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The Gospel of an Icon

Kathryn Lofton (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 304 pages
ISBN: 9780520267527
March 2011
$29.95, £24.00
Other Formats Available:
“Today on Oprah,” intoned the TV announcer, and all over America viewers tuned in to learn, empathize, and celebrate. In this book, Kathryn Lofton investigates the Oprah phenomenon and finds in Winfrey’s empire—Harpo Productions, O Magazine, and her new television network—an uncanny reflection of religion in modern society. Lofton shows that when Oprah liked, needed, or believed something, she offered her audience nothing less than spiritual revolution, reinforced by practices that fuse consumer behavior, celebrity ambition, and religious idiom. In short, Oprah Winfrey is a media messiah for a secular age. Lofton’s unique approach also situates the Oprah enterprise culturally, illuminating how Winfrey reflects and continues historical patterns of American religions.
Kathryn Lofton is the Sarai Ribicoff Associate Professor of American Studies and Religious Studies at Yale University.
“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.”—Madison
“A fascinating new perspective on a media icon.”—Vanessa Bush Booklist
“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 . . .budding and active scholars of cultural, popular, and religious studies will read with interest.”—Jewell Anderson Library Journal
“Lofton exemplifies the potential of religious studies by riffing on what the 'O' means in our culture, in which purchasing and consuming the right products has become inextricably spiritual, and our supposed path to the fulfilled life . . if you read it, you won't think about the connection between religion and consumer culture the same way again.”—Thomas S. Kidd Patheos
“A unique analysis of the talk queen’s multimedia empire.”—Shirley Bolden B.l.a.c.
“Makes a powerful case for viewing Oprah as a significant moment in religious culture: the embodiment of an empty, product-centric spiritualism that has, according to this academic, all but replaced religion for many Americans.”—Milo Yiannopoulos Catholic Herald
“Tantalizing.”—Amy Frykholm Christian Century
“[Lofton’s] authorial voice is, by turns, instructing, funny, ironic, snide, brilliantly analytical, undeniably astute . . . and feisty.”—Mary Farrell Bednarowski Feminist Collections
“Lofton’s careful and engaging work is sure to warrant responses. How wonderful that this book is the one to set the stage.”—Jennifer Scanlon Journal Of American History
"Compelling and insightful. . . . [A] thorough and fascinating work that significantly aids our understanding of religion and spirituality in postwar America."—Lerone Martin American Studies Journal
“With ample alliteration and deft turns of phrases, Lofton (Yale) offers an excellent account of the "Empire of O" that is required reading for multiple audiences. Neither simply a biography (though Oprah Winfrey's life is important), nor an interpretation of the "religious" dimensions of Oprah's television and media empire (though those are crucial as well), this book nimbly weaves together economics, the power of media, gender and race dynamics, and the spiritual seeking that in part defines contemporary US culture.”—S. B. Plate Choice
"But the eerie feeling I had while reading Kathryn Lofton’s account of the TV maven is that I have been breathing Oprah’s reality, vocabulary, consumer choices and worldview in the cultural air all around me. I have not been immune to the Gospel of Oprah, and the fact that her influence on me has been unrecognized makes it no less profound."—Amy Frykholm Christian Century
"[Lofton] is a historian and cultural anthropologist, psychologist and popular culture analyst, theologian and therapist...[she] deftly and expertly shows how Winfrey opens windows of meaning for millions and draws them into an inchoate community of believers who find in the array of products endorsed by Oprah the keys to the fulfilled life."—Charles H. Lippy Church History
“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.”—Kate Netzler Journal Of American Culture
"Thoroughly researched, 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."—Janice Peck Journal Of American Stds
"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."—Amy Collier Artman Journal Of Religion
“"Lofton’s prose is highly readable, making it accessible to not only those steeped in religious and cultural studies, but to a general audience as well. . . . The text is more than an examination of a popular talk-show-host-turned media magnate. It places Winfrey within a larger exploration on how religion has been commodified through history."—Timothy E. Craig Journal Of Religion And Popular Culture
“It was only a matter of time before a bona fide brainiac conducted a study to prove what we already know: Oprah is a religious icon.”—John Mitchell Popeater
“Lofton is at her best as a historian of American religion, insightfully locating Winfrey's signature confessionalism in the context of the "anxious bench" of 19th-century evangelical revival. She also does good work in taking seriously and helping define the term "spirituality" that is evident in popular beliefs about matters divine and transcendent. The book is a tenure maker.”—Publishers Weekly
"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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