Music and Academia: The Role of Colons in Titles

This post is written by Ben Farrer whose account is currently down.

I’m starting to strongly dislike academic titles that take the form: “Metaphor For x: Actual Description Of x”, or similar, and am venting my frustration with a game.

As an example of the type I dislike, one of my own undergraduate essays was entitled: “Holding out for a Hero? The Roles of Lincoln and of Slaves in Emancipation”. A poor effort on my part, but you get the picture.

I’ve been guilty of using this template regularly myself, but I’m beginning to believe that it falls down on two counts.

Firstly it’s maybe a bit patronizing? It assumes the reader needs to be ‘hooked’ with some sly pop-culture reference before they’ll be interested in reading any further. Second, it absolves authors of the responsibility to find one phrase that both communicates what the piece is about and encourage the reader to continue. Ideally I don’t think there has to be a separation of what’s ‘interesting’ about an article from its bare-bones description.

However, in my mind the most glaring argument against these titles is that nobody else uses this template.

And perhaps with good reason. Below are some examples from the world of music as it could be after imposing this template. Regardless of how you feel about this title structure, I think it’s possible to have fun coming up with these, so feel free to add your own examples in the comments.

“Can’t Get No Satisfaction”: A Psychoanalytic Interpretation of Masculinity, with Evidence From Contemporary Advertising Media. Jagger, Mick, et al 196x.

“Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”: Intersections of Conspicuous Consumption and the Weberian View of Work Ethics. Brown, James. 197x. Journal of Getting Down With Your Bad Self.

“Waterloo”: An Oral History of Relationship Violence From The 19th Century Onwards. Lyngstad, Anni-Frid ‘Frida’, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Agnetha Fältskog, (henceforth ABBA). 19xx.

“Imagine”: Preference Homogeneity and a Proposed Reconciliation Between Populism and Ethical Philosophy. Lennon, John. 19xx.

“It’s Oh So Quiet”: The Role of Emotional Imbalance in Sonic Perception in Human Subjects. Bjork, 19xx.

“Five Years Time”: Risk Aversion and the Shadow of the Future. Noah and the Whale, 20xx.

“Over and Over”: Replication and Popperian Science with Applications to Dance-Floors. Hot Chip, 20xx.

“Common People”: Participant Observation and Moral Quandaries in Class-Based Ethnography. Cocker, Jarvis, et al 199x.

“You Give Love A Bad Name”: Reputation Effects In The Field of Cardiac Trauma Jovi,Jon Bon, et al. 19xx. The American Epic Hair Review, Special Issue: 80th Anniversary of the Perm.

I may add any more that I feel are particularly good ones, as they occur to me. But, I hope to do a lot better with my own titles in the future.


Michael A. Allen

About Michael A. Allen

Michael is an Assistant Professor in Political Science at Boise State University with a focus in International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Methodology (quantitative and formal). His work includes issues related to military basing abroad, asymmetric relations, cooperation, and conflict. He received his Ph.D from Binghamton University in 2011.

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