The Songs of Joni Mitchell: Gender, Performance and Agency, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Songs of Joni Mitchell

Gender, Performance and Agency, 1st Edition

By Anne Karppinen


212 pages

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An unorthodox musician from the start, singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell's style of composing, performing, and of playing (and tuning) the guitar is unique. In the framework of sexual difference and the gendered discourses of rock this immediately begs the questions: are Mitchell's songs specifically feminine and, if so, to what extent and why?

Anne Karppinen addresses this question focusing on the kind of music and lyrics Mitchell writes, the representation of men and women in her lyrics, how her style changes and evolves over time, and how cultural context affects her writing. Linked to this are the concepts of subjectivity and authorship: when a singer-songwriter sings a song in the first person, about whom are they actually singing? Mitchell offers a fascinating study, for the songs she writes and sings are intricately woven from the strands of her own life.

Using methods from critical discourse analysis, this book examines recorded performances of songs from Mitchell's first nine studio albums, and the contemporary reviews of these albums in Anglo-American rock magazines. In one of the only books to discuss Mitchell's recorded performances, with a focus that extends beyond the seminal album Blue, Karppinen explores the craft of Mitchell's songwriting and her own attitudes towards it, as well as the dynamics and politics of rock criticism in the 1960s and 1970s more generally.

Table of Contents


Part 1

1. Sexual Difference, Texts and Discourses

2. Will you take me as I am? Subjectivity, Autobiography and Authorship

3. Women in Rock and Other Oxymorons

Part 2

4. The Early Period (1968-1970)

5. The Self-Conscious Period (1971-1974)

6. The Socially Conscious Period (1975-1977)

Part 3

7. A Soprano Has No Credibility? Joni Mitchell and the Rock Press

8. The Singer-Songwriter and the Making of the Canon


Appendix: Tunings.




About the Author

Anne Karppinen is a university teacher, translator and musician. She earned her MA in English and her PhD in Contemporary Culture from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. She teaches English at The Open University of the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

About the Series

Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series

Popular musicology embraces the field of musicological study that engages with popular forms of music, especially music associated with commerce, entertainment and leisure activities. The Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series aims to present the best research in this field. Authors are concerned with criticism and analysis of the music itself, as well as locating musical practices, values and meanings in cultural context. The focus of the series is on popular music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with a remit to encompass the entirety of the world’s popular music.

Critical and analytical tools employed in the study of popular music are being continually developed and refined in the twenty-first century. Perspectives on the transcultural and intercultural uses of popular music have enriched understanding of social context, reception and subject position. Popular genres as distinct as reggae, township, bhangra, and flamenco are features of a shrinking, transnational world. The series recognizes and addresses the emergence of mixed genres and new global fusions, and utilizes a wide range of theoretical models drawn from anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, media studies, semiotics, postcolonial studies, feminism, gender studies and queer studies.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Folk & Traditional
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Rock