Book of Boss: Rutgers Will Offer Bruce Springsteen Theology Course
Tramps like us, baby, we were foretold in the Old Testament
Bruce Springsteen recently ended his world tour, and now his songs are going to school. New Jersey’s own Rutgers University plans to offer a freshman seminar looking at Springsteen’s lyrics from a theological perspective. According to a Q&A on Rutgers’ website (via TIME), the class will examine biblical allusions ranging from the Boss’ debut album, 1973’s Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., up through last year’s Wrecking Ball, perhaps the biggest victim of Miley Cyrus’ twerk year.
The course is a change of pace for Azzan Yadin-Israel, an associate professor of Jewish studies and classics who’s more likely to be found giving a lecture on the Dead Sea Scrolls or Plato. Redemption, Yadin-Israel, said in the Q&A, is one of Springsteen’s major religious motifs. “Springsteen tries to drag the power of religious symbols that are usually relegated to some transcendent reality into our lived world,” he said.
More specifically, the professor pointed out Springsteen tends to draw more from the Hebrew Bible, aka the Old Testament, than the Christian New Testament. “On a literary level, Springsteen often recasts biblical figures and stories into the American landscape,” Yadin-Israel said. “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’).”
Times may have changed, and there’s clearly a wealth of lyrical depth to be explored in the Boss’ work, but it’s hard to imagine New Jersey college kids really need a class to get them to listen to Springsteen. Then again, Georgetown University had its Jay Z course. What’s sincerely exciting about higher education these days, though: Cornell University Library’s Hip Hop Collection, with visiting scholar Afrika Bambaataa. Might even be worth a pilgrimage.