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New Rutgers Class Explores Theology of Springsteen Lyrics

For Spring Semester, Rutgers University Offers Course on Religion and The Boss
Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen in 1988, sporting a necklace with a cross. Wikipedia

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen is widely considered to be one of the most prolific songwriters of the past few decades,  but next year academics at Rutgers will be exploring The Boss on a different level.

For the upcoming spring semester, Rutgers Universty has announced that they will offer one-credit course that will study the religious theology behind Springsteen's lyrics and the subject matter of his songs.

According to a recent story on NPR, the professor of the course was quoted as saying that it is important to understand the "broader context" of the songwriter's work.

Among several religious references woven into many of Springsteen's songs, the most common are his references to "the promised land."

It can be difficult to interlock some of what could be the more subtle hints at religion that he marks in his prose, which could make for a very interesting lesson regarding the course material.

The Rutgers course catalog gave a brief explanation on the subject matter that may be covered:

"Interestingly, Springsteen refers more often to the stories of the Hebrew Bible (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."

Rutgers, while being the first to take a religious approach to The Boss' lyrics and songrwiting, is not the first university to put Springsteen's songs under a microscope.

Princeton Uniersity, Monmouth University, as well as the University of Rochester have all held classes and symposiums examining the iconic rock star and his music.