The Oprah Affect

Critical Essays on Oprah's Book Club

Edited by Cecilia Konchar Farr & Jaime Harker

Subjects: American Studies, Popular Culture, Cultural Studies, Women's Studies, Literary Criticism
Paperback : 9780791476161, 357 pages, October 2008
Hardcover : 9780791476154, 357 pages, October 2008

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Table of contents


Jaime Harker and Cecilia Konchar Farr

1. Oprah in the Public Library
Juliette Wells and Virginia Wells

2. Talking Readers
Cecilia Konchar Farr

3. Reading Religiously: The Ritual Practices of Oprah’s Book Club
Kathryn Lofton

4. The Romance of Reading Like Oprah
Yung-Hsing Wu

5. Oprah’s Book Selections: Teleliterature for The Oprah Winfrey Show
R. Mark Hall

6. Resisting Paradise: Toni Morrison, Oprah Winfrey, and the  Middlebrow Audience
Michael Perry

7. Oprah’s Book Club and the Politics of Cross-Racial Empathy
Kimberly Chabot Davis

8. Beware the Furrow of the Middlebrow: Searching for Toni Morrison’s Paradise on The Oprah Winfrey Show
Timothy Aubry

9. “Did Isabel Allende Write This Book for Me?”: Oprah’s Book Club Reads Daughter of Fortune
Ana Patricia Rodríguez

10. The Trouble with Happy Endings: Conflicting Narratives in Oprah’s Book Club
Kelley Penfield Lewis

11. Your Book Changed My Life: Everyday Literary Criticism and Oprah’s Book Club
Kate Douglas

12. Correcting Oprah: Jonathan Franzen and the Uses of Literature in the Therapeutic Age
Kevin Quirk

13. The Way We Read Now: Oprah Winfrey, Intellectuals, and Democracy
Simon Stow

14. Everything Old Is New Again: Oprah’s Book Club Returns with the Classics
Kathleen Rooney

Afterword: Oprah, James Frey, and the Problem of the Literary
Jaime Harker

List of Contributors
Oprah’s Book Club List

Essays explore the broad cultural impact of Oprah’s Book Club.


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.

Cecilia Konchar Farr is Professor of English and Women's Studies at the College of St. Catherine and author of Reading Oprah: How Oprah's Book Club Changed the Way America Reads, also published by SUNY Press. Jaime Harker is Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies and Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of Mississippi and author of America the Middlebrow: Women's Novels, Progressivism, and Middlebrow Authorship between the Wars.


"Solidly, Farr and Harker's The Oprah Affect has much intellectual heft substantiated by critiques that are profoundly thought-provoking. Its arguments clearly present what impact the Oprah Affect has on its readers and viewers." — Afro-Americans in New York Life and History

"…the essays here concern themselves largely with the book club's emphasis on its primarily female readers' emotional responses to literature, transforming reading into a social event … Presenting a variety of perspectives and views, this collection provides a diverse analysis of this social phenomenon." — CHOICE

"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