Poetry and Pop: Shaking off pop's stigmas

  • Aidan Thompson (Speaker)
  • Matt Collins (Speaker)

Activity: Academic and Industrial eventsConference, workshop or symposium


Responding to the theme of ‘stylistics without borders’, this paper examines the idea that the lyrics of pop songs can be studied as poetry in their own right.
In 2017, Bob Dylan was awarded Nobel Prize for literature, raising debates about pop music’s status as literature. We develop Bradley’s (2009; 2017) call for a poetics of pop by suggesting that stylistics, especially cognitive poetics, is best suited to pop lyric analysis.
Our analysis is conducted using a set of Taylor Swift songs as a representative corpus of popular music. Looking specifically at collaboratively-written songs, we focus on how features such as metaphor and concepts of embodiment can provide a theoretical framework to analysing pop songs as poems. In doing so, we seek to interrogate writing methods divests evaluative judgement that pervades discussions of canons on the basis of literary worth.
Literary worth is assessed in relation to poetry’s function. If, as Bradley argues, “they call us to experiences rather than being experiences” (2017: 2) what is the value of the experiential function of pop music? Considering pop’s pervasive influence, can these values be assessed from a neo-Aristotelian perspective regarding both any ethical content and the impact they have on a listener’s moral development? In asking these questions, we address the ethical potential for cognitive poetics (Stockwell, 2013: 266), and offer an analysis of Swift’s lyrics as a case study and provocation, to ask what a poetics of pop might look like and what its potential educational benefits might be.
Period13 Jul 2019
Event titlePoetry And Linguistics Association 2019: Stylistics Without Borders
Event typeConference
LocationLiverpool, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational