Volume 77
Number 4

Health for All

Fear of Flying

Flying II: High Anxiety

Virtual Vietnam

Uncovering the Past

Wired New World

Enigma: Physics Band

Emory University

Association of Emory Alumni

Current News and Events

Emory Report



Sports Updates



Emory sociology professor Terry Boswell and co-author Christopher Chase-Dunn were awarded the Political Economy in the World Systems Section 2001 Award for Best Book for The Spiral of Capitalism and Socialism: Towards Global Democracy at the American Sociological Association annual meeting in August.

A specific combination of high-dose dietary supplements, largely antioxidants, can slow age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in some who already have the disease, according to a ten-year study by the National Eye Institute. AMD is an eye disease that affects eight million Americans and is a leading cause of blindness in those older than sixty-five. The study, which was conducted at Emory Eye Center and several other sites across the country, involved almost five thousand participants, who were given high-dose combinations of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc.

The National Eye Institute found that survival rates for two alternative treatments for primary eye cancer–radiation therapy and removal of the eye–are about the same. The Emory Eye Center's Paul Sternberg Jr. was a primary investigator in the nationwide study.

Through a million-dollar gift from the Turner Foundation, researchers in Emory’s Division of Pediatric Rheumatology and Immunology will do research on lupus, a poorly understood autoimmune disorder, and how it affects children and teens.















































More than a hundred years after American poet Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass, the “race of singers” he once imagined would follow in his footsteps continues to amplify his legacy, singing the praises of the working man and celebrating the ideal of American democracy.

In his recently published book A Race of Singers: Whitman’s Working-Class Hero from Guthrie to Springsteen, Bryan Garman ’98G explores the rich thematic connection between the vision of America that inspired Whitman’s poetry and the music of Garman’s own heroes, folk rock legends Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen.

Like Whitman–the nineteenth century poet widely considered a kind of spiritual progenitor of many progressive ideas–each of these singers has deliberately sought to advance a liberal agenda on cultural, social, and political fronts. But Garman says their message is fraught with contradictions that ultimately undermine their success.

Common themes and subtle ironies surface repeatedly throughout the music and lyrics of Garman’s subjects. They exalt a working-class hero and aspire to represent him–take, for instance, songs like Guthrie’s “You Gotta Go Down and Join the Union”–but often to the exclusion of other Americans, including women, gays, and blacks.

In folk songs such as Dylan’s “North Country Blues” (about the exploitation of miners) and countless others, they bemoan the misfortune of the worker and denounce capitalistic greed; yet for the most part their high-profile careers were firmly grounded in the wealthy American music industry.

They advocate sexual freedom and explore elements of homoerotic attraction in their own sexuality–Springsteen, for example, ritually gave his male, black saxophonist a deep “soul kiss” at the end of the song “Thunder Road” during his Born In the U.S.A. tour–while never relinquishing their public image of heterosexual manliness or exposing themselves to homophobia.

This web of conflicts has created a musical tradition which constantly critiques established social and political systems, but never calls openly for them to be toppled, Garman says–maybe because as white men, these singers are privileged by the very oppression they question.

“These heroes have dedicated themselves primarily to confronting the most fundamental American quandary: how does one balance individual freedom with social equality?” Garman writes. “Their desire to be working-class heroes, to rise from the ranks of common men to become quite uncommon, has often done more to exacerbate than to assuage this tension.”

Garman’s work arose from his early devotion to Guthrie, Dylan, and Springsteen. Even as a kid, he says, he used to play his dad’s Dylan records over and over again, learning them by heart. Years later, in college and then in graduate school at Emory’s Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts, Garman began to examine their relationship to Whitman and assess the impact of the poet on American culture. While writing A Race of Singers (originally his Ph.D. dissertation), Garman won a coveted ten-week graduate student fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. , an opportunity he calls a “real turning point” for the project.

“I was given access to the Moses and Frances Asch Collection, which housed the papers of Folkways Records, a recording company Asch founded in 1947 in New York City,” Garman says. “His studio served as a meeting house for the leftist American Folksong Movement, and Woody Guthrie spent endless hours at Asch’s office. Asch had the foresight to save every scrap of paper that Guthrie touched–annotated books, pencil sketches, song lyrics, letters, poems, paintings. I spent most of my time examining these materials and listening to recordings that were, at the time, unreleased.”

Garman also had the chance to meet Nora Guthrie, Woody’s daughter, who allowed him to visit the Woody Guthrie Archive in New York before it officially opened to the public. She also spoke at length with Garman about her father.

“She was so generous about sharing her memories and experiences–she transformed this historical figure I had spent so much time studying into a human being,” Garmans says. “Shortly after the book came out, she called to thank me for writing it.”

Despite their limitations, Garman says, the race of singers that arose in Whitman’s wake have profoundly, positively influenced American culture by adding alternative voices to a dialogue dominated by conservatism and capitalism. Like Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing,” the songs of Guthrie, Dylan, and Springsteen are laced with optimism and admiration for the American workingman, illuminating the simple dignity of skilled labor–an aspect of folk music Garman fears will be lost in the era of technology.

“The ideas that Whitman articulated in the nineteenth century became such a part of leftist culture that they are present whether Dylan or Springsteen was actually drawing on Whitman directly or not,” Garman said in an interview from his Washington, D.C. home. “But now this tradition is changing. The whole notion of work has changed in our society. It’s hard to have a working-class hero in this post-industrialist world, work is less heroic, the labor movement is not as prominent. It’s hard to celebrate ‘Dilbert,’ you know? Somebody working in a cubicle is not a hero like, say, a steelworker.”

Still, Garman, who is now chair of the history department at a Quaker high school in Washington, says he has found a handful of current singers and musicians who evoke Whitman’s legacy while broadening and stamping the core ideology with their own mark. One is singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco, who beat the odds when she turned her back on the recording industry and successfully founded her own label, Righteous Babe Records, in 1990. DiFranco’s radical, anti-establishment lyrics and intense musical style have earned her a devoted young following, although she refuses to identify wholly with any group or movement; in her anthem, “Not A Pretty Girl,” she sings, “Generally my generation wouldn’t be caught dead working for ‘the man,’ and generally I agree with them–trouble is, you’ve got to have yourself an alternate plan …”

Garman also points to lesbian folk-rock singers the Indigo Girls , both Emory graduates (Amy Ray ’86C and Emily Saliers ’85C), who have adapted Whitmanesque notions of social justice and equality to their particular brand of advocacy, speaking out on behalf of women, gays, Native Americans, and the environment.

“The kids I teach are listening to them, which is nice,” Garman says. “The tradition is still very much alive.” –P.P.P.

Also in Précis:

Crawford Long Hospital undergoes $270 million renovation

Doc Hollywood: The Musical

A Journey of Reconciliation

Depression and high blood pressure make deadly combination

Growing Green: The Piedmont Project

Library augments literary holdings

The Poetry of Natasha Trethewey and Janet McAdams ’96PhD

Remembering Evangeline T. Papageorge ’29M

Emory’s “hidden history” revealed in Oxford Historical Cemetery

Faith Journey: Daniel B. Cole ’93C



© 2002 Emory University