I’m really excited to announce that my interview with Kathryn Lofton, one of the most creative and brilliant young scholars of religion around right now, is now up at The Immanent Frame. Katie is a historian by trade, but over the years she has also cultivated a powerful fascination with Oprah, leading to her new book: Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon. It’s a must-read, an ironic yet completely heartfelt encounter with pop culture’s most iconic woman.
Here’s a bit of our conversation:
NS: Do you feel some responsibility to confront what Oprah represents, in the form of an active, engaged social critique?
KL: It is incredibly important that we—women, men, believers, heathens, citizens—think, and think critically, about the female complaint, especially as it takes this specific form in the public sphere. Oprah is not just Oprah—she represents what has come to be a naturalized logic for women’s suffering. I would be lying if I didn’t say that writing this book was, for me, an act of feminism. But I would say that it is more important to me that it be understood as an act of criticism connected to the deep tissue of our national political and economic imaginary. So yes, this is an act of social critique. For as much as the solo striving hungry female is the object here, it is the silence of her sociality—all the while making commodity of her social receipt and struggle—that disturbs me. On her message boards, everyone testifies, but they don’t form social communities, social insurrection, or social protest. The social is incredibly absent from Oprah, even as she praises the idea of girlfriends, of groups, of clubs. The social is a rhetorical formulation leaving women exposed in their extremity without any public held accountable.