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A Dialectic With the Everyday: Communication & Cultural Politics on Oprah Winfrey's Book Club

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Abstract:

This essay explores the cultural politics of television talk show host Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club, which was a mainstay of The Oprah Winfrey Show from 1996-2002. Because women constitute both the primary Oprah television audience and the largest U.S. book buying public, it focuses specifically upon women’s involvement in the Club and their modes of engagement with Club selections. The Book Club’s astonishing success, I argue, was attributable in part to the carefully considered communication strategies through which participants, Winfrey, and Oprah producers collectively articulated the value of books and reading specifically for women. Their deemphasizing purely aesthetic considerations, I contend, enabled women to strategize how to use Book Club selections simultaneously to distance themselves from and to engage more intensively with the demands of living in a patriarchal and otherwise socioeconomically stratified U.S. society – a relationship I call a “dialectic with the everyday.” This essay thus traces the communicative processes/practices through which those involved in Oprah’s Book Club articulated a highly sophisticated economy of cultural value around books and reading. It also considers the politics of their negotiations, given that many critics impugned the Club on the basis of its disinterest in judging books via received aesthetic categories.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

club (255), book (255), oprah (235), winfrey (160), read (101), select (72), p (67), show (65), women (50), one (46), 1999 (40), time (39), mother (33), reader (33), transcript (30), discuss (30), 2001 (30), 1997 (29), novel (26), like (25), live (24),

Author's Keywords:

Oprah Winfrey, book club, popular culture, reading, communication
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Name: International Communication Association
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MLA Citation:

Striphas, Theodore. "A Dialectic With the Everyday: Communication & Cultural Politics on Oprah Winfrey's Book Club" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott Hotel, San Diego, CA, May 27, 2003 <Not Available>. 2009-05-26 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p112280_index.html>

APA Citation:

Striphas, T. , 2003-05-27 "A Dialectic With the Everyday: Communication & Cultural Politics on Oprah Winfrey's Book Club" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott Hotel, San Diego, CA Online <.PDF>. 2009-05-26 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p112280_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: This essay explores the cultural politics of television talk show host Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club, which was a mainstay of The Oprah Winfrey Show from 1996-2002. Because women constitute both the primary Oprah television audience and the largest U.S. book buying public, it focuses specifically upon women’s involvement in the Club and their modes of engagement with Club selections. The Book Club’s astonishing success, I argue, was attributable in part to the carefully considered communication strategies through which participants, Winfrey, and Oprah producers collectively articulated the value of books and reading specifically for women. Their deemphasizing purely aesthetic considerations, I contend, enabled women to strategize how to use Book Club selections simultaneously to distance themselves from and to engage more intensively with the demands of living in a patriarchal and otherwise socioeconomically stratified U.S. society – a relationship I call a “dialectic with the everyday.” This essay thus traces the communicative processes/practices through which those involved in Oprah’s Book Club articulated a highly sophisticated economy of cultural value around books and reading. It also considers the politics of their negotiations, given that many critics impugned the Club on the basis of its disinterest in judging books via received aesthetic categories.

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Document Type: .PDF
Page count: 32
Word count: 11017
Text sample:
Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club 1 A Dialectic With the Everyday: Communication and Cultural Politics on Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club The Oprah Book Club did something extraordinary. I don’t think there’s been anything ever like it. When a beloved television personality persuades convinces cajoles hundreds of thousands of people to read books it’s not just a revolution it’s an upheaval. – Toni Morrison Nobel Prize winning author also selected for Oprah’s Book Club1 Come on people; Oprah isn’t a literary
In this way my analysis contrasts with Janice A. Radway’s (1984) foundational study on women and romance novel reading. Radway’s participants employed both the narratives of specific romance novels and the actual physical books themselves solely to distance themselves or escape from their everyday lives. “Failed” romances in fact “tread[ed] too close to the terrible real in ordinary existence” according to Radway (p. 72). 15 Franzen’s public comments earned him the dubious distinction of being the only author ever


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