Grab your pens and your notebooks, because thunder’s rolling down these halls.
Next semester, the University will introduce a new course dedicated to the work of Bruce Springsteen called Bruce Springsteen’s America: Land of Hope and Dreams (HS-398-01) taught by History Professor Kenneth Campbell, Ph.D. As of now, there are still spots available for the class.
Considering the University is home to The Bruce Springsteen Archives and located in the area where Springsteen spent formative years of his career, it’s only fitting that they started to offer a course dedicated to his work.
As universities across New Jersey offered classes on Springsteen, Eileen Chapman, Director of The Bruce Springsteen Archives, felt that we were long overdue for a course on The Boss.
“Over the past eight years many professors who teach Springsteen courses have visited the archives to conduct research and prepare course materials. They have come from various colleges and universities throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania but also from Rome, Italy and Canada,” said Chapman.
Chapman brought this up to Campbell, which left him, “dismayed to hear that,” said Campbell. “I have been a huge fan of Bruce for many years and given our location and his generosity in donating his archive to us, I certainly think he (and our students) deserve a course dedicated to his musical legacy.”
Luckily, Chapman mentioned the idea to the right person who could ‘Prove It All Night.’ “Having taught courses on the Beatles for the past ten years, people had frequently asked me why I didn’t teach a course on Bruce Springsteen. I finally decided I needed to do it, if no one else on the faculty is interested,” said Campbell.
Campbell has been a fan of Springsteen’s work throughout most of his life and he wants to share this appreciation to students in the course.
He stated, “[Springsteen’s] music has accompanied me on my life journey for the past 45 years and been a constant through all the growth and experiences of my life.”
Campbell continued, “It has influenced me, informed me, taught me, made me think, and inspired me. I am sure I am not alone in this feeling and think it must be very rare for an artist to have that kind of effect on people’s lives over such a long period of time.”
Campbell intends to teach the course through a historical lens. “I decided to develop a history course because of how much Bruce’s lyrics focus on the history of the United States and how much his life reflects and relates to the past 70 years of that history,” he said.
The course will focus on a wide range of historical events and will feature materials you can buy at your local record store.
“In my syllabus, I intertwine units on past history and topics such as the Great Depression or the American West with units on recent history related to Bruce’s life and music. I have built the course around Bruce’s own songs and writings, including his autobiography, Born to Run, and books about Bruce and his connections to the American tradition,” Campbell stated.
Even the Springsteen Archives will be available for students as a hands-on resource.
“We’ve welcomed many students to our Archives who have traveled some great distances in order to research Springsteen’s life and career for academic papers, including locations in Ireland and Japan,” said Chapman.
While Campbell will discuss the historical significance of Springsteen’s work, it’s still relevant today.
Campbell said, “Given how divided and divisive our political culture has become, I think Bruce Springsteen’s vision for America, the questions he has raised, and the insights he has provided about our past all have something special to teach us at this moment in our history.”
Springsteen’s messages resonate with students because they are hopping on this train to take the course. Senior history student James Watson is taking the course because he’d like to learn more about The Boss.
“I have listened to Springsteen songs in the past but I wouldn’t consider myself a major fan. I am from Chicago so I don’t really have a connection to him that many people in this area do. That being said, I am hoping to grow in that regard through taking this class,” said Watson.
Also, Watson thinks Campbell is the perfect guy for the job. Watson said, “What separates this course from other courses for me is the passion that Dr. Campbell brings to the classroom with his teaching. He is extremely knowledgeable about the content that he teaches and that really reflects well on his students as well.”
As for a special appearance by The Boss in class, Campbell will have his door open.
“He is certainly welcome to do so and I would love to have him visit and talk to the class. No promises though,” Campbell said.
IMAGE TAKEN from Ultimate Classic Rock