New class at Rice examines pop culture phenom Taylor Swift’s lyrics

Taylor Swift class

One of Rice’s newest classes, Miss Americana: The Evolution and Lyrics of Taylor Swift, has the Swifties coming out in full force to examine and discuss the lyrics and societal impact of the singer/songwriter.

Taught by Katherine Jeng, a junior at Hanszen College studying English and social policy analysis, the class focuses on Swift’s music, alongside considerations of her public discourse, and explores the nuances of her lyrics.

Using a chronological approach, Miss Americana will dissect each one of her 10 albums. It will consider a broad range of topics including femininity and gender; social media and public opinion; politics and social impact; fiction and nonfiction; American nationalism and whiteness; and family and feuds.

The 14-week course offers two sections held on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Both sections of the class are full, and there is a waitlist.

Noting that several courses on Swift were offered at other universities, Jeng said she decided to take the initiative to develop the course for Rice students.

“The class was inspired by the multiple universities that offer courses on Taylor Swift. However, it is also because when Taylor Swift's album “folklore” came out, it was mid-pandemic and I took up annotating her songs,” Jeng said. “As an English major, I love annotating and analyzing poetry and felt the two were very similar.”

The student reaction has been palpable. One of the sections filled within an hour of opening.

“I love Taylor Swift. I've been a fan of her music for about seven years now,” said junior Ethan Nava. “I wanted to explore more analytically what Taylor Swift and her lyricism means as opposed to just listening to her songs.”

Melissa Tariq Rodriguez, a junior studying business finance and social policy analysis, also shared her enthusiasm for the class.

“I think it's a good way to meet people who are interested in the same things that I am,” she said. “I expect that I'll meet a lot of cool, new people this way. Also, I would like to appreciate Taylor Swift in a different perspective than I've traditionally known her.”

Jeng is hopeful to see the subject offered again next semester for students who could not participate in the inaugural class.

“I see some longevity in this class,” she said. “If I teach it next semester or if I pass it on to someone who maybe is a couple years younger than me, I see this going beyond just a one-semester class.”