Bruce Springsteen and Pink Floyd Get Their First Scholarly Journals and Academic Conferences


When I first entered col­lege in the mid-‘90s, the phe­nom­e­non of pop cul­ture stud­ies in acad­e­mia seemed like an excit­ing nov­el­ty, bound to the ethos of the Clin­ton years. Often inci­sive, occa­sion­al­ly friv­o­lous, pop cul­ture stud­ies made acad­e­mia fun again, and rein­vig­o­rat­ed the world of schol­ar­ly pub­lish­ing and col­lege life in gen­er­al. All man­ner of fan­dom ruled the day: we took class­es in hip hop videos and Buffy the Vam­pire Slay­er, Ala­nis Mor­ris­sette rede­fined irony, and near­ly every­one got hired right after grad­u­a­tion (see for ref­er­ence the cult clas­sic 1994 film PCU). These days I don’t need to tell you that the prospects for new grads are con­sid­er­ably reduced, but I’m very hap­py to find aca­d­e­m­ic soci­eties and jour­nals still orga­nized around TV shows, fan­ta­sy nov­els, and pop music. Today we bring you two exam­ples from the world of Clas­sic Rock & Roll Stud­ies (to coin a term). First up we have BOSS, or “The Bian­nu­al Online-Jour­nal of Spring­steen Stud­ies.”

Spring­steen Stud­ies is not new. In fact, a mas­sive Spring­steen sym­po­sium called “Glo­ry Days”—joint­ly spon­sored by Vir­ginia Tech, Penn State, and Mon­mouth Uni­ver­si­ty—has tak­en place twice in West Long Branch, New Jer­sey since 2005 and is cur­rent­ly prepar­ing for its next event. BOSS, how­ev­er, only just emerged, the first schol­ar­ly Spring­steen jour­nal ever pub­lished. The first issue will appear in June of this year, and the edi­tors are now solic­it­ing 15 to 25 page aca­d­e­m­ic arti­cles for their Jan­u­ary, 2015 issue. Describ­ing them­selves as a “schol­ar­ly space for Spring­steen Stud­ies in the con­tem­po­rary acad­e­my,” BOSS seeks “broad inter­dis­ci­pli­nary and cross-dis­ci­pli­nary approach­es to Springsteen’s song­writ­ing, per­for­mance, and fan com­mu­ni­ty.” Spring­steen schol­ars: check the BOSS site for dead­lines and con­tact info.

Unlike most schol­ar­ly jour­nals, BOSS is open-access, so fans and admir­ers of all kinds can read the sure-to-be fas­ci­nat­ing dis­cus­sions it fos­ters as it works toward secur­ing “a place for Spring­steen Stud­ies in the con­tem­po­rary acad­e­my.” Spring­steen Stud­ies’ advo­ca­cy appears to be working—Rutgers Uni­ver­si­ty plans to add a Spring­steen the­ol­o­gy class, cov­er­ing Springsteen’s entire discog­ra­phy, and oth­er insti­tu­tions like Prince­ton and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Rochester have offered Spring­steen cours­es in the past.

In anoth­er first for a spe­cial­ized pop cul­ture field, the first-ever aca­d­e­m­ic con­fer­ence on the work of Pink Floyd will be held this com­ing April 13 at Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty. Called “Pink Floyd: Sound, Sight, and Struc­ture,” the event promis­es to be a mul­ti-media extrav­a­gan­za, fea­tur­ing as its keynote speak­er Gram­my-award win­ning Pink Floyd pro­duc­er and engi­neer James Guthrie. (See Guthrie and oth­ers dis­cuss the pro­duc­tion of the sur­round-sound Super Audio CD of Wish You Were Here in the video above). In addi­tion to Guthrie’s talk, and his sur­round sound mix of the band’s music, the con­fer­ence will offer “live com­po­si­tions and arrange­ments inspired by Pink Floyd’s music,” an “exhi­bi­tion of Pink Floyd cov­ers and art,” and a screen­ing of The Wall. Papers include “The Visu­al Music of Pink Floyd,” “Space and Rep­e­ti­tion in David Gilmour’s Gui­tar Solos,” and “Sev­er­al Species of Small Fur­ry Ani­mals: The Genius of Ear­ly Floyd.” Admis­sion is free, but you’ll need to RSVP to get in. The town of Prince­ton will join in the fes­tiv­i­ties with “Out­side the Wall,” a series of events and spe­cials on drinks, din­ing, art, and music.

While these events and pub­li­ca­tions may seem to locate pop cul­ture stud­ies square­ly in New Jer­sey, those inter­est­ed can find con­fer­ences all over the world, in fact. A good place to start is the site of the PCA (“Pop Cul­ture Asso­ci­a­tion”), which hosts its annu­al con­fer­ence next month in Chica­go, and the Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence on Media and Pop­u­lar Cul­ture will be held this May in Vien­na. Pop cul­ture and media stud­ies still seem to me to be par­tic­u­lar prod­ucts of the opti­mistic ‘90s (due to my own vin­tage, no doubt), but it appears these aca­d­e­m­ic fields are thriv­ing, despite the vast­ly dif­fer­ent eco­nom­ic cli­mate we now live in, with its no-fun, belt-tight­en­ing effects on high­er ed across the board.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bruce Spring­steen Exhi­bi­tion Held in Philadel­phia; It’s Now Offi­cial, The Boss is an Amer­i­can Icon

Heat Map­ping the Rise of Bruce Spring­steen: How the Boss Went Viral in a Pre-Inter­net Era

Watch Doc­u­men­taries on the Mak­ing of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Hanoch says:

    Spring­steen Stud­ies! I checked my cal­en­dar to see if, per­haps, it was April 1. Par­ents, for a mere $240K, your chil­dren can grad­u­ate as pop music schol­ars!

  • philippe gonin says:

    The first aca­d­e­m­ic con­fer­ence on the Floyd ? it’s not true ! I made aca­d­e­m­ic con­fer­ences on their music since 2011 ! in France… (Paris, Toulouse, Lille, Dijon, Lyon…) : shape and struc­ture in Floy­d’s music, The orig­i­nal sound­tracks (More, La Val­lée…), Atom Heart Moth­er.
    I wrote an “aca­d­e­m­ic book” on Atom Heart Moth­er (fore­word by Ron Geesin) and Pink Floyd was cho­sen for the french “bac­calau­réat” 4 years ago !…
    A book on THE WALL will be pub­lished on octo­ber 2014…
    I also make aca­d­e­m­ic con­fer­ences on The Cure, Mag­ma (a french band) etc.–1&keywords=pink+floyd+philippe+gonin

    But I’m french, and maybe that means noth­ing to you…

    sin­cere­ly yours

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