Dr. John Hurtgen To Speak at Faculty Colloquium

Oct. 14, 2009
For Immediate Release



By Joan C. McKinney, news and publications coordinator

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – Campbellsville University will hold a faculty colloquium titled “Boy, (Achtung) Baby, & Bomb: Anti-language in the Songs of U2,” Thursday, Oct. 22 given by Dr. John Hurtgen, dean of the School of Theology, in room 15 of the Administration Building at 104 University Drive, Campbellsville, Ky.

The public is invited to the free event, which will be from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Hurtgen’s address presents a socio-linguistic study of three songs that represent U2 at their beginning (Boy), in the middle (Achtung, Baby), and at their latest (How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb) through the lens of anti-language. Anti-language (literally, “back talk”) was originally the theory of British linguist M. A. K. Halliday (Language as Social Semiotic [1978]) that describes the counter-reality generating system of a cultural sub-group.

Hurtgen said a sub-group registers opposition against a dominant group while at the same time creating an alternative language for the sub-group. He said anti-language is always more than an alternative reality; it is always language in conscientious opposition to a dominant group.

Hurtgen will discuss that anti-language is characterized by relexicalization (old words [of the dominant culture] will be given new meaning); overlexicalization (multiple words will be used for important concerns of the sub-group); and all kinds of verbal play (from puns to intertextuality) to facilitate an alternative conceptual reality over against a dominant culture.

He said a perfect example in United States American culture is the (anti)language of rap, which at least initially arose in poorer urban neighborhoods:  words are given different meanings (“hood,” for one), multiple words are used for focal concepts (money, cars, drugs, women), and rap is now known the world over for its creative, stinging verbal play.

Hurtgen said the Irish rock band U2 has created just such an anti-language and counter-reality throughout their body of work, beginning in 1980.

He will examine three songs for evidence of anti-language as follows: From their earliest album, Boy (1980), the song “I Will Follow;”  from a middle album, Achtung Baby (1991), “The Fly;” and from their latest release, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004), “Vertigo.”

Hurtgen said, “One of the few rock and roll bands to do so positively, U2 has sought (implicitly and explicitly) to create an alternative reality for its hearers.”

He said,  “The goal is not ‘sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll’ but—as in “Beautiful Day” (Boston, 2001)— the goal is soul, life lived and pursued on a different plane.  This tension and reality is consistently pointed to in the anti-language U2 has created.”

Campbellsville University is a private, comprehensive institution located in South Central Kentucky. Founded in 1906, Campbellsville University is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Listed in U.S.News & World Report’s 2010 “America’s Best Colleges,” CU is ranked 23rd in “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the South and fourth in “up-and-coming” schools in the south. CU has been ranked 17 consecutive years with U.S.News & World Report. The university has also been named to America’s Best Christian Colleges® and to G.I. Jobs magazine as a Military Friendly School. Campbellsville University is located 82 miles southwest of Lexington, Ky., and 80 miles southeast of Louisville, Ky. Dr. Michael V. Carter is in his 11th year as president.



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