English 1500: Taylor’s Version prepares for its era

Are you ready for it? English 1500: Taylor’s Version is coming to East Carolina University.

The course isn’t in students’ wildest dreams but instead will be on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 12:30-1:45 p.m. and is open to 116 students. Dr. Anna Froula, professor of English in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, will teach the course, which satisfies a general education humanities requirement.

Informational Graphic outlining the course offering English 1500: Taylor's Version. This course begins in the fall semester of 2024, and is held on Thursday's from 12:30 P.M. through 1:45 P.M. The course will be delivered by Dr. Anna Froula Professor of Film Studies. All materials will be provided via Canvas, and no textbook is required.

English 1500: Taylor’s Version will be offered at East Carolina University for the Fall 2024 semester. (Contributed photo)

“I’m very excited to offer this class for the first time,” said Froula. “The underlying idea is to get people to think critically about a loved object, a loved text. We are going to be looking at different variations of fan studies including some of the Swifties’ fan behavior. Additionally, we’ll be learning a lot about basic literary terms such as metaphors, similes and allegories. We’ll be curating song lists by doing some analytical writing and tracing themes throughout multiple songs. Students will also have a music video-focused project where they demonstrate the link between music videos and words.”

The idea for the class developed from a Swift-inspired course that Froula took herself.

“I took a three-night online class from a medievalist in Texas on Taylor Swift and how she pairs it with older British literature,” said Froula. “During that class I felt like ‘we could use a class like this.’”

Karma is the Guy on the Chiefs

The rise of Swift in pop culture will be studied through multiple perspectives. The class will watch “Miss Americana,” a documentary about Swift that premiered in January 2020. A portion of the course will also discuss how Swift’s presence impacted other brands, especially the NFL, because of her relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Fan studies, including sports fandom and music fandom, will also be covered.

I’m the Problem, It’s Me

A focus of the class will be studying parasocial relationships, which Froula describes as an affinity that you have with a star that you don’t know in person but feels like a real relationship. These can veer into unhealthy and obsessive behaviors.

“We’re going to be talking a lot about parasocial relationships and the impact of new media on these relationships,” said Froula. “How much more we feel we have more access to stars and celebrities because of social media and camera phones. We’ll discuss what it means to separate her life as a human being who deserves her privacy and why there’s a portion of the internet that is mad about her dating life.”

Bad Blood

While Swift may be the musical star of the class, she won’t be its lone focus. Froula said the class will study the experiences of many notable musicians as they experienced the ups and downs of stardom and how their experiences shaped Swift’s current experience.

“I’m planning on incorporating Sturgill Simpson who also has a lot of songs about his beef with the industry, and I think it will be an interesting part of the opposition,” said Froula. “We’re going to be reading part of Britney Spears’ memoir ‘The Woman in Me’ and think about the treatment of young women singers from the 1990s until now. We’ll watch ‘Shut Up and Sing,’ a documentary about the Chicks and the political backlash they encountered following a comment about George W. Bush and study some of the confessional songwriters that paved the way for Taylor to have this kind of career.”

Dear Reader

Although the course isn’t writing intensive, Froula feels that the class will help students in their writing and be able to defend their viewpoints.

“We’ll be thinking about the relationship between image and word and the power of that relationship,” said Froula. “You have to know the music well enough to be able to cite all of the different lyrics and ways that a metaphor surfaces. You’ll have to defend your choices. Students will be thinking about argumentation and address. I think it will help prepare them for more multimedia classes.”

For the students who register for the class, Froula believes they will learn about celebrity studies and the role of superstars in American culture.

“Students should expect a deep dive into what it means to study a celebrity, a focus on her lyrics. They will be defining, as best we can, what the Taylor Swift multiverse is and how it operates in our culture.”