How a Music History Professor Writes

Elizabeth Morgan, Ph.D.
Professor of Music History

Quick Facts

What’s a word you always misspell?

Pen or Pencil?

What are you reading now?
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

SJU Writes: What is the best thing you’ve ever written? 

EM: I was really proud of the introduction to my dissertation in graduate school. I was writing about women making music in homes during the time of Jane Austen. I feel like I captured a sense of the world that I was writing about in my own prose. I felt that sense of full creative spirit in everything I wanted to say. It was a really fun process, and I was really proud of it. I still feel good about that.

SJU Writes: What kinds of writing do you do right now?

EM: The main thing is academic writing, mostly for academic journals, so they’ll be read by other musicologists and historical musicologists. The thing that’s been exciting to me, as a musicologist, is that I’ve found there’s a place for creative writing in my scholarship. I study music-making in homes, which is often not well documented. And so, I read a lot of fiction to inform my understanding of what people were doing at home.

SJU Writes: What is your writing process?

EM: I will write to work through the ideas. Once I have a bunch of prose, I do something called a reverse outline. I go through it, and for each paragraph, I then write a one-sentence summary of that paragraph’s main idea. Each sentence has to make sense as a  construction of an argument, or I know I have a problem.

SJU Writes: What is your favorite aspect of the writing process?

EM: I like it when you feel like you’re solving a puzzle. It could be on the smallest level, but also on a really big level. I had a big article that I wrote and, as a process, I drew a diagram of the article because as I was writing, I realized there were really four angles that I was looking at this one body of music from. I drew up a diagram of that basic concept. At the center were the main things I really wanted to communicate about this repertoire and the people who played it and then the four different places I was coming from. That was like a solution because I couldn’t figure out how it would eventually be structured.

—Angelique Frazier ’20