Date of Graduation

8-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Graduate School

Advisor

Luis Restrepo

Committee Member

Thomas Rosteck

Second Committee Member

Keith Booker

Keywords

Contemporary Popular Culture, Convergence Culture, Paulo Coelho, Popular Literature, Postmodern Literature, Transnational Literature

Abstract

With over 350 million books sold worldwide in more than 80 languages, Paulo Coelho is an international literary phenomenon that moves “beyond culture of origin” (Damrosch 199) and inhabits the “world literary space” (Pascale 281). Would his novels, therefore, stand as materialization of Goethe’s humanist cosmopolitan vision upon the coinage of the term world literature? Many cultural scholars would argue to the contrary. This dissertation aims at exploring Coelho narratives and their popularity and controversial reception by contextualizing them within the contemporary scholarship on World Literature and within the global cultural economy.

An underlying assumption of this Cultural Studies approach to Coelho’s oeuvre is that popular literature, as the hors concours cultural site of hegemonic struggles, has much to offer to literary scholarship. This dissertation applies the premises of rhetorical narrative criticism and cognitive theory (Unnatural Narratology, specifically) to answer the question: How do readers incorporate Coelho narratives to their lived-cultures? To that end, this dissertation explores the narrative elements in Coelho’s novels – implied author, authorial audience, settings, characters, narration, structure, ethos/pathos, etc. – as well as possible interpretation pathways to such elements. Particular attention is paid to the author’s major themes, namely, self-realization journey, cultural hybridity, and anti-mimesis, and their respective significance to transnational audiences. Furthermore, the cultural-material conditions from which Coelho novels stem are discussed in this study by examining the correlation between these narratives and issues such as postmodernism, globalization, the convergence culture, mass self-communication, and others.

This dissertation argues that the production, circulation, and consumption of Paulo Coelho novels constitute cultural processes that are more complex than his critics have typically considered. These are highly intertextual, born-translated, postmodern narratives that embody the practices of a globalized, digitalized, participatory, self-contradictory, and uneven cultural economy. Despite their narrative simplicity, Coelho novels function as contact zones to their remarkably diverse audience, dialogically yielding and celebrating cultural hybridization, promoting the Goethean tolerance among different cultures, and potentially encouraging a critique of our narratively constructed social reality.

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