I think a lot of what’s happening in higher education is that we’re having to not only connect to the students in class, but we need to entice them to enroll in the first place,” January said. “If we’re giving them this with something they’re already familiar with, then we give them the power to learn and educate themselves about the deeper issues that surround those beloved topics.”

And what can you learn about studying Taylor Swift’s music? Plenty. 

Each week, January selects a different theme for class readings and discussions: girlhood, politics and feminism, to name a few. In early February, the classes discussed protest songs and novels in relation to Swift’s song “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince.” 

Senior Lindsey Rowley has listened to Swift since her debut album and has enjoyed the robust in-class discussions. She said January excels at challenging students and pushing them to “read between the lyrics.”

“It’s academically enlightening. I feel like I learn something new or adopt a new way of thinking that I would not have gained otherwise,” Rowley said. “I do enjoy listening to her music as homework, but there is a substantial amount of analysis that comes with it.”

For their final projects, students can either write a traditional research paper or work on a creative project with a shorter paper explaining their project. 

“Though most of us are fans, it isn't a fan club. It isn't a waste of time,” Rowley said. “It’s an opportunity to learn more about an artist and how she has and will continue to impact and change the world.” 

As Swift continues her hugely successful Eras Tour and stays in the news, the class also has new material to discuss. Her next album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” drops on April 19, the Friday before finals week at Weber State. 

The class asked to meet an extra time during their final exam time to discuss the new album, a first in January’s teaching career. 

“It’s been really gratifying to experience, to see how excited students are to engage in conversation,” she said. 

January plans to teach “Taylor Swift Studies” again in fall 2024. 


Jessica Kokesh, Marketing & Communications


Bryan Magaña, public relations director