Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon

“What is Oprah?” Kathryn Lofton asks at the outset of her book.

“A noun. A name. A misspelling. Oprah is a person we know because of her publicity, a pioneer we recognize because of her accolades, and a personage we respect because of her embodied endurance, her passionate care, her industrious production. . . . What is Oprah? Oprah is an instance of American astonishment at what can be.”

Investigating the various elements of the Oprah franchise—from Oprah’s Book Club, to Oprah’s Favorite Things, to The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation, and beyond—Lofton analyzes the phenomenon of Oprah in light of categories inherited from religious studies, uncovering in turn, the ways in which the products of the Oprah Winfrey empire present a clear reflection of modern religious life.

In this forum discussion, scholars from multiple disciplines bring their expertise and perspectives to Lofton’s arguments and case studies. These essays continue to pry at the relationship between Oprah, the phenomenon, and religious life in the modern era.