Dr Christopher Wiley publishes major book chapter on musical biography in Oxford University Press volume

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Dr Christopher Wiley has written a major book chapter on musical biography for a new essay collection published by Oxford University Press, The Oxford Handbook of Music and Intellectual Culture in the Nineteenth Century, edited by Paul Watt, Sarah Collins, and Michael Allis.

Dr Wiley’s 12,000-word chapter, entitled ‘Biography and Life-Writing’ (abstract available here), discusses the advent of musical biography, its proliferation in the long nineteenth century, and its legacy up to the present. It includes two case studies: a compilation of anecdotes, to explore how Victorian values were reflected in contemporaneous life-writing; and a collected biography, to investigate the role of women as characters within musical biographies.

Dr Wiley is an internationally acknowledged expert on musical biography, the subject of his doctoral dissertation, and has previously published widely on the subject.

Bibliographic citation

Wiley, Christopher. ‘Biography and Life-Writing’, in Paul Watt, Sarah Collins, and Michael Allis eds. The Oxford Handbook of Music and Intellectual Culture in the Nineteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020, pp. 77–101. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190616922.013.4

Full text

The full text of Dr Wiley’s chapter is available here: https://www.academia.edu/35186914/Biography_and_Life_Writing_Oxford_Handbook_of_Music_and_Intellectual_Culture_in_the_Nineteenth_Century_

Dr Christopher Wiley contributes book chapter to new volume on music historiography


Critical Music Historiography: Probing Canons, Ideologies and InstitutionsAn essay written by Dr Christopher Wiley, entitled ‘Musical Biography and the Myth of the Muse’, has appeared as the final chapter of a new anthology in which 17 international musicologists subject the writing of music history to groundbreaking scrutiny.

Critical Music Historiography: Probing Canons, Ideologies and Institutions is edited by Vesa Kurkela and Markus Mantere, and developed from the Radical Music History Symposium held at the Sibelius Academy, Finland (now part of the University of the Arts Helsinki) in December 2011, at which Dr Wiley presented a paper.

Dr Wiley’s essay explores the pattern in musical biography of specific female characters being cast in the role of ‘muse’ to a male genius, rising to prominence at specific points in that person’s life story as a signifier of their productivity and increasing artistic powers. Such women were thereby portrayed as having inspired their associated composer to greater heights, while implicitly denied the possibility of undertaking analogous creative activity themselves.

Further information

Listing of the volume on the publisher’s website: http://www.ashgate.com/default.aspx?page=637&title_id=19817&edition_id=1209349954&calcTitle=1

Listing of the volume on amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Critical-Music-Historiography-Ideologies-Institutions/dp/1472414195/

Bibliographic citation

Wiley, Christopher. ‘Musical Biography and the Myth of the Muse’, in Vesa Kurkela and Markus Mantere eds. Critical Music Historiography: Probing Canons, Ideologies and Institutions. Farnham: Ashgate, 2015, pp. 251–61.

Full text

The full text is available for free download under licence from Surrey Research Insight Open Access: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/803216/


Dr Christopher Wiley presents paper at the Sibelius Academy, Finland


Sibelius Academy logoDr Christopher Wiley has presented a paper at the Radical Music History Symposium 2011 hosted by the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki on 8-9 December 2011. His paper was entitled ‘Musical Biography and the Myth of the Muse’, and discussed the portrayal of women in biographies of the Great Composers who, though silenced throughout much of the text, suddenly came into view at critical junctures in life-writing on their male associates as rhetorical signifiers of the increasing power of their creative genius. Chris argued that musical biography thereby became complicit in women’s historical effacement by casting them in the role of vessels for the stimulation of artistic creation in men, implicitly denying them the possibility of undertaking such activities themselves while simultaneously linking them inextricably to those of associated male composers. Chris concluded by demonstrating some ways in which this model, for its longevity and the robustness with which it has been perpetuated, yields profound consequences for more recent writing of the lives of women composers as well as for contemporary feminist musicology’s project to deconstruct and critique musical canon.