Donna S. Parsons is a social and cultural historian. She received a B.M. and M.A. in Music and a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in music and literature from the University of Iowa. She teaches courses on popular music for the School of Music which include “World of the Beatles,” “Issues in Popular Music: Women Who Rock,” and “Popular Music in the United States.” She also holds a lecturer appointment in the UI Honors Program where she teaches a wide array of courses ranging from “Sound and the Victorians” to “Jane and the Austenites” and “Harry Potter and the Quest for Enlightenment.”
Her research focuses primarily on the Beatles. Her current project investigates the reception history and issues of celebrity while the Beatles were an active band and during their solo careers. Utilizing primary sources such as The Beatles Book, Mersey Beat, British and American newspapers, and correspondence between fans and government officials she traces the development of their fan base as the Beatles rise from just another Merseyside band to the most influential, innovative pop group in history. She is also interested in the Victorian and Edwardian resonances heard in the Beatles’ music and is tracing those soundscapes which range from the distribution of music via the Cunard and White Star shipping lines, music hall performers, and Pablo Fanque’s circus to the literary references of Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, and Oscar Wilde.
Her nineteenth-century research focuses on the musical resonances heard in Michael Field’s writing and more specifically on the ways in which an operatic soundscape influenced the construction of Field’s diaries and dramas. Between the years 1888 and 1914 Michael Field, the pseudonym for Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper, wrote prodigiously in their diary. In twenty-nine volumes they managed to capture the scintillating elements of an aesthete’s life in England. Their diaries – still in manuscript form – offer a treasure trove of information regarding late Victorian and early Modernist British culture as the two women recount their meetings with other writers, their travels abroad, their attendance at the theatre and opera, and the production of their verses and dramas.
She has appeared as a featured guest on Iowa Public Radio’s “Talk of Iowa” program. She has published articles on British popular culture in the North American British Music Studies Association Newsletter and the Des Moines Register. Her book reviews have appeared in Victorian Studies, Nineteenth-Century Contexts, and The Latchkey. She has presented papers at the MLA Annual Convention, the North American Victorian Studies Association Conference, various Biennial Conferences on Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain, the British Women Writers Conference, and several International Conferences on Nineteenth-Century Music held in the United Kingdom. She is the 2013 recipient of the Outstanding Honors Teaching Award. She is also the President of the Alpha of Iowa Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.