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Nineteenth-century composer Fanny Hensel is the subject of more published research than any other woman of the period, with the possible exception of Clara...

Nineteenth-century composer Fanny Hensel is the subject of more published research than any other woman of the period, with the possible exception of Clara Schumann. A prolific composer, salon hostess, and a member of a well-connected and prominent family, she was one of the first women composers that musicologists studied in depth. Yet, in some ways, the historiography of Hensel scholarship is as fascinating as her life and music. As musicological priorities and historical understandings of women’s roles in nineteenth-century Europe shifted, so too did the analysis of Hensel’s life and cultural significance. In Fanny Hensel: A Research and Information Guide (Routledge, 2019), Laura Stokes provides a comprehensive bibliography of Hensel scholarship but also confronts the ethical issues presented by the sometimes fraught scholarly work on Hensel through her annotations, the work she decided to include in the Guide, and the organizational structure she employed. In this interview, Dr. Stokes discusses Hensel’s life and music, and then the ethical issues she considered and the challenges she faced in writing the guide.

Laura Stokes is the Performing Arts Librarian at Brown University and holds a Ph.D. in musicology from Indiana University. Her scholarly work examines music and cultural politics in nineteenth-century Germany.


Kristen M. Turner, Ph.D. is a lecturer at North Carolina State University in the music department. Her work centers on American musical culture at the turn of the twentieth century and has been published in several journals and essay collections.