Oct 25, 2022 - News

UT professor teaching Taylor Swift course reacts to "Midnights"

The University of Texas Tower, occassionally known for playing Taylor Swift songs as students walk through campus. Photo: Tim Warner/Getty Images

Taylor Swift dropped her 10th studio album, "Midnights," on Friday, so we called up University of Texas English professor Elizabeth Scala to talk about the new album and her fall course on the pop star.

Catch up quick: Scala made headlines this year when she announced the new class that teaches Swift's songbook as an introduction to literary studies.

  • The class may seem far off from Scala's research in medieval studies, but jumping into the present and relating it back to earlier periods is "easy to do," she told Axios.
  • "I can talk about what's innovative about what she does, but I can also talk about what's really traditional about what she does," Scala explained.

Between the lines: Scala says Swift's work is powerful in a literary studies course because she "thinks in terms of literature and writing in her songs."

  • Scala added that Swift "is kind of a nerd" and definitely into books, noting that the last track on "Midnights (3am Edition)" is titled "Dear Reader."
  • "She has an extremely rich vocabulary and she uses language in a really interesting way," she said. "There is something really literary in her language and expression. I would like my students to not only notice that but also to think through how that is used in her songs."

Of note: It's too soon for Scala to say whether one song on "Midnights" is more literary than another.

  • "At this point, I'm mostly struck by how much she talks about writing in her songs," Scala said, pointing to "Get it off my chest. Get it off my desk" in "Lavender Haze."

The bottom line: Scala will have to keep students on track Tuesday — their first class since the album's release.

  • "I want them to not be in their own lavender haze for Taylor that they can't talk about class. … I'm really hoping [the album] doesn't derail them."

Scala's favorite song on the new album? "It's a bit of a knock-down, drag-out" between "Lavender Haze" and "Anti-Hero."

Go deeper: Our friends at Axios Nashville made an all Swift-themed playlist.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Austin.

More Austin stories