Bruce almighty: Rutgers University to offer a class in Springsteen theology

  • @Tom_Mendelsohn

He might be better known for writing songs about women and politics, but fans of Bruce Springsteen can now study his thoughts and interpretations of the bible, at one of the USA’s oldest universities.

A one-semester course on the “theological underpinnings” of Springsteen’s lyrics, and “his reinterpretation of biblical stories” is available at Rutgers College in New Jersey this year.

It’s being taught by Professor Azzan Yadin-Israel, more usually found teaching courses on early rabbinic literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Plato at Rutgers University, who will be branching out to discuss religious undertones in the work of the man known to his fans as “the Boss”, whom he has loved since he was at school.

“Interestingly,” Yadin-Israel told Rutgers Today, “Springsteen refers more often to the stories of the Old Testament than the New Testament. 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 Time points out, this is not the first time Springsteen, a national figure of some importance, has been taught at university in the States. Princeton University has a sociology course on Bruce Springsteen's America, Monmouth University has discussed his legacy, and the University of Rochester once offered a history course on the musician.