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Department of English

University of Mississippi

The Oprah Affect

By Jaime Harker

The Oprah Affect explores the cultural impact of Oprah’s Book Club, particularly in light of debates about the definition and purpose of literature in American culture. For the critics collected here, Oprah’s Book Club stands, in the context of American literary history, not as an egregious undermining of who we are and what we represent, as some have maintained, but as the latest manifestation of a tradition that encourages symbiotic relationships between readers and texts. Powered by women writers and readers, novels in this tradition attract crowds, sell well, and make unabashed appeals to emotion. The essays consider the interlocking issues of affect, affinity, accessibility, and activism in the context of this tradition. Juxtaposing book history; reading practices; literary analysis; feminist criticism; and communication, religious, political, and cultural studies; the contributors map a range of possibilities for further research on Oprah’s Book Club. A complete chronological list of Book Club picks is included.

“This collection is important not only for those interested in Oprah’s Book Club, but also for all of us who are interested in contemporary reading practices and, in particular, the sociology of literature. The theoretical foundations found in the various essays are wide-ranging, and the research methods used and discussed illustrate the exciting potential of reading scholarship. This is a valuable collection that will appeal to students and scholars across the academy.” — DeNel Rehberg Sedo, Mount Saint Vincent University

Contributors include Timothy Aubry, Kimberly Chabot Davis, Kate Douglas, Cecilia Konchar Farr, R. Mark Hall, Jaime Harker, Kelley Penfield Lewis, Kathryn Lofton, Michael A. Perry, Kevin Quirk, Ana Patricia Rodríguez, Kathleen Rooney, Simon Stow, Juliette Wells, Virginia Wells, and Yung-Hsing Wu.