Music In/As Literature
What can literary critics, scholars, and teachers learn from studying music and song lyrics as literature, by attending to literary form and structure in lyrics, and by integrating literary theory into their readings of these verbal-musical artifacts? In a 2019 special issue of Language and Literature on “The Challenges of the Song Lyric,” editor David West noted that Bob Dylan’s 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature was a challenge to the “very category of literature and rais[ed] the dauntingly difficult question of value” (1). The rise of courses like “Taylor Swift’s Literary Legacy (Taylor’s Version)” and “Songwriting: Lyrics as Literature” suggest that the muted response from the academy to Dylan’s Nobel win is beginning to change.
It must be granted—whether it be the introduction of the popular ballads of the British Isles into academic study in the early 20th Century, the scattered classroom exegeses of singer-songwriter lyricism in the late 60s and 70s, the consideration of such figures as Bruce Springsteen and Madonna in classrooms and journals in the 90s, or the proliferation of hip-hop studies since the turn of the millennium—that there is a history of taking song lyrics seriously in an academic context. Yet this attention seems to come in waves, ebbing and flowing erratically, and tends to make its methods anew each time, rather than building on prior knowledge or drawing from multiple eras and types of music. Even when such moments of interest do flare up, the overall impression is that the academic response to song lyrics remains incommensurate with their commercial and social ubiquity or their aesthetic and emotional importance.
We are seeking submissions that look to address this curious situation by challenging pre-established notions of literary value through methodological approaches that center song lyrics and music as objects of study. Essays could consider, among other subjects: literary interpretations of song lyrics; music as filling the role of literary devices; musical form “becoming” a narrator or character, or influencing the structure of a text; and the influence of music and lyrics on literary theory, such as in studies of the role of music in memory. We also welcome essays about hybrid literary craft that centers music and audio elements alongside literary text; essays on song-lyric pedagogy and the incorporation of music into literary classrooms; and essays that consider the various histories of how academia has handled song lyrics.
This edited collection is intended for publication with Lexington Books, the academic arm of Rowman & Littlefield. Please send abstracts of no more than 350 words and a one-page CV to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org by July 15, 2023. Contributors will be notified of acceptances by August 1, 2023, and should be prepared to submit a first draft of no more than 5,000 words (including notes and works cited) by January 15, 2024.