Keith JohnstonKeith Johnston

Visiting Assistant Professor, Music History, Theory and Ethnomusicology

I am a music historian and theorist who researches Italian comic opera in the eighteenth century. My current work investigates how and why librettists and composers made people laugh. I am particularly interested in documenting the material and aesthetic motivations for crafting the kind of operas that they did and how these operas, in turn, influenced the way people thought and wrote about the problems of their time.

My article on comic opera’s contribution to debates about Montesquieu is forthcoming in Eighteenth-Century Life. A previous article on Molière’s influence on comic intermezzos of the 1720s was published in Music & Letters. I have also written reviews and op-eds for Intersections, OUP Blog, and Western News.   

In my undergraduate teaching I share my enthusiasm for music’s place in everyday life by studying musical works through primary documents of all sorts. I want classes to be an immersive experience. My courses usually involve careful reading and listening, but also singing, dancing, coffee drinking, perambulating, and other favorite activities of eighteenth-century Europeans.

I received my PhD from the University of Toronto in 2011. From 2011 to 2013 I taught at Western University. In the summer of 2013 I co-taught Dalhousie University’s Advanced Seminar in Baroque Culture with historian Simon Kow at Český Krumlov Castle in the Czech Republic. My research has been generously supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship and a Dünnhaupt Travel Fellowship.

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