Kumarini Silva


David M. Monje, Marcus J. Breen

Date of Award


Date Accepted


Degree Grantor

Northeastern University

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department or Academic Unit

College of Arts, Media and Design. Department of Communication Studies.


communication, mass communications, book clubs, cultural studies, individualism, literacy, neoliberalism, reading

Subject Categories

Self-actualization (Psychology), Book clubs (Discussion groups), American Dream


Communication | Psychology


In this thesis, I argue the complex nature of Oprah's Book Club in American culture with special focus on Oprah Winfrey's self-help philosophy. As a financially and independently successful African American woman in a predominantly white patriarchal society, Winfrey is an ideal proponent of the American dream, having garnered celebrity and fame through an individualistic and neoliberal rhetoric. By analyzing the evolution of the American dream and how it relates to a coherent and unified American identity, I demonstrate how Winfrey's empire of self-improvement transcends into the literary world. By utilizing qualitative textual and historical analysis, I employ a cultural studies approach by constructing a connection between the American dream's emphasis on rugged individualism to themes and ideas presented in the context of Oprah's Book Club, with special focus on ideology and values within the American dream. I examine how book clubs formed, their implications and importance in the lives of women, and how the communal aspect of book clubs forces reading--a solitary and private act--into the public realm. I relate the American dream, Winfrey's narrative and self-help discourse, and book clubs in order to analyze Oprah's Book Club and the effects it has had on women and literacy in world dominated by technology. By highlighting its impractical nature and its ability to undermine personal experiences, I propose contradictions to the American dream and show how even though Winfrey's self-help philosophy fails to account for individual systemic and institutionalized boundaries and restrictions, literacy and discussing literature is a critical component of American life.

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Rights Information

Copyright 2011

Rights Holder

Ashley Jean Hight

Click button above to open, or right-click to save.