Friday, May 22, 2015

"Drawing Our Fish in the Sand: Secret Biblical Allusions in the Music of U2"

"Drawing Our Fish in the Sand: Secret Biblical Allusions in the Music of U2" by Deanne Galbraith in   Biblical Interpretation 19 (2011) 181-222


Confronted with a popular music subculture which is predominantly antipathetic to Christianity, the charismatic-evangelical members of rock band U2 double code their lyrics in such a manner that Christian references are hidden from mainstream listenersa nd media while being readily recognizable to their Christian fans. The device of allusion is especially amenable to this end, as the meaning of an allusion can only be considered by a reader or listener who possesses the requisite competency in respect of the evoked text(s). Through  their  utilization of biblical allusions, U2 therefore construct two dierent, perhaps even irreconcilable, groups of listeners—a knowledgeable Christian in-group and an unknowledgeable non-Christian out-group. With detailed reference to U2’s songs, this paper examines the covert tendencies of allusion and the manner by which it is able to engage the listener’s intertextual imagination. The paper also distinguishes a secret or hidden allusion from a generic allusion on pragmatic and socio-cultural grounds, and demonstrates the potential of secret allusions to increase semantic indeterminacy. Lastly, the paper examines some examples of the reception of the U2 song ‘Magnificent’ which demonstrate the eectiveness of U2’s secret biblical allusions in creating two largely discrete groups of listeners.

Paper  is here

"We've found different ways of expressing it, and recognized the power of the media to manipulate such signs. Maybe we just have to sort of draw our fish in the sand. It's there for people who are interested. It shouldn't be there for people who aren't." -- Bono on faith, quoted in U2 at the End of the World 


  1. Another of Deane Galbraith's U2 papers is here (abstract only)

    I have asked Deanne if he plans to upload the complete paper.

    I am presently working on updating my 2009 U2 quiz, found here:

    Take it from 45 questions to 60 questions.

  2. Song for Someone - A look at the theology of U2 (Rev. Albert YS Chu)


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!