Pacts, paratext and polyphony: writing the authorised biography of Robert Wyatt

O'Dair, Marcus (2019) Pacts, paratext and polyphony: writing the authorised biography of Robert Wyatt. Life Writing, 16 (2) . pp. 279-294. ISSN 1448-4528 [Article] (doi:10.1080/14484528.2019.1548265)

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The British musician Robert Wyatt has released two top 40 hits and, in 1974’s Rock Bottom, at least one album that features in the popular music canon. Wyatt has performed on Top of the Pops and has appeared on several magazine covers. Wyatt is not an archetypal celebrity in the terms outlined by celebrity theorists, in that the media continues to focus primarily on his public rather than private life; yet he has certainly achieved cult status among popular music fans. In this article, I critically reflect on the experience of writing Wyatt’s biography, focusing in particular on challenges and opportunities related to the book’s authorised status. While authorised biography has been criticised as ‘autobiography in disguise,’ I argue that there is in fact a clear distinction between authorised biography and ghostwritten autobiography, a distinction I frame with reference to the paratext and the autobiographical pact as well as the musical notion of polyphony. Though I focus primarily on my biography of Wyatt, my reflections shed new light on the broader interconnections of celebrity and life writing, particularly in relation to the relatively neglected topic of authorised biography.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts
Item ID: 25168
Notes on copyright: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Life Writing on 07/03/2019, available online:
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Dr Marcus O'Dair
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2018 10:59
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 19:12

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