Seton Hill University Offers New Gender Studies Course: Taylor Swift (Fall 2024)

Written By: Summer Griffin

Seton Hill University is breaking ground with its latest offering: a course centered around the cultural phenomenon that is Taylor Swift. The course, titled “Special Topics in Gender & Women Studies: Taylor Swift & Feminism” is the brainchild of Kristin Mlay-Kuhns, an adjunct professor at the university.

Kuhns was inspired by a YouTube video shared by a former student, which drew parallels between Swift’s various eras and the themes explored in the professor’s published work, “The Origin and Development of Empress Elisabeth’s Legend: Part One: 1859-2000”.

“I really wasn’t a swiftie,” Kuhns admits. “I mean, I had listened to some of her more popular songs, but I wasn’t a devoted fan or anything by any stretch of the imagination. But I watched that (YouTube video) and he said there were a lot of parallels he was seeing because he was reading my book that I had published.”

Promotional Poster for Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour”.

The course is not just aimed at Swift fans; it’s designed to appeal to a wider audience, serving as an introduction to gender studies and feminism. Kuhns envisions it as a gateway to exploring new ideas, stating, “All are welcome…not just someone who has a gender studies minor or has ever even taken a gender studies class. I want people to be able to explore new ideas.”

With only 24 spots available, the course is expected to be in high demand. To accommodate students, Kuhns plans to utilize online discussion forums and class discussions. Assessments will focus on written assignments rather than traditional tests.

“I do not want to have a culminating final paper,” Kuhns emphasizes. “I’ve always thought  that writing or doing some other demonstration of learning is much more functional than just taking a test.”

Required reading materials will be provided to students at no additional cost, eliminating the need for expensive textbooks. Kuhns stresses that the course is not intended to promote Swift as an artist but rather to examine her career through a critical lens.

“This isn’t necessarily a course to promote her as an artist, or for everyone to just go fan crazy over Taylor Swift,” Kuhns explains. “We’re gonna look at it through a critical lens, right. She is a lens by which to look through and view feminism in different ways.”

As for Kuhns’s own era, she sees herself as a woman of many roles. “I feel like my era actually changes throughout the day,” she says. “I take on a different persona or a different role depending on the function that I need to access at the time.”

Seton Hill’s Taylor Swift course represents a bold intersection of pop culture and academia, offering students a unique opportunity to explore feminism, gender studies, and cultural phenomena through the lens of one of the world’s biggest stars.

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