Blessing or curse? Bruce Springsteen is now the subject of a theology course
At Rutgers University in New Jersey students will examine how the singer ‘recasts biblical stories into the American landscape’
theguardian.com, Tuesday 12 November 2013
Article of faith … Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics refer more commonly to the Old Testament than the New, with redemption a dominant motif. Photograph: Jemal Countess/Getty
As befits a singer whose fans greet him with religious fervour, whose songs often contain references to faith – and many of whose female characters are called Mary – Bruce Springsteen has become the subject of a theology course at Rutgers University in his home state of New Jersey.
Professor Azzan Yadin-Israel, who teaches courses in early rabbinic literature in the department of Jewish studies, is to host a one-semester course on the theological underpinnings of Springsteen’s lyrics, looking at how he has interpreted biblical texts in his work.
“Interestingly, Springsteen refers more often to the stories of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) than the New Testament,” Yaddin-Israel told Rutgers Today. “On a literary level, Springsteen often recasts biblical figures and stories into the American landscape. The narrator of Adam Raised a Cain describes his strained relationship with his father through the prism of the biblical story of the first father and son; Apocalyptic storms accompany a boy’s tortured transition into manhood in The Promised Land, and the first responders of 9/11 rise up to “someplace higher” in the flames, much as Elijah the prophet ascended in a chariot of fire (Into the Fire).
“Theologically, I would say the most dominant motifs are redemption – crossing the desert and entering the Promised Land – and the sanctity of the everyday. Springsteen tries to drag the power of religious symbols that are usually relegated to some transcendent reality into our lived world. In his later albums he also writes very openly about faith.”
As Consequence of Sound notes, it not the first time Springsteen has popped up on a college syllabus. Princeton offered a course on Sociology from E Street: Bruce Springsteen’s America, and other institutions have also given students the chance to study The Boss.