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The Arts and Popular Culture: Creativity, Self-Invention and the Music of Bruce Springsteen

ENGL 117.301
R 1:30-4:30pm

This course will focus on the songs, films, solo projects and life of Bruce Springsteen as a source of creative inspiration—which is appropriate, given that inspiration is the very blood coursing through the veins of his work. The course will, in part, take its shape based on the interests of the students who enroll in it. Bruce obsessives—you know who you are—are, of course, more than welcome. However, if you are new to his music and merely curious about how it might inspire your own creativity, your adventurousness, sense of wonder and willingness to take a deep dive into his work are all that is required. We will listen to and discuss Springsteen's songs, watch documentaries and performances, explore his influence across the arts and culture (very much including style and fashion), and meet critics and artists who have engaged his work in meaningful ways. For those reasons, the course will be more improvisatory than strictly schematic—that is, we will follow various threads in Springsteen's work as they emerge in our discussions and as our mutual fascination guides us. The goal is for us to achieve an understanding of his work that is as visceral as it is intellectual. The class will do some analytic and critical writing, of course. But students who are so inclined will be encouraged to pursue their own creative work—which is to say that, in consultation with the instructor, short stories, songs, poems, plays, paintings, photography or videos inspired by Springsteen's songs will be acceptable projects to complete the course's requirements. You will be allowed a great deal of freedom in charting your own independent course, in other words, as appropriate to our subject and the gift his work has given to us all.