VERMILLION, S.D.(Press Release) – The “Taylor Swift Effect” has taken the world by storm and has even made its way into the college classroom. This spring semester, students at the University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law will be able to take a course focused on Taylor Swift that will encourage them to think about the legal environment from a new perspective.
In a new course offered by Professor Sean Kammer, J.D., Ph.D., students at the state’s premier law school will have the opportunity to learn about a pop music icon and how her life, legacy in the music industry and impact on culture intertwine with the law.
“The basic idea is to use a topic about which students are already quite passionate about to help them interrogate the law in ways they probably wouldn’t otherwise do in law school,” said Kammer. “The course will also help them understand that their experiences and passions not typically associated with the law can, and do, inform the way they approach the law. Who they are matters, essentially.”
Kammer was inspired to create this course after several interactions with students who are avowed “Swifties,” as well as his personal experiences with Swift and her music, specifically his experience attending her Eras Tour in Minneapolis. “The vibes are just so positive, and they got me to thinking whether there were lessons for law as it comes to the fostering of a healthy, vibrant and supportive community,” he said.
The course, which will be offered next spring for second- and third-year law students, will use Swift’s music and lyrics, as well as her celebrity persona, her massive following and her interactions with the legal system, to provide students with insights into legal philosophy, legal culture and legal rhetoric.
Through the course, students will use debates over music interpretation as an analogy for the competing theories of legal interpretation. This will encourage them to question why they gravitate to a particular theory, while also understanding each theory’s strengths and limitations. Students will also explore the influence of music – and pop culture more broadly – on the law.
In addition to learning legal and social theory and developing their skills as writers, Kammer hopes students walk away from his class knowing that “who they are as individuals matters.”
“It matters not only in terms of which arguments they choose to make or whose interests they seek to represent, but in how they treat fellow members of their communities,” Kammer said. “I want them to learn that the practice of law is not something they should sequester from the rest of their lives. It is something that should be embedded within a full life, and it should be pursued in a way that is consistent with one’s values and identity.”