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"Better than celebrity biographer Kitty Kelley, Kathryn Lofton exposes Oprah's secret—the religious resonance of her persona in popular culture. Brilliantly orchestrated, full of ah-ha and light-bulb moments, Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon takes us into the mediated spirituality, collective rituals, and everyday epiphanies of being Oprah and being in Oprah's world. If you are looking for sensationalism and scandal, read this book and find a sensational, substantial, and insightful analysis of religion and American popular culture."—David Chidester, author of Authentic Fakes: Religion and American Popular Culture

“Lofton manages a rare feat. This book shakes and awakens our minds, compelling us to interpret and make sense of a multifaceted woman who has become a consumer and cultural phenomenon unprecedented in American and world history.”--Eva Illouz, author of Oprah Winfrey and the Glamour of Misery: An Essay on Popular Culture

"Lofton's Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon defies categorization, offering a brilliantly creative way to explore what religion is and where we look to find it. It's all here—fashion, celebrity, media, glamour, and spirituality, an analysis of the world that produced Oprah as well as the world that Oprah produces."—J. Terry Todd, Director, Center on Religion, Culture & Conflict, Drew University

"Lofton brilliantly analyzes the Oprah phenomenon in religio-historical context. Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon provides a new way of understanding how Oprah operates as a preacher and as a missionary in spite of the presumed secularity of her enterprises, and shows how her world successfully intertwines commerce and religion. It is a truly outstanding work."—Cynthia Eller, Montclair State University

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Editorial Reviews


“A fascinating study of the modern-day deity’s 25 years as the world’s most beloved BFF, exhaustively researched and elegantly considered. Buy it for the smartest Oprah fan you know.”
Booklist - Vanessa Bush

“A fascinating new perspective on a media icon.”
Patheos - Thomas S. Kidd

“If you read it [Oprah], you won't think about the connection between religion and consumer culture the same way again.”
B.l.a.c. - Shirley Bolden

“A unique analysis of the talk queen’s multimedia empire.”
Catholic Herald - Milo Yiannopoulos

“Makes a powerful case for viewing Oprah as a significant moment in religious culture.”
Christian Century - Amy Frykholm

Feminist Collections - Mary Farrell Bednarowski

“[Lofton’s] authorial voice is, by turns, instructing, funny, ironic, snide, brilliantly analytical, undeniably astute . . . and feisty.”
Journal Of American History - Jennifer Scanlon

“Lofton’s careful and engaging work is sure to warrant responses. How wonderful that this book is the one to set the stage.”
Journal Of American Culture - Kate Netzler

“Vitally important, both as an addition to cultural studies in general, and a challenge to the question of how to study American religion. Not only does she break new ground in thoughtful cultural analysis of a complicated American icon, she helps to solidify the potential for a new category of interdisciplinary religious studies scholarship.”
Journal Of American Stds - Janice Peck

"Thoroughly researches, engagingly written, deftly weaving together major currents of US religious and cultural history, Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon will hold great interest for students and scholars in religious studies, American studies, and media and cultural studies, but Winfrey's fans may also enjoy this lively exegesis of their heroine."
Journal Of Religion - Amy Collier Artman

"Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon is an important addition to the study of religion in America because it takes into account the religious impact of popular media. . . . What Lofton is advocating is that popular culture contains within it people and performances that shape religion in America."
American Studies Journal - Lerone Martin

"Compelling and insightful. . . . [A] thorough and fascinating work that significantly aids our understanding of religion and spirituality in postwar America."
Library Journal
Lofton (American studies & religious studies, Yale) elucidates the particular significance of Oprah Winfrey in modern culture and how her presence has achieved icono-religious status from the sheer pervasion of her brand and what it imbues for believers. Winfrey's ascent in the annals of cultural studies did not begin until after it became clear that The Oprah Winfrey Show was a game changer. This dense volume adds to the building scholarship on Winfrey by expanding on Lofton's 2006 piece in the Journal of Popular Culture. Lofton here successfully provides further insight into the Oprah gospel by parsing out the omnipresent mechanisms through which the relentless admonishments and associated consumables are conveyed, as well as by extensively analyzing what that very act of conveyance overtly and covertly signifies to audiences. VERDICT Casual readers and fans of Oprah may find the tone and language of this serious study daunting—don't mistake this for an easy read—but budding and active scholars of cultural, popular, and religious studies will read with interest.—Jewell Anderson, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ. Lib., Savannah
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520259270
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathryn Lofton is the Sarai Ribicoff Associate Professor of American Studies and Religious Studies at Yale University.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

1 Practicing Purchase: The Prosperity Gospel of a Spiritual Capitalism 20

2 Celebrity Spirit: The Incorporation of Your Best Life 51

3 Diverting Conversions: The Makeover as Social Rite 82

4 Preacher Queen: The Race and Gender of America's Confessor 118

5 Reading Religiously: The Reformations of Oprah's Book Club 148

6 Missionary Gift: The Globalization of Inspiration 190

Conclusion 206

Epilogue: Political Spirituality, or the Oprahfication of Obama 213

Notes 223

Index 275

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