Faculty & Staff Profiles

Karen Fournier

Associate Professor of Music Theory and Director of Research

Karen Fournier‘s principal area of research, the role played by women in the British punk movement during its foundation in the mid-1970s, has generated a book-length study provisionally titled Punk and Disorderly: Acting Out Gender in Class in Early British Punk. The study takes an intersectional approach to its subject, focusing on the interlocking systems of oppression surrounding gender and class, and it references British bands as Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Slits, X-Ray Spex, the Adverts, and Delta 5 to illustrate this framework. Other aspect of her work on punk have been published in such collections as Media Narratives in Popular Music (eds. Chris Anderton and Martin James), The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music Video Analysis (eds. Lori Burns and Stan Hawkins), Beyond No Future: Cultures of German Punk (eds. Mirko Hall, Seth Howes, and Cyrus Shahan), Saints, Sinners, and Seekers: A Collection of Essays on Rock and Religion (eds. Alex DiBlasi and Bob McPartland). Additionally, she has contributed essays on punk to Albums (ed. James Perone) and An Encyclopedia of the 100 Greatest Bands of All Times (ed. David Moskovitz).

Fournier has also contributed the volume The Words and Music of Alanis Morissette to the Praeger Singer-Songwriter Series. While only tangentially related to her interest in punk, this book nonetheless explores similar issues surrounding societal expectations of, and limits placed upon, female behavior. Among other things, the book argues that the anger and aggression that marks Morissette’s 1995 breakthrough album, Jagged Little Pill, traces its lineage to the “hysteria” parodied in the performances of many late-1970s female punks. The book is the only study of its kind about Morissette’s contributions to popular culture. As a result, Fournier was interviewed extensively by mainstream print and television journalists throughout 2020, as Jagged Little Pill marked its 25th anniversary.

Using the history of music theory as the basis for a broader study of conceptual change, Fournier has also published articles on epistemology in such journals as The Journal of Music and Meaning, The Journal of Musicological Research, The Journal of Culture and Power, The College Music Symposium, and Music Theory Spectrum. Her work in this area draws the analogy between research methodologies and biological species and proposes an evolutionary model to explain the growth and development of knowledge in the area of music theory. Her theories stand in diametric opposition to the more popular Kuhnian “revolutionary” model to which many critical studies of music scholarship tend to allude in their descriptions of the field.

An award-winning pedagogue, Fournier joined the faculty of the University of Michigan in 2005 after holding the position of assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin. She has a particular interest in music theory pedagogy and has spoken at a number of pedagogy panels and workshops at national meetings of the College Music Society and the Society for Music Teacher Education over the past several years.


BA (history), Carleton University
BA with distinction (music), University of Ottawa
MA (musicology), University of Western Ontario
PhD (music theory), University of Western Ontario

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