On Bryan K. Carman's A Race of Singers: Whitman's Working Class Hero from Guthrie to Springsteen

On Bryan K. Carman's A Race of Singers: Whitman's Working Class Hero from Guthrie to Springsteen A Race of Singers: Whitman’s Working Class Hero from Guthrie to Springsteen B RYAN K. C ARMAN Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000 Reviewed by R OBBIE L IEBERMAN I always thought that Ronald Reagan had misunderstood Bruce Springsteen’ s ‘Born in the U.S.A.’, and that is why he lauded it as a great patriotic song. But Bryan Carman has a very different view. He suggests that Springsteen’s music was open to conservative interpretation because of his faith in American democracy and his manliness. This is Carman’s argument in a nutshell: accepting the privileges of whiteness and maleness while criticising a system that made life difŽcult for working-class people was a tradition that Springsteen inherited from Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, a tradition that goes back to Walt Whitman. Whitman defended ‘artisan republicanism’ against the dehumanising process of industrialisation in the nineteenth century – he raised concerns about freedom, independence, and equality, but failed to promote class consciousness or structural change. Instead, he emphasised moral truths and a collectivity rooted in homosocial and homoerotic bonds (i.e. bonds between men). While Whitman may have been hailed by American Communists in the 1920s and 1930s as their ‘heroic http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Historical Materialism Brill

On Bryan K. Carman's A Race of Singers: Whitman's Working Class Hero from Guthrie to Springsteen

Historical Materialism, Volume 11 (4): 423 – Jan 1, 2003

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© 2003 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
1465-4466
eISSN
1569-206X
D.O.I.
10.1163/156920603322889411
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

A Race of Singers: Whitman’s Working Class Hero from Guthrie to Springsteen B RYAN K. C ARMAN Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000 Reviewed by R OBBIE L IEBERMAN I always thought that Ronald Reagan had misunderstood Bruce Springsteen’ s ‘Born in the U.S.A.’, and that is why he lauded it as a great patriotic song. But Bryan Carman has a very different view. He suggests that Springsteen’s music was open to conservative interpretation because of his faith in American democracy and his manliness. This is Carman’s argument in a nutshell: accepting the privileges of whiteness and maleness while criticising a system that made life difŽcult for working-class people was a tradition that Springsteen inherited from Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, a tradition that goes back to Walt Whitman. Whitman defended ‘artisan republicanism’ against the dehumanising process of industrialisation in the nineteenth century – he raised concerns about freedom, independence, and equality, but failed to promote class consciousness or structural change. Instead, he emphasised moral truths and a collectivity rooted in homosocial and homoerotic bonds (i.e. bonds between men). While Whitman may have been hailed by American Communists in the 1920s and 1930s as their ‘heroic

Journal

Historical MaterialismBrill

Published: Jan 1, 2003

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