King-Ho Leung, Department of Humanities, casts a critical eye on the music of Taylor Swift.
Blurb from the speaker: The lecture offers an interpretation of Taylor Swift’s music through the theme of ‘repetition’, and using Swift’s work to introduce Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy of repetition and difference. The stylistic structure of repetition is explicit musically throughout her recent album 1989; the theme of repetition can also be found thematically in Swift’s earlier ‘country’ period: in her earlier ballads, not only do we often find the closing lines corresponding with—or indeed repeating—the first line of Swift’s lyrics, there is also often an apparent narrative of ‘recollection’ in which Swift repeatedly recalls significant events that have happened to the song’s narrator.
Drawing on Deleuze’s Différence et Répétition as well as Kierkegaard’s distinction between (backward-looking) ‘recollection’ and (forward-looking) ‘repetition’, I suggest that Swift’s lyrics present an affirmative philosophy of repetition—most evidently in her 2012 album Red, which brings together both her earlier thematic and later musical aspects of repetition. For Deleuze, repetition is never of the same but is instead always of difference. In other words, it is from and through the condition of repetition that the new and different emerge. The lecture demonstrates that such an affirmative and forward-looking account of repetition (especially in relation to love) is a theme throughout Red: Although the narrator repetitively speaks of past failures and troubles, she nevertheless falls back in loverepetitively—in new and different ways. Contrary to the common (if misogynist) opinion that her songs are self-pitying and resentful of romantic love (à la a Nietzschean ressentiment), through an analysis of her deployment of repetition, we see that Swift’s music is not only an affirmation of love, love for Swift is also what offers the possibility of difference and newexperiences, and as such it echoes the Deleuzean understanding of the Nietzschean amor fati—it is above all an affirmation of life.
Admission free, all welcome.
Art by Vickie Sit.
29 — 31 January 2022