1st Edition

Bruce Springsteen and Popular Music Rhetoric, Social Consciousness, and Contemporary Culture

Edited By William I. Wolff Copyright 2018
    256 Pages
    by Routledge

    238 Pages
    by Routledge

    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.

    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



    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.