The Conversation

University Plans Bruce Springsteen Theology Class

Known for teaching courses in early rabbinic literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish mysticism and Plato, a professor at Rutgers University is now looking to the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen to enlighten first year students. 

Azzan Yadin-Israel, an associate professor of Jewish studies and classics, will offer a Byrne Seminar, exploring the theological underpinnings of Springsteen’s lyrics, and the song writer’s reinterpretation of biblical stories. Byrne Seminars are one-credit courses with lighter workloads, offering an introduction to research for classes not to exceed 20 students. 

Yadin-Israel said, "there’s no expectation that anyone will become a Springsteen scholar. I do hope the students gain an appreciation for a particular way of thinking about texts, an attentive engagement of an author’s work, and an understanding of the broader contexts --political, literary, theological, etc.-- that inform a work."

When asked about any theological themes running through Springsteen's lyrics, Yadin-Israel said, "I would say the most dominant motifs are redemption -- crossing the desert and entering the Promised Land -- and the sanctity of the everyday. Springsteen tries to drag the power of religious symbols that are usually relegated to some transcendent reality into our lived world."

Rutgers is a public university.

With my shopping cart I move through the heart
Of a sea of fools so blissfully unaware
That they’re in the presence of something wonderful and rare
The way she moves behind the counter
Beneath her white apron her secret remains hers

- Bruce Springsteen from "Queen of the Supermarket"


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