Home » Breathitt Lecture to explore Taylor Swift’s artistry

Breathitt Lecture to explore Taylor Swift’s artistry

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Hayden Osborne, a University of Kentucky secondary English education and Lewis Honors College senior from Pikeville, Kentucky, has been selected to give the annual Edward T. Breathitt Undergraduate Lectureship in the Humanities.

Presented by the Gaines Center for the Humanities, Osborne’s lecture, “Take Me to the Lakes: folklore, evermore, and Wordsworth,” will explore how the lyrics of Taylor Swift’s eighth and ninth albums, “folklore” and “evermore,” take inspiration from the works of William Wordsworth and how Swift has established herself as a “new romantic” in modern society through discussions of her work and writing practice.

The lecture will take place 6 p.m. Thursday, April 13, in the Marksbury Building’s Hardymon Theatre. The event is free and open to the public. It will also be live-streamed.

Established to honor Edward T. Breathitt, an eminent Kentuckian (governor of Kentucky, 1963-67) and a UK alumnus with exceptional passion for higher education and the humanities, this lectureship is awarded to an undergraduate whose qualities of mind and spirit have been expressed eloquently on one of more of the basic concerns of the humanities: form, value, and memory.

In the spring of 2021, Taylor Swift became the first woman to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year three times, winning in 2010, 2016 and 2021. This achievement has made music critics, pop culture scholars and her fans deem her one of the most influential artists of the current generation.

While critics and fans alike have reduced Swift to identities such as pop star, serial dater, or revenge-hungry femme fatale, this lecture will present Swift as an artist first through a discussion of how Swift views her work and her writing practice, utilizing moments from interviews, documentaries, awards show speeches (including “Miss Americana,” the 2020 documentary about Swift’s life; “folklore: the long pond studio sessions”; the recorded concert of her eighth album; and her acceptance of the Nashville Songwriter Award for Songwriter of the Decade Award). The lecture explores Swift’s own body of work before examining the intertextuality that both “folklore” and “evermore” have with the poems of William Wordsworth as just one way of considering her artistic merit.

Looking at songs such as “seven,” “marjorie,” “the lakes” and “willow,” Osborne will interrogate how these songs reflect themes such as childhood, imagination and the natural world explored by Wordsworth in his poems “We Are Seven,” “Lucy Gray,” and “Lines Composed…Above Tintern Abbey” as well as in the “Preface to Lyrical Ballads” through a combination of direct references to Wordsworth and his work (as in “the lakes”) as well as more subtle, thematic references to the romantic movement at large (as in “willow”).

Above all, this lecture will aim to present Swift in a new light: yes, she is a businesswoman and a brilliant performer, but she is an artist first. It could be argued that Taylor Swift is one of the most prolific artists of her generation, and this lecture aims to explore her work, her celebrity and her artistry.

Register here for the in-person and virtual attendance of the event.

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