Heteroglossia and ‘hagiography’: authorship, authorisation and the collective/ individual couplet in different every time and associated public works

O'Dair, Marcus (2018) Heteroglossia and ‘hagiography’: authorship, authorisation and the collective/ individual couplet in different every time and associated public works. [Doctorate by Public Works]

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In this contextual statement, I critically reflect on the accompanying public works, including my authorised biography of the British musician Robert Wyatt. The contribution to knowledge is twofold. Firstly, there is the fact that, despite his status as a musician, mine is to date the only Robert Wyatt biography, while one of my journal articles has at least begun to fill the gap in academic literature about Wyatt. The three media articles I submit, meanwhile, are novel in presenting Wyatt not as a lone individual of innate ‘genius’ but as multiply determined – and an exemplar of collective, rather than individual, creativity. Studying Wyatt’s career, then, sheds new light on the tension between the individual and the collective. Wyatt’s career is also worthy of study because his music has been so influential and because Wyatt has been present at key moments in popular history over a prolonged period.

Secondly, my contribution to knowledge derives from critically reflecting, in this contextual statement, on what is at stake in writing a particular type of biography: the authorised biography of a living subject. To Renders (2017: 163), such ‘texts by ghostwriters hired by famous people’ can be dismissed as ‘untrustworthy trash’; they are essentially hagiographic. In this contextual statement, I present a more nuanced argument, problematising notions of authorship – and the semantically linked concept of authorisation – with reference to the work of Bakhtin (1981) and Barthes (1977). I argue that, while, in both biography and autobiography, the ‘author function’ (Foucault 1984) is carried out by the subject, we can identify a whole spectrum of narrative authority in auto/biography – yet at no point on that spectrum is any individual ‘real author’ (Rimmon-Kenan 1983) in complete control. While I focus on one particular biography, I hope through this contextual statement to shed light upon authorised biography more broadly and to argue against its marginalisation, both within and beyond popular music studies.

Item Type: Doctorate by Public Works
Research Areas: A. > Work and Learning Research Centre
B. > Doctorates by Public Works
Item ID: 24022
Depositing User: Vimal Shah
Date Deposited: 05 Apr 2018 16:11
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 20:07
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/24022

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