If you missed Part 1, check it out here.
Topics covered in Part 1: perspective is reality, art is a reflection of the society around it, why Taylor Swift is our generation’s Shakespeare, and the Hero’s Journey.
If you missed Part 2, check it out here.
Topics covered: epiphany, invisible string, the juxtaposition of free will and fate, bonus tracks, karma, and more!
English Teacher KP: What were your thoughts about Taylor Swift’s use of season imagery throughout folklore/evermore— references to winter, summer, specific months? I loved it because, obviously we talk about the hero’s journey and everything being cyclical. What is more cyclical than the seasons? Winter will come, but spring will follow.
Kristina: I have been doing a lot of deep diving into ancient history, philosophy, mythology, the foundations of Western thinking, and even the beginning of language during this past year. I think that the change of seasons is something that is echoed in the greatest art and literature because it’s a universal constant. It’s something like fate or karma, it’s part of our circle of life. I think there is also the idea here of the hero’s journey and death/rebirth. What are your thoughts?
KP: I completely agree. I love, like in august, she doesn’t want the summer to end. That’s such a universal feeling, not wanting summer to end, not wanting to go back to school or leave vacation. Summer is exciting, but then fall comes and things get more drab. Things start to die. Then in winter, everything is dead. It’s interesting that some of the more sad songs happen during winter and have Christmas references and reference the gray of it all. But then, there is also rebirth… in Spring, everything starts to come alive again. It’s just another layer. I think she also uses summer sometimes to represent nostalgia. Sometimes, when we look back on something, it isn’t exactly what we think it is.
Kristina: Our memory is just our perception! That whole idea of perception is reality comes into play here. Does that mean reality is different for different people? There’s just so many questions that go along with that. I think that may be the direction Taylor’s music may be going… I hope she continues to explore some of those deep philosophical questions about what it means to be human. What does it mean to be alive? I think that modern day pop-stars— I see it with Taylor, Billie Eillish/Finneas, and others who write their own music— are philosophers in their own way. I think that the history books will also say a similar thing.
KP: It goes back to everything being a direct reflection of society. Artists are able to capture what we’re feeling as a society, the issues we’re facing as a society, what we believe, and what’s controversial. People who write their own music are so in tune. It’s what I love about poetry. I always say I wish I were a poet.
One of my favorite poetry quotes is, “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling.” If a writer is living in the moment and in tune with what is happening with society, they become in tune with those feelings. Poetry starts flowing out. I think Taylor writes music because she has to, her feelings are something she cant even contain.
Kristina: That’s how I felt when writing my book, Lucky! I had never considered myself much of a writer, but I started writing this book in September— September 18th, actually, was the day I first got access to a copy of Blue Blood by Craig Unger— and by April I had finished writing a 380-page book.
KP: That’s crazy, oh my gosh.
Kristina: I felt like I was using my book to process all of these complex feelings the pandemic was bringing up within me. Writing was all I wanted to do. I felt like it was hard to relate to people, it was more difficult to talk to other people. Everything just flowed out of me through the book. Now, I see so much more how using writing in my life helps me process complex emotions. I would recommend writing to everybody.
KP: I go back to Shakespeare. My students say, “How could he write 154 sonnets?! That’s crazy!” Well, what else was he supposed to do?! He was out of work. There was plague killing everyone. He was having problems with his family. He lost his son. He felt compelled to write through that. He was probably bursting! He had to write about it!
Kristina: It’s amazing because, still to this day, we’re studying him. We relate to him. What a legacy! Which brings up another theme of folklore/evermore… the idea of legacy. I see a realization in these albums. Taylor realizes that her story, her legacy, will not be just defined by what we’re talking about today. Her story— if you’re looking at her life statistically— her graph is so much bigger than she realized. Her legacy may be infinite. And wooh, what a realization!
KP: I think she also realized she could immortalize other people. Like in seven, with her friend, even though she can’t remember every detail she remembers how special that person was. Now, we will always be talking about how special that person is. It’s just like Sonnet 18, when Shakespeare says “I love you, bro. You’re amazing. Yeah, I know you’ll die but you’re actually going to live forever because people will read about you forever.” It’s kind of cocky, but true! It’s a similar thing with seven. Taylor remembers her childhood best friend and immortalizes her forever! She realized her power!
Kristina: I totally agree, but I have to say, seven has so many references to Rebekah Harkness, Blue Blood the biography, word-for-word references.
KP: Man! I need to read it!
Kristina: Yes!! But it’s really hard to find. There was only one edition ever published. You can buy it right now on Amazon for I think $900 and there are only three copies. It’s virtually impossible to find. If any of the people watching are in Chicago, you can find it at the Newberry Library, which is a circulation-only library downtown. But, you can only read it when you’re there!
KP: Wow, fascinating! I need to read that. I’ve heard other people say similar things, but I’m not familiar enough with Rebekah’s story…
Kristina: Let’s see if I can come up with some connections on the spot. In my opinion, seven has to do with Rebekah’s daughter, Edith. Edith was troubled. When she was 9, she first tried to commit suicide. At age 12, of the nannies told her to jump out of a window, and she did it. She does ultimately commit suicide, a few weeks after Rebekah died, with pills stolen from her mother’s death bed-side. Edith was beautiful; peculiar, but interesting. She was obsessed with Peter Pan… and we, of course, see a Peter Pan theme throughout folklore.
“I think your house is haunted, your dad is always mad and that must be why,” is an allusion to Rebekah Harkness (well actually Betty West, Rebekah’s childhood name). In Blue Blood, Craig Unger talks about how there was a rumor going around Betty’s school: her house was haunted. Her father, a business tycoon in St. Louis at the brink of the industrial revolution, was known for his temper. Betty’s friends from school wouldn’t come over to play at Betty’s house, because they were scared of her father.
There are quite a few references throughout folklore, especially, to Blue Blood and the story of Rebekah Harkness. I think Taylor spent a lot of time with that story as she was writing folklore in particular. I encoded a lot of this into my book. Now, trying to come up with exact examples on the spot, I can’t! Maybe sometime I can come on your YouTube channel and we can talk about the symbolism/ parallels between Blue Blood, folklore, and even my book Lucky!
KP: Yeah! I have alot of reading to do! I haven’t read much of Lucky yet, but just reading the prolouge…. You are a fantastic writer! I love reading literature but am not a very good writer, but I think you are very talented. I can’t wait to get the chance to read your book… it’s hard when you have a 5-year-old running around!
Kristina: I’ve tried to encode a lot of symbolism within my book, too. I think you’ll find it interesting. I went deep into mythology, philosophy, story-telling, the foundations of Western thinking. My journey started with my analysis of folklore and reading books Taylor mentioned.
Then, I uncovered a story that gave me so much hope… at a time when I felt so hopeless. Just the fact that an album can do that, and that one artist can have that type of influence on you is a really an amazingly powerful thing. I think that is a beautiful representation of Butterfly Effect/ The Chaos Theory. One small change within you can spark great change in the world around you. I think Taylor may have taken a journey into a more enlightened state over the years, and I think by listening to her music, a similar change can be sparked within you.
KP: What a testament to Taylor and her writing! She’s able to start the Butterfly Effect, or the domino effect… it’s amazing she can do that through her art.
Kristina: I think that’s the power of art, literature, and poetry. That’s why I am so excited that you’re on YouTube and spreading the knowledge! I think some of the answers to our problems can be found encoded in art, literature and music.
KP: And sometimes, the answers aren’t there! Some of my students have asked me, “How do you read the same book over and over and over again every single semester, every class, every day. How do you not get tired of it?!” And I would say, “every time I revisit it I think, what would I have done differently?” You’re forced to take on the perspective of someone else, it forces you to confront your own world-view and to think outside of your own bubble. I think that is so important. Taylor does that in a way that is literature. She forces people to think outside of the perspective where they normally sit. To me, that’s why I wanted to start my YouTube channel. I miss talking about literature. I miss analyzing things, having discussions. I got to ask my students “What would YOU do if you were in that situation.” I get to do that with songs/pop-culture. It really is the same thing as literature!
Kristina: Yes! I was talking about this with another author last week. We were talking about really good stories, but the same thing could be said about poems or song lyrics. The best stories change alongside each new person who experiences them. That includes you, as you read them over and over, you are a different person each time you listen to a song or read a story. I think that specifically songs, like poetry, is amazing because they are made up of small bits. Songs and poetry allows your mind to fill in the rest of your story for yourself.
folklore/evermore came out at a time that the world really needed them… when I really needed them. Thanks to Taylor Swift for creating magic in the chaos. Thank you to English Teacher KP for joining me on Instagram LIVE for this analysis/interview.
Make sure you check out my book, Lucky: A Novel (inspired by Taylor Swift’s folklore and the incredible true story of Standard Oil Heiress Rebekah Harkness).
Lucky is the story of the American Dream: an epic juxtaposition of glitter and tragedy. Two women- one pop-star, one heiress- are connected through the transcendental nature of time and space. Join America’s favorite pop-star, Rhea Harmonia, as she tumbles down an existential rabbit hole… through American history, Western thinking, math, music, philosophy, and time. Is the American Dream anything but a nightmare?
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