Lakeland University Blog

Special LU English class something to sing about

Special LU English class something to sing about


Special LU English class something to sing about

This semester, Tayler Otten, a senior majoring in English and creative writing, is creating content for the Lakeland blog. This is the latest in a series of blog stories she’s written..

Last fall, Lakeland University Assistant Professor of English Mark Heimermann developed and taught a course titled “Long Story Short: Taylor Swift’s Songs as Narrative Poetry.”

Like most of the wildly popular Taylor Swift’s songs, Heimermann’s class was a hit as the modern, pop-themed English course found big fans amongst LU’s student body.

Heimermann, a fan of Swift’s music, sensed that students would enjoy an English course evaluating the popular artist’s songs as a source of poetry. Heimermann understands the importance of offering special topics courses that generate student interest in English courses. As it happened, Swift’s Eras tour coincided with the course, generating even more interest.

“We approached the songs as poetry and discussed various types of poems and poetic traditions, as well as literary elements like metaphor.” Heimermann shared. “But it was also important to understand that music is its own medium.”

Lakeland Assistant Professor of Music Evan Chancellor visited the class to discuss elements of melody and sound. Heimermann took Chancellor’s teachings to heart, discussing how sound can shape impressions or set mood through each song. The combination of music and English created a unique experience for students.

“I haven’t seen a music-focused English class before,” said Hailey VanStelle, a Swift enthusiast who took the class. “I learned a lot about rhetorical devices and their uses in songwriting to evoke certain feelings and imagery.”

VanStelle was one of many students who held a particular fondness for Taylor Swift's music. Student Janae Kilsdonk expressed her own interest by agreeing to showcase her work from the class at Lakeland’s Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Symposium.

“I love talking in front of groups about topics I enjoy, and Swift is a topic I enjoy,” said Kilsdonk, who discussed a paper she wrote for the class titled “Taylor Swift: Remembering It All Too Well,” where she looked at the theme of making memories through Swift's songs.

The course not only generated interest from English students, but non-English majors as well. Writing student Amy Moua took the class as a requirement but found a wider intrigue in English-designated courses along the way.

“When I think of English as a subject on its own, my straight thought is grammar, style and how we incorporate it into our daily or professional usage,” Moua admitted. “However, through this course, I was able to understand the broader lens of diving into compositional works and literary analysis in other media besides novels and/or poetic pieces.”

Moua’s experience, among others, was exactly what Heimermann had hoped for; the class welcomed students from all disciplines into a new and intriguing approach. Heimermann recognized students’ tendency to focus solely on classes that fit their major or requirements. However, he advised finding time for more.

“Take some courses that appeal to you, whether they are in your major or not,” Heimermann advised. “The courses that stick with people are often the ones that excite them in some way, and college can be a great time to explore your interests.”

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