Published on April 5, 2023
While Taylor Swift fans across the country were scrambling for concert tickets, students in the MU Honors College were applying for the first ever Taylor Swift-inspired honors tutorial. Taught by Dr. Thomas Kane and Jordan Pellerito, Taylor Swiftory: History & Literature Through Taylor Swift explores “how history is crafted; how we write our own histories; how we write histories of others; and the sources that enable us to do so.”
Honors tutorial courses, small-sized one-credit classes that cover a wide range of topics, keep students from feeling “Invisible” by giving them quality time with their instructors. Honors tutorial’s “Fearless” approach to new course material leaves students “Evermore” hungry to learn. Taylor Swiftory is a perfect example of these innovative approaches to learning.
“[Taylor Swift] is kind of uniquely suited as a historical source in terms of celebrity,” said Pellerito, program and multimedia marketing coordinator for the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy. “She’s uniquely autobiographical. … I thought she would be really interesting to do history with and a more relevant topic for students to engage with.”
The course explores a wide range of historical and literary topics using Taylor Swift’s music as a primary source to guide learning and class discussions. Among its lessons, the course teaches students about the histories of pop culture and celebrity, as well as to look for deeper meaning and discover how messages can be communicated in both literature and historical sources.
“Usually, Dr. Kane and Jordan will have a task or close reading for us to complete before class,” said Hope Davis, a graduate student studying journalism. “This has been collections of poetry, Swift’s lyrics or a task to compile sources other than her music that could be part of an ‘archive.’ We typically discuss these as a group and work out how we could interpret songs or outside sources if we were historians in the future trying to learn about Taylor Swift.”
As with many other honors tutorial courses, students came into the class with a wide range of knowledge and passion for the subject. Rather than limit discussion, this only made the course more interesting for students as they approached the work from a variety of thought-provoking perspectives.
“It’s always really interesting; we have someone who should be a dictionary on Taylor Swift and knows everything,” said Kane, who is the director of undergraduate studies for the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy. “Then we have a couple people who self-admittedly don’t know much about her or aren’t fans of her, and so having a spectrum of people who have different interests and different knowledge has been really interesting to see how they work with the sources.”
Of the many benefits offered to honors students at Mizzou, honors tutorials often fly under the radar. As History & Literature Through Taylor Swift shows, these courses are an exciting way for students to explore compelling and fresh topics in a small setting. For more information about honors tutorials, visit the MU Honors College website.