Bruce Springsteen and Popular Music: Rhetoric, Social Consciousness, and Contemporary Culture, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Bruce Springsteen and Popular Music

Rhetoric, Social Consciousness, and Contemporary Culture, 1st Edition

Edited by William I. Wolff


240 pages

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This interdisciplinary volume enters the scholarly conversation about Bruce Springsteen at the moment when he has reinforced his status of global superstar and achieved the status of social critic. Covering musical and cultural developments, chapters primarily consider work Springsteen has released since 9/11—that is, released during a period of continued global unrest, economic upheaval, and social change—under the headings Politics, Fear and Society; Gender and Sexual Identity; and Toward a Rhetoric of Springsteen. The collection engages Springsteen and popular music as his contemporary work is just beginning to be understood in terms of its impact on popular culture and music, applying new areas of inquiry to Springsteen and putting Springsteen fan writing within the same binding as academic writing to show how together they create a more nuanced understanding of an artist. Established and emerging Springsteen scholars approach work from disciplines including rhetoric and composition, historical musicology, labor studies, American history, literature, communications, sociology, theology, and government. Offering context, critique, and expansive understanding of Springsteen and his work, this book contributes to Springsteen scholarship and the study of popular music by showing Springsteen’s broadening academic appeal as well as his escalating legacy on new musicians, social consciousness, and contemporary culture.

Table of Contents

Music examples


List of contributors

Introduction: the rhetoric and social consciousness of Bruce Springsteen

William I Wolff

Part 1. Politics, fear, and society

1. Lost in the flood: Bruce Springsteen’s political consciousness and the Vietnam War, 1968–2014

Jonathan D. Cohen

2. "Youngstown": a local band’s rebuke of Springsteen’s representation of a city struggling to define itself after deindustrialization

Sara Gulgas

3. Our Lady of E Street: the Boss’s Virgin, 2002–2014

Karen O’Donnell

4. "This turnpike sure is spooky": Springsteen and the politics of fear

Jason Stonerook

Part 2. Gender and sexual identity

5. American Beauty nomads?: ontological security and masculinized knowledge in uncertain times

Pamela Moss

Dialogues: Springsteen and women

6. The Promised Land: Springsteen’s epic heterosexuality, late capitalism, and prospects for queer life

Nadine Hubbs

7. Is there anybody alive out there? Growing up queer with Bruce

Holly Casio

8. Who is Springsteen to his women fans?

Lorraine Mangione and Donna Luff

Part 3. Toward a rhetoric of Bruce Springsteen

9. When words fail: nonlexical utterances and the rhetoric of voicelessness in the songs of Bruce Springsteen, 1975–1984

Eric Rawson

10. "To stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart": authenticity, community, and folk music in the recent work of Bruce Springsteen

Owen Cantrell

Dialogues: Springsteen, audience, and interpretation

11. "Bring ‘em home!": the rhetorical ecologies of Devils & Dust

Jason Schneider

12. Springsteen’s stage success: the setlist and beyond

Peter Chianca

13. "They don’t just see some person with a guitar": Springsteen and rhetorical identification

Scott Wagar


About the Editor

William I. Wolff is an assistant professor of communication studies and digital media at Saint Joseph’s University where he teaches courses on participatory culture, nonprofit communications, and digital storytelling. His work has appeared in Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy; Transformative Works and Cultures; Technical Writing Quarterly and Computers & Composition.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Popular Music

This series is our home for cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections covering Popular Music. Considering music performance, theory, and culture alongside topics such as gender, race, celebrity, fandom, tourism, fashion, and technology, titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Folk & Traditional
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Pop Vocal
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Rock
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Popular Culture