Book references in Pop Culture

Today at Daastan, we are putting together for you an exciting assortment of literary references present in pop culture. Some of you must be recalling your favourite pop culture and literature crossovers. Whereas, others must be wondering how such a thing can be achieved or what even is pop culture. Therefore, we are here to clear all your pop culture queries and much much more.

What is Pop Culture?

Under the umbrella term pop culture, we talk about the entirety of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, media, art, literature, fashion and even food. Pop culture comes from the root term ‘popular’. It refers to all those aspects of life and art that become popular within a community or even across borders. With its first emergence around 20th century till present day, it is known for receiving a lot of critique.

“A common belief among the masses suggest popular culture to be consumerist, sensationalist and corrupt.”

Regardless of its notoriety, the impact of popular culture on our lives can not be denied. For instance, with the help of mass media, it is permeating our minds faster than ever. When we talk about popular culture, we witness a ‘boon and bane’ situation. Discarding the banes of popular culture, we are here solely for the purpose of celebrating noteworthy literature and pop culture crossovers.

Artists alluding Religion

The subjects of religion and spirituality are often used as an inspiration for artistic pursuits. For they are significant to human beings, as the concept of an almighty presence assures them in the darkest of times. However, given the creative license the lines between spirituality, religion and romantic love are blurred, intertwined and often take on new meanings depending upon the artist and the audience. To see artists bringing in inspiration from religion and spirituality, we will be looking at the lyrics of Leanord Cohen’s Hallelujah and Hozier’s music. The name of Cohen’s song itself alludes to the Hebrew Bible, in which the word Hallelujah means “to give praise”. Moreover, Cohen goes on to talk about certain noteworthy characters from the Abrahamic faiths.

“Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you dont really care for music, do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor falls, the major lifts
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Moving towards Hozier’s music, one finds that on multiple instances where scriptures are alluded. For instance, in his song “From Eden”, he talks about the fall of Lucifer from the heavens, along the lines of:
“Honey you’re familiar like my mirror years ago
Idealism sits prison, chivalry fell on it’s sword
Innocence died screaming, honey ask me I should know
I slithered here from Eden just to sit outside your door”
Another mention of the same biblical event is present in the song ‘Wasteland’.
“Lately of my wasteland, baby
Be still, my indelible friend
You are unbreaking
Though quaking
Though crazy
That’s just wasteland, baby”

Taylor Swift’s — An under appreciated literary giant

So many of us grew up listening to Taylor Swift, all the way from her first album in 2006 to the Evermore and Folklore era. Her lyricism has always been critically acclaimed for beautiful rhythms, elaborate descriptions and metaphors. However, since the past few years, Taylor’s music has not only made her a music icon but a literary one too. Resonance of literary masterpieces such as Jane Eyre, Peter Pan, Rebecca and The Great Gatsby is recurrent in her songs. Let’s take a look at few of Taylor Swifts’ song lyrics with the aforementioned references.

The Invisible String

Taylor’s songs ‘Cardigan’ and ‘Willow’ both feature an invisible string in their videos, at first it could be hard to tell the significance. But then the presence of the song titled “invisible string” in folklore poses as irrefutable evidence to the claim that these song hint towards Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

“And isn’t it just so pretty to think
All along there was some
Invisible string
Tying you to me?”

Popular Culture
Still from Taylor Swifts’ Willow

Whereas, Charlotte Brontë writes,

“I have a strange feeling with regard to you. As if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly knotted to a similar string in you.”

Speaking of the song ‘cardigan’, we come across a Peter Pan reference.

“Cause I knew you
Steppin’ on the last train
Marked me like a bloodstain, I
I knew you
Tried to change the ending
Peter losing Wendy”


Taylor Swift derives a lot of inspiration from the romantic era. She not only alludes this through her imagery and themes but also in the form of lyrics. Moreover, she also holds in great regard the ‘lake poets’ such as William WordsWorth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. For instance, while talking about the Lake District in her song “The Lakes” she writes;

“isn’t it romantic how all my elegies eulogize me?
I’m not cut out for all these cynical clones
These hunters with cell phones
Take me to the lakes where all the poets went to die
I don’t belong, and my beloved, neither do you
Those Windermere peaks look like a perfect place to cry
I’m setting off, but not without my muse”


On another instance, she does a play on words along the lines of,

“What should be over burrowed under my skin
In heart-stopping waves of hurt
I’ve come too far to watch some namedropping sleaze
Tell me what are my words worth”

Gatsby’s Green Light

The green light from Fitzgerald’s famed novel “The Great Gatsby” is one of the most alluded symbol in arts and literature. Today, we will be referring to a contemporary song where this symbol can be vividly seen. The symbol of the green light doesn’t need any elaboration as literary souls all around world have already written countless essays debating its significance. However, those of you who still missed the point of it, let’s indulge you. The green light at the end of the Buchanans’ pier serves a practical purpose: it functions as a warning to boaters that there is a potential hazard nearby. As for Gatsby, it symbolises the “American Dream” and his desire to acquire Daisy’s love.

Ben Barnes’ 11:11

“Does the mirror number time 11:11 has mystical or cosmic significance? Maybe not, but it can not hurt to make a wish”, says Ben Barnes. Ben Barnes own words about the song hint that the song has something to do with one’s desires or longing in life. Furthermore, in between his lyrics, he also talks about his lover being close by yet never within his reach.

“Is it late?
11 minutes past 11
It’s both always but never our time
nothing to regret
The rest just might be heaven
You’re always but never really mine.”

Another aspect of the song that refers to the green light could be a coincidence. However, we all know there aren’t really that much coincidences in life, especially when it comes to art. The dress that the woman in the song is wearing is green. Moreover, through out the video she remains someone he can not have. Therefore, when we put two and two together, we can understand the allusion presented in the song.

Pop Culture
Still from Ben Barnes’ 11:11

We hope you enjoyed this exciting rundown of book references in popular culture with us. For more literary goodness, stay tuned!

Noor Hashmi
Noor Hashmi is a student of literature at Numl University. She is an aspiring poetess. She runs a blog by the name of “Diaries of Huda” sharing her journey through poetry. In her free time, she loves to paint and bake.

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