Manchester Metropolitan University's Research Repository

    Reading the Score: Music Novels and the Alternative World of Words

    Owen-Jones, Lisa (2022) Reading the Score: Music Novels and the Alternative World of Words. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


    Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

    Download (4MB) | Preview


    The aim of this thesis is to write a ‘music novel’ for children and by doing so examine some of the many ways words and music play a role in storytelling. A music novel can be studied critically and to write one is ultimately a creative act. Academic scholarship on literary representations of music has so far been primarily focused on attending to the presence and representation of Western classical music in adult literary texts. Eminent leaders in the field include Delia da Sousa Correa, Emily Petermann, and Werner Wolf. Research into music in children’s fiction has not been undertaken to such an extent. This thesis takes a first step towards readdressing this gap in knowledge, taking as examples children’s novels by Aimee Lucido (In the Key of Code, 2019), Philip Reeve (Railhead, 2015), and Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865); and a more recent, contemporary adult novel by Matthew Herbert (The Music – A novel through sound, 2018). My detailed analysis centres on how music contributes to the construction and development of these works, as well as music that has made use of fiction as a compositional device in György Ligeti’s Nonsense Madrigals (1988-93). The theoretical framing of my study draws on work by Roland Barthes, John Cage, Jean-Jacques Nattiez, and Patricia Waugh. Underdog, my music novel aimed at readers aged eight years and over, is my creative response to the questions this thesis raises. The two soundscapes that accompany the novel are musical paratexts born from Underdog that help unite the words with the music beyond the printed page. I provide a critical reflection on the inspirations behind Underdog which serves as a bridge into critical case studies that investigate what happens when one art form (music) has infiltrated the other (fiction) as part of what Jean-Jacques Nattiez calls the poietic process. My study demonstrates that the literary techniques used in fiction to imitate music, regardless of genre, are shared. These traits include references to pop and classical music embedded in the text, imitation of motifs and numerical musical patterns associated with a particular piece of music, and individual pieces of music that underpin the construction of a literary work.

    Impact and Reach


    Activity Overview
    6 month trend
    6 month trend

    Additional statistics for this dataset are available via IRStats2.

    Repository staff only

    Edit record Edit record