Learning Literary Terms With Taylor Swift

TAYLOR SWIFT
Taylor Swift arrives at the 56th annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP) | Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

This article was written by teen reporters from The Mash, a weekly publication distributed to Chicagoland high schools.

By Kiley Roache, Nazareth High School

Whether you’re prepping for the AP Literature exam, or trying to crank out that term paper on “The Great Gatsby,” recognizing and understanding literary terms can be overwhelming. It becomes so easy to mix up “alliteration” and “allusion." But luckily, you don’t have to spend hours reading Tolstoy in order to see these techniques in action. In fact a lot of them can be found in songs, you know by heart. That’s right, you can learn literary terms with Taylor Swift.

1. Color Imagery

Definition: Imagery is a word or group of words in a literary work which appeal to one or more of the senses: sight, taste, touch, hearing, and smell, used to intensify the impact of the work. And so color imagery is -- you guessed it -- appealing to the senses using color.

Taylor’s use: “Losing him was blue, like I’d never known missing him was dark gray, all alone forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you never met but loving him was red,” from “Red."

2. Allusion

Definition: A reference to a famous historical/literary figure or event.

Taylor’s use: “Cause you were Romeo –- I was a scarlet letter, And my daddy said, “Stay away from Juliet” from “Love Story."

3. Paradox

Definition: A situation or a statement that seems to contradict itself, but on closer inspection, does not.

Taylor’s use: “I’ve never heard silence quite this loud,” from “The Story of Us."

4. Simile

Definition: A direct, expressed comparison between two things essentially unlike each other, but resembling each other
in at least one way.

Taylor’s use: “And you call me up again just to break me like a promise” from “All Too Well."

5. Polysyndeton

Definition: “Repetition of conjunctions in close succession” (via merriam-webster.com)

Taylor’s use: “You, with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you use against me” from “Mean."

6. Byronic hero

Definition: An antihero who is a romanticized but a wicked character.

Taylor’s use: See the songs “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “Haunted,” “Sad Beautiful Tragic,” “Treacherous."

7. Euphemism

Definition: The substitution of a mild or less negative word or phrase for a harsh or blunt one, as in the use of “pass away” instead of “die.”

Taylor’s use: “She’s not a saint, and she’s not what you think, she’s an actress, whoa, she’s better known, for the things, that she does, on the mattress, whoa” from “Better than Revenge."

8. Metaphor

Definition: A comparison which imaginatively identifies one thing with another dissimilar thing, and transfers or ascribes to the first thing some of the qualities of the second.

Taylor’s use: “You’re just another picture to burn,” from “Picture to Burn."

9. Zeugma

Definition: “The use of a word to modify or govern two or more words usually in such a manner that it applies to each in a different sense” (via merriam-webster.com)

Taylor’s use: “But you held your pride like you should’ve held me” from “The Story of Us."

10. Alliteration

Definition: The recurrence of initial consonant sounds.

Taylor’s use: “Come morning light you and I’ll be safe and sound” from “Safe & Sound."