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Born in the U.S.A.: Bruce Springsteen and the American Tradition (Music/Culture) [Paperback]

By Jim Cullen (Author)
Our Price $ 21.21  
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Item Number 100007  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   288
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.2" Width: 5.5" Height: 1"
Weight:   0.85 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 30, 2005
Publisher   Wesleyan
ISBN  0819567612  
EAN  9780819567611  

Availability  142 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 26, 2016 05:46.
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Item Description...
Moving beyond the biographical and journalistic approaches of most writing on Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A. was the first major work of cultural criticism to situate Springsteen's work in the broader sweep of American history--the heir of Walt Whitman and Woody Guthrie, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. Springsteen is an influential chronicler of our society, says Jim Cullen, a "good conservative" who preserves the traditional values of hard work, inclusive families, and genuine concern for the less fortunate. In the new edition to this landmark work, Cullen also discusses new currents in Springsteen's music since 9/11, notably his 2002 album The Rising. This Wesleyan edition includes a new foreword, introduction, and afterword. Must reading for any serious fan--or anyone who has ever been curious about what all the fuss has been about.

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More About Jim Cullen

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Jim Cullen teaches history at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York City. Cullen, a former Preceptor in the Expository Writing Program at Harvard University, is the author of several books, including The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation (2003) and the forthcoming, provisionally titled Sensing the Past: Hollywood Actors as Historians.

Jim Cullen currently resides in Westchester, in the state of New York. Jim Cullen was born in 1962 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York City Ethical Cultural Fie.

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Product Categories
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Too Soon -- Wait for the 2nd edition in ten years  Dec 26, 2007
OK first-draft attempt to place Springsteen in American popular and political culture.

Cullen seems too much of a fan to treat Springsteen's work just as it stands, but he does a decent job of setting Springsteen in historical context with Twain, Whitman, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, this section is the meat of the book and Cullen could have drilled deeper into the relationships of Springsteen to these creators and leaders. As it is, the book barely reaches 200 pages and reads more like an extended magazine piece or post-grad thesis than a fully-finished book.

Another problem with the book is it may have been written too soon. Springsteen has continued to record, tour, and extend his artistic abilities, so a new edition of this book in another 10 years would have more perspective and more source material to pull from. Compare this to Ricks' book "Dylan's Visions of Sin", in a similar vein but better because it encompasses a longer career over a greater distance of years.

Dylan's Visions of Sin

One example is Springsteen's appearance on the VH1 "Songwriters" show after Cullen's book came out, where he dissects the history, lyrics and intent of some of his best songs, sometimes in explicitly religious terms. This material would have helped strengthen and deepen Cullen's argument, had he waited.

This isn't bad, just not as good as it will be in another decade.
A Great Read  Oct 12, 2005
I highly recommend Geoffrey Hine's book on Born in the U.S.A. I had forgotten how good this album is. There were lots of good insights into Springsteen's creative process particularly how he was more successful when he started to pare down his lyrics for works such as Born in the U.S.A. There's fine research on the genesis of songs such as the title song. Also, there is a lot of additional information on the making of Nebraska, one of Springsteen's best works. You have to laugh when you read how politicians and pundits like Ronald Reagan and George Will praised the work of Springsteen at the time. They didn't quite get it. Finally, there is an excellent discography of Springsteen's work at the end of the book. A great read which I thoroughly enjoyed
Promising and interesting, but a little too light.  Jun 1, 2003
Both a recent convert to the Springsteen synod of the First Church of Rock n' Roll and a rogue scholar pursuing the aims of Deweyan democratic community, I have considered the possibility of a scholarly study of Bruce Springsteen's music. Such a study would consider (ideally) several themes: One, most importantly, is to situate Sprinsteen's music within a certain American literary and musical tradition; another is to present Springsteen's work as, in some respects, part of national dialogue on questions of citizenship, patriotism, manhood, etc.; yet another is to consider Springsteen's music as a sort of ethical practice, almost as an Aristotelian guide to character development. Jim Cullen's book, although it falls short of my ideal in many respects, does offer an interesting and, I think, ultimately compelling vision of the possibilities of scholarship on Springsteen.

Cullen's argument that Springsteen belongs to a literary tradition beginning with Walt Whitman, and including Mark Twain and John Steinbeck, is persuasive. Although his comparisons of these authors with Springsteen, both stylistic and thematic, are a little thin, the similarities are made evident. (One weakness of Cullen's argument is his failure to consider the most notable differences between Springsteen and Whitman, et al.) Springsteen's is an aesthetic of the everyday, offering a picture of lives and landscapes that form the stuff of life for most Americans, but are often overlooked (interestingly, by both conservative proponents of high modernism and and leftist supporters of avant-garde art). His stories are drawn from the very streets on which he grew and lived, from the events affecting his society, and from the plight of those left behind in the wake of society's progress ("The Ghost of Tom Joad" and "Nebraska" are most exemplary of this dimension of Springsteen's work -- having rather little to do with his own life). Thematically, this is the very stuff of Steinbeck and Whitman.

Cullen also makes an interesting case that Springsteen be seen as a proponent of American republicanism. (Not to be confused with the Reagan sort of Republicanism -- Springsteen is certainly not right-wing.) This is the political tradition to which Whitman, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and (not mentioned by Cullen) John Dewey belong. It is a tradition which promotes and protects the rights of individuals, but always sees these individuals as members of a community. Springsteen's work, as a whole, it seems to me at least, in part traces a movement from individualism (consider the romantic idealism of Born to Run) to community (embodied in the group performance of "If I should fall behind" during the 1999 performance). His more recent work, "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and "The Rising" particularly, is concerned explicitly with the importance of community in the face of both internal and external challenges.

Overall, while Cullen's book does provide an interesting and compelling case for the 'serious' study of Springsteen's work, I think it does have a few significant flaws. For one, which I have already suggested, his comparisons of Springsteen with other literary figures are somewhat superficial. More detailed comparisons (involving, in part, more thorough examination of Springsteen's lyrics), even where this brings out the differences, would strengthen the argument. (In general, Cullen's presentation of the general historical and cultural settings of Springsteen and other artists is too superficial -- especially as compared with the studies in his other work on American popular culture.) For another, I think his analysis of Springsteen's political significance would benefit by a more individualistic interpretation (paired with his republican analysis). While I think it is true that Springsteen's political vision fits closely with that of Whitman, etc., it is also true that the direct impact of Springsteen's music (as is true of any art), is registered on the individual level. I believe that our moral identities are shaped, in large part, through identifications with various models, which may be culled from popular culture (among other sources, of course). Springsteen's music maintains a serious and generally consistent moral vision, and provides a model of moral character worth emulating. (This seems to be true of Springsteen the man as well.) And thus his music may actually serve as a valuable democratic resource.

This book is a fine read and a fairly unique interpretation of Springsteen's work. As an early serious effort to assess Springsteen's cultural and political significance it will of course have some problems, but these can be excused for the simple fact that so few other authors have tackled this subject in this manner.

Whether you're a fan of springsteen's or a student of american history, this is a must-read. This book is by no means a biography, it is a study of Springsteen's work and its' meaning and context. I have no idea what this fella from spain is talking about calling these essays overblown and that Cullen has no right to compare someone of springsteen's stature to whitman. Cullen does an excellent job of discussing his theses - two of the most intriguing being how springsteen's viewpoints on parenthood and women grow and mature throughout his body of work (how many other rock stars work have that degree of sophistication?). Well-written, well-executed, anove all, SMART. More books like this - serious studies on a musician's work and not his/her life and lifestyle - should exist.

p.s. I originally wrote this way back when. I recently got a new e-address and am in the process of updating all my old postings. So, yes, you may see this review twice. It is worth noting that since the time I originally wrote this, I've re-read various sections, and was impressed with how well they stood up to repeated readings. So - yes, I stand beside my original review and then some.

Thoughtful and a bit esoteric. Rewards your close reading.  Mar 17, 2001
Jim Cullen's book carries a weighty premise: Bruce Springsteen is the cultural heir of Emerson, Whitman, Lincoln, and The American Kings (Martin Luther King and Elvis Presley). Cullen divides Springsteen's themes into useful categories and explores them in the context of America's great artists, thinkers, and cultural movements. Although it reads a little like a dissertation in places, I found Cullen a credible Springsteen expert. His discussions illuminated dimensions of Springsteen's work for me, as well as provided interesting but arguable perspectives on other American artists and cultural figures. This isn't a pop biography, but it rewards the thoughtful reader.

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