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NYU offering Taylor Swift course teaching students 'the politics of race in contemporary popular music,' will 'interrogate whiteness' as it relates to singer's songwriting

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Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Amazon

New York University is offering a course about Taylor Swift. According to Variety, the class will not only teach about the singer as a "creative music entrepreneur," but also train students about "the politics of race in contemporary popular music." The Taylor Swift class will also examine "American nationalism" and "interrogate whiteness as it relates to Swift’s politics, songwriting, worldview."

The Taylor Swift course will be offered at the Clive Davis Institute at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, which has a tuition of $62,062. For fans of the "Bad Blood" singer — who are known as "Swifties" — the class is being offered for the spring 2022 semester, which already began on Jan. 26 and runs through March 9. The class is an elective and will have a maximum of 20 students. The university told the New York Daily News that the course "is indeed at capacity."

"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," the course description says.

"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," the listing states. "We’ll also consider topics like copyright and ownership, American nationalism, and the ongoing impact of social media on the pop music industry."

The objectives of the course are:

  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;
  4. 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;
  5. Students will develop greater sophistication in their artistic appreciation, critical thinking, research, and writing skills.

The class will be taught by NYU alum and Rolling Stone staff writer Brittany Spanos, who covers "music, fandom, and pop culture." Recent articles by Spanos include "The 5 Songs Doja Cat Can’t Live Without," "The 20 Best Billie Eilish Songs," and "How Did Olivia Rodrigo’s Sad Girl Anthem Become So Big on TikTok?" The entertainment writer says her favorite genre of music is boy band.

"Teaching a course at Clive Davis has been a dream of mine since I attended NYU," Spanos said. "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," Spanos told Variety. "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."

"To me, the class was a no-brainer when Brittany first suggested it," Jason King, the chair of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, said. "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."

King noted that Spanos is a former student of his and said she will bring "intersectional experience to the study of a superstar like Taylor Swift."

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