1st Edition

Bruce Springsteen, Cultural Studies, and the Runaway American Dream

By Jerry Zolten, Kenneth Womack Copyright 1991

    There is little question about the incredible power of Bruce Springsteen's work as a particularly transformative art, as a lyrical and musical fusion that never shies away from sifting through the rubble of human conflict. As Rolling Stone magazine's Parke Puterbaugh observes, Springsteen 'is a peerless songwriter and consummate artist whose every painstakingly crafted album serves as an impassioned and literate pulse taking of a generation's fortunes. He is the foremost live performer in the history of rock and roll, a self-described prisoner of the music he loves, for whom every show is played as if it might be his last.' In recent decades, Puterbaugh adds, 'Springsteen's music developed a conscience that didn't ignore the darkening of the runaway American Dream as the country greedily blundered its way through the 1980s' and into the sociocultural detritus of a new century paralysed by isolation and uncertainty. Bruce Springsteen, Cultural Studies, and the Runaway American Dream reflects the significant critical interest in understanding Springsteen's resounding impact upon the ways in which we think and feel about politics, religion, gender, and the pursuit of the American Dream. By assembling a host of essays that engage in interdisciplinary commentary regarding one of Western culture's most enduring artistic and socially radicalizing phenomena, this book offers a cohesive, intellectual, and often entertaining introduction to the many ways in which Springsteen continues to impact our lives by challenging our minds through his lyrics and music.

    Notes on Contributors, General Editor’s Preface, Foreword by Howard Kramer, Acknowledgements, Introduction: “Dream Baby Dream”: Bruce Springsteen’s American Serenade, Part I “Land of Hope and Dreams”: Springsten’s Working-Class Heroes and the Search for American Identity, Part II “There’s a Sadness Hidden in that Pretty Face”: Springsteen and Gender Identity, Part III “Lost in the Flood”: Springsteen and Religion, Part IV “It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City”: Springsteen, Ethics, and Social Justice, Works Cited, Index


    Kenneth Womack is Professor of English and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Penn State University, USA. His publications include Postwar Academic Fiction: Satire, Ethics, Community (2001), Key Concepts in Literary Theory (2001), Mapping the Ethical Turn: A Reader in Ethics, Culture, and Literary Theory (2001), Reading the Beatles: Cultural Studies, Literary Criticism, and the Fab Four (2006), Postmodern Humanism in Contemporary Literature and Culture: Reconciling the Void (2006), Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of the Beatles (2007), The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles (2009), and a novel, John Doe No. 2 and the Dreamland Motel (2010). Jerry Zolten is Associate Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State University, USA, where he teaches courses on Communications, American Studies, and Popular Music. He is the producer of CDs by the Fairfield Four and their bass singer Isaac Freeman, co-host with cartoonist Robert Crumb of Chimpin' the Blues, a public radio program on the history of early blues, and the author of Great God A'Mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds: Celebrating the Rise of Soul Gospel Music (2002). Mark Bernhard is Associate Provost for Outreach and Engagement at the University of Southern Indiana, USA. He holds a Ph.D. in Workforce Planning and Development from Penn State University. He is co-editor of Cases in Government Succession Planning: Action-Oriented Strategies for Public Sector Human Capital Management, Workforce Planning, Succession Planning, and Talent Management (2008).

    'The books’ strength lies [in the] diversity of vantage points... The reader who consumes the entire interdisciplinary book stands to learn much about the musician, his work and how researchers from many corners of the academy contribute to the big tent of popular music studies.' Notes '... unarguably a significant addition to the body of writings about Springsteen.' IASPM@Journal '... this collection is an important work as it both raises the stock and validity of one of the greatest musical icons of the current time and contends with some of the central and key questions of the academic study of popular music in general, the power of music to affect change in society and to strengthen the connection and bonds between people across racial and gender boundaries ... Overall, a fascinating book for fans of the Boss, academics and students of Popular Music alike'. Popular Music