Penn State Berks to offer Taylor Swift course for summer 2024

Nittany Lion poses as Taylor Swift's Eras Tour poster
Credit: Jaine DelVecchio

WYOMISSING, Pa. – We don’t know how it gets better than this. The Penn State Berks Office of Continuing Education will offer two sections of the non-credit course “Taylor Swift, Gender and Communication” during the Maymester sessions. One section will be held in-person on from 6 to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, from May 1 through May 29, while the other section will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, from April 30 through May 28, in a hybrid format.  

The course was developed and will be taught by Michele Ramsey, associate professor of communication arts and sciences and of women's, gender, and sexuality studies. Ramsey’s research interests include representations of gender in the media, women's rights rhetoric, social movement rhetoric, political rhetoric and advocacy for the humanities.  

The courses will focus on cultural, political and social issues that emerge in Taylor Swift’s stories and in the media’s representation of her (and other women) in music. Ramsey, who identifies as a Swiftie, was inspired to bring this course to a larger audience outside of the traditional credit offerings for several reasons.  

"I look forward to teaching this class for three primary reasons," she said. "First, her impact on our culture is undeniable, significant, and unprecedented and so we should seek to understand not only the ideologies that ground her lyrics, but also her visual representations and her social media brands, as well as the role of gendered expectations in all of these things. Second, the analysis of popular culture is a great way to practice media and rhetorical criticism skills that we can use to analyze any messages we receive. And finally, we get to also practice using succinct and effective written communication, interpersonal discussion skills, critical thinking skills while examining academic work surrounding diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that it's good to learn how to critically analyze popular culture that is so a part of our lives. We tend to think of it only as entertainment but when we do that, we have a higher chance of it impacting us or changing our values or views of the world. And when we do that, the skills that we practice in this class can be used to critically assess any media or other type of communication aimed at us. It helps us become better critical thinkers.” 

For more information about the Continuing Education’s noncredit “Taylor Swift, Gender and Communication” course, contact Kathy Cavanaugh, education program specialist at Penn State Berks, at [email protected] , or visit the Continuing Education website