Professor analyzes Taylor Swift and pop culture

Story by Beth LeValley

Convinced that Taylor Swift is the epitome of 21st century-America, Professor Craig Owens of Drake University said Swift is flattening out in terms of innovation.

On Friday afternoon, Owens spoke about the relationship between Swift and modern American society as a part of the Humanities Center Colloquium Series.

Located in the Medbury Honors Lounge, Owens talked to an audience of about 20 people, using a PowerPoint presentation to enhance his speech.

Because of the quaint setting, Owens had a chance to talk to the audience both before and after the presentation to answer any questions.

Owens started the speech by playing the music video “Love Story” by Taylor Swift. He then analyzed not only the lyrics, but the setting, characters and style of the music video.

Comparing this to her other songs, Owens didn’t find much of a difference.

“In Taylorworld, new does not mean different, it just means less old,” Owens said.

Owens also questioned one of Swift’s newer songs, “22.”

“This song might have the potential to surprise, but to feel 22 when one is actually 22 is not surprising at all,” Owens said.

Fueled by his recent independent research about Swift, Owens used magazine quotes, lyrics and different analogies to compare Swift and this generation.

According to first-year student Taylor Sheahan, the most memorable part of the speech was the conclusion, when Owens put it all together and related everything back to our culture.

“I had never looked deep into her lyrics before,” Sheahan said.

Sheahan got extra credit for being there for her U.S. Latino Language and Culture class.

She found the speech intriguing, but confusing at times.

“He used words that are not in my vocabulary a lot,” said Sheahan. “I agree with what he said about the way our culture is, though.”

Sheahan has never attended a Colloquium Series talk before and said if the topic seems interesting, she will go again.

Dr. Timothy Knepper, who is in charge of coordinating these events, said many speakers for the Colloquium Series use their own research to try out ideas.

“The goal is to make these ideas more accessible to outside organizations,” said Knepper. “For example, I did a talk about five years ago on something I was debating doing research on. That went from a talk to a couple conference papers to eventually, a book. It’s a setting that’s less threatening than a conference.”

For the listeners, the Colloquium Series is an additional opportunity to learn.

“We have some students come, depending on the talk,” said Knepper. “The community is welcome, and we usually have about three community members that are fairly regular. For every talk, about half the audience is faculty.”

This is Knepper’s third year of being in charge, and the series’ sixth year of running.

To get speakers, an email goes out to professors at the end of the academic year asking for volunteers.

If there are too many, Knepper tells them that they can speak next year.

If there are not enough, Knepper asks specific professors or professors he knows that are working on research.

“If there’s not enough, a lot of times I’ll go knocking on people’s doors,” said Knepper. “Rather than doing a report for research funding, this series counts as a report, so there is incentive for the professors.”

Knepper found this talk intriguing and speaks highly of Owens.

“I have no say in what the speakers want to say; they present what they’re working on,” said Knepper. “There’s nothing that doesn’t peak [Owen’s] curiosity.”

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