Nov 1 (Reuters) – When law professor Sean Kammer’s friends told him they were skeptical about the seriousness of his upcoming course focused on Taylor Swift at the University of South Dakota, it was his chance to do what any Swiftie would do: Shake it off.
“I understand this sounds ridiculous, at least at first glance,” said Kammer, a self-avowed Swiftie. “But it’s not.”
Kammer’s course, The Taylor Swift Effect, planned for the spring semester looks to be the first law school class based on the sequined musical icon.
After attending a Swift concert in Minneapolis in June, Kammer said he was inspired to develop the writing-intensive class, available to second- and third-year law students. The course will look at the musician’s interactions with the law, such as her rerecording of six albums and related copyright issue, Kammer said. It will also examine how individuals’ own experiences and beliefs shape how they interpret the law — much like how they interpret her song lyrics.
Pop culture-focused law classes are not uncommon, and they can create a public relations buzz for the schools that offer them. The gritty television show “The Wire” inspired a number of criminal law-focused classes over the years, and the University of Virginia School of Law in 2022 offered a class on corporate law based on the show “Succession.”
Law classes centered on a single public figure are harder to come by, though Georgia State University College of Law is currently running a class based on the legal life of rapper and music executive Rick Ross.
Boston University law professor Jessica Silbey, who co-authored a textbook on pop culture and the law, said students tend to be more engaged when they study subjects such as sports, new technology and celebrities.
Silbey covers the singer’s album rerecordings in her copyright class to teach about contract law in the music business. She said Swift’s success story and her bumps along the way provide opportunity for lessons in the law.
South Dakota Law isn’t the first academic institution to tap into the Swift sensation. The University of California at Berkeley this week announced an upcoming business course based on Swift’s entrepreneurship. Stanford, New York University and the University of Texas have also offered Swift-inspired classes. But Kammer’s course is the first legal exploration of her music and career.
Kammer, who also teaches legal history, said he plans to use certain songs to delve into the interpretation of lyrics and legal texts, and into the benefits and drawbacks of approaches such as originalism, evolutionism, and textualism.
“If we have students who are passionate about Taylor Swift — and we do — I thought that could be a useful lens to get them excited about certain topics they might not normally be interested in,” Kammer said.
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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at [email protected]