Volume 12, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2211-3711
  • E-ISSN: 2211-372X
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



The genre of self-help often is nurtured – or hijacked – from highbrow literary traditions such as conduct literature and sacred texts. Translation is the mechanism whereby an ‘esotouristic’ or new-ageified text travels in ready consumability, a commercializing process that asserts forms that themselves are ideological, and dramatically shifts ‘mirrors for princes’ and works considered ‘high literature’ to works of mass marketability. The branding of yogic and Kabbalistic texts, and of authors Kahlil Gibran, Baltasar Gracián, Rumi, and Sun Tzu, is analyzed in this light. I object to the ‘timeless classic’ positioning of texts that deterritorializes, dehistoricizes, and deculturizes, and map these publications as forms of manipulation, especially exoticizing, genre shifting, radical recontextualizing, and allegorizing. The resulting hyper-acceptability of the distorted products for a self-helpified readership calls into question the translator’s complicity in appropriative, otherized cultural production.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Ali, Rozina, and Neima Jahromi
    . “The Erasure of Islam from the Poetry of Rumi.” The New Yorker, January 5, 2017. https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-erasure-of-islam-from-the-poetry-of-rumi
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Argy, Anne-Gaëlle
    2016 “On the Uses and Abuses of Nietzsche in Self-Help Literature.” PhoenEx11(2): 49–69. 10.22329/p.v11i2.4781
    https://doi.org/10.22329/p.v11i2.4781 [Google Scholar]
  3. Arjana, Sophia Rose
    2020Buying Buddha, Selling Rumi. London: Oneworld Publications.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Bal, P. Matthijs, and Martijn Veltkamp
    2013 –How Does Fiction Reading Influence Empathy? An Experimental Investigation on the Role of Emotional Transportation.” PLoS ONE8(1): e55341. 10.1371/journal.pone.0055341
    https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0055341 [Google Scholar]
  5. Balentine, Sauel Eugene
    2018Wisdom Literature. Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Berrow, Terry
    2002 “Machiavelli, Politics and Modern Language Use in Modern Management.” InMachiavelli, Marketing and Management, edited byPhil Harris, Andrew Lock and Patricia Rees, 139–147. London and New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Bertman, Stephen, and Lois Parker
    2009The Healing Power of Ancient Literature. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Blum, Beth
    2018 “The Self-Help Hermeneutic: Its Global History and Literary Future.” PMLA133(5): 1099–1117. 10.1632/pmla.2018.133.5.1099
    https://doi.org/10.1632/pmla.2018.133.5.1099 [Google Scholar]
  9. 2020The Self-Help Compulsion: Searching for Advice in Modern Literature. New York Columbia University Press. 10.7312/blum19492
    https://doi.org/10.7312/blum19492 [Google Scholar]
  10. Bourdieu, Pierre
    1996The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field. Translated bySusan Emanuel. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 10.1515/9781503615861
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9781503615861 [Google Scholar]
  11. Bradley, Ritamary
    1954 “Background of the Title Speculum in Mediaeval Literature.” Speculum29(1): 100–115. 10.2307/2853870
    https://doi.org/10.2307/2853870 [Google Scholar]
  12. Byrne, Rhonda J.
    2006The Secret. NY: Atria Books.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Carrette, Jeremy R. and Richard King
    2005Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion. London; New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Chau, Simon S. C.
    2001 “Translating for the ‘New Age’: Theoretical, Professional and Pedagogic Implications”. InTranslation in Hong Kong: Past, Present and the Future, edited byChan Sin-wai, 219–26. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Chen, Qimei and William D. Wells
    1998 “The Wisdom of Two Sages – A Strategic Advertising and Marketing Model That Combines Sun Tzu and Confucius.” Asian Journal of Communication, 8(2): 168–193. 10.1080/01292989809364768
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01292989809364768 [Google Scholar]
  16. D’Andrea, Anthony Albert Fischer
    1996 O self perfeito e a nova era: individualismo e reflexividade em religiosidades pós-tradicionais [The Perfect Self and the New Era: Individualism and Reflexivity in Post-traditional Pieties]. Masters Thesis. Instituto Universitário de Pesquisas do Rio de Janeiro.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Davis, Murray S.
    1999 “Aphorisms and Cliches: The Generation and Dissipation of Conceptual Charisma.” Annual Review of Sociology251: 245–69. https://www.jstor.org/stable/223505. 10.1146/annurev.soc.25.1.245
    https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.25.1.245 [Google Scholar]
  18. de Botton, Alain
    1997How Proust Can Change Your Life. New York: Pantheon.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari
    1986Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Translated byDana Polan. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Dhondy, Farukh
    2017 “Introduction.” InRumi: A New Translation of Selected Poems. ByJalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, Maulana, xiii–xxxix1. New York: Arcade Publishing.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Einstein, Mara
    2008Brands of Faith: Marketing Religion in a Commercial Age. London; New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Fabian, Johannes
    1983Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object. New York: Columbia University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Fish, Stanley
    1997 “Boutique Multiculturalism, or Why Liberals are Incapable of Thinking about Hate Speech.” Critical Inquiry23 (2): 378. 10.1086/448833
    https://doi.org/10.1086/448833 [Google Scholar]
  24. Frigerio, Alejandro
    2016 “Logics and Limits of New Age Appropriations: Where Syncretism Comes to an End”. InNew Age in Latin America: Popular Variations and Ethnic Appropriations, edited byRenée de la Torre, Cristina Gutiérez Zúñiga, and Nahayeilli B. Juárez Huet; translated byNicholas Barrett, 29–54. Leiden; Boston: BINI.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Gibran, Kahlil
    1961The Prophet. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Gracián, Baltasar
    1653 [1647]Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia. Madrid: Francisco Lamberto.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. 1892The Art of Worldly Wisdom. Translated byJoseph Jacobs. London; New York: Macmillan.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. 1992The Art of Worldly Wisdom: A Pocket Oracle. Translated byChristopher Maurer. NY: Doubleday.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. 1995A Pocket Mirror for Heroes. Translated byChristopher Maurer. NY; London: Currency Doubleday.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. 2013The Art of Worldly Wisdom. n.p.: Start Publishing LLC.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. 2015How to Use Your Enemies. Translated byJeremy Robbins. London: Penguin Classics.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. 2009The Lost Secrets of Fame and Fortune How to Get – And Keep – Everything You Desire. Translated byJoseph Jacobs. n.p.: Mega Niche Media.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. 1994Practical Wisdom for Perilous Times: Selected Maxims of Baltasar Gracián. J. Translated byLeonard Kaye. London: Aquarian.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. 1967The Science of Success and the Art of Prudence. Translated byLawrence C. Lockley, San Jose, California: University of Santa Clara Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Grafton, Anthony
    1992 “Dressed for Success,” Review ofThe Art of Worldly Wisdom: A Pocket Oracle, byBaltasar Gracián. The New Republic (5Oct.): 46–49.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Hassan, Waïl S.
    2011Immigrant Narratives: Orientalism and Cultural Translation in Arab American and Arab British Literature. US: Oxford University Press. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199792061.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199792061.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  37. Holder, Arthur
    2010 The Problem with “Spiritual Classics”. Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, 10(1): 22–37. 10.1353/scs.0.0078
    https://doi.org/10.1353/scs.0.0078 [Google Scholar]
  38. Huggan, Graham
    2001The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing Margins. London; NY: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Huss, Boaz
    2007 “The New Age of Kabbalah: Contemporary Kabbalah, The New Age and Postmodern Spirituality”. Journal of Modern Jewish Studies6(2): 107–125. 10.1080/14725880701423014
    https://doi.org/10.1080/14725880701423014 [Google Scholar]
  40. Irwin, Robert
    2019 “Global Rumi.” InGlobal Sufism: Boundaries, Structures and Politics, edited byFrancesco Piraino and Mark Sedgwick, 15–34. London: Hurst & Company.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Iyengar, B. K. S.
    2006Light on Yoga. New Delhi: Harpercollins Publishers.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. Jain, Andrea
    2014Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://ebooks.ohiolink.edu. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199390236.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199390236.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  43. Jauß, Hans Robert
    1977 “Der Text der Vergangenheit im Dialog mit der Gegenwart (Klassik – wieder modern?)”. Ästhetische Erfahrung als Verjüngung des Vergangenen, 787–812, München Fink.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Kenney, Jeffrey T.
    2015 “Selling Success, Nurturing The Self: Self-Help Literature, Capitalist Values, and the Sacralization Of Subjective Life In Egypt.” International Journal of Middle East Studies47(4): 663–680. 10.1017/S0020743815000926
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020743815000926 [Google Scholar]
  45. Kockum, Keiko
    2006 “The Role of Western Literature in the Formation of the Modern Japanese Novel.” Literary History: Towards a Global Perspective, vol.31, edited byGunilla Linberg-Wada, 97–140, Berlin: Walter de Gruyer, 97–140. 10.1515/9783110894110.3.97
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110894110.3.97 [Google Scholar]
  46. Lara, Marco A. Ángel
    2011 “Aphorisms and Philosophy: Contextualizing Aphoristic Texts – Assumptions about Subject-Matter.” Journal of English Studies91: 29–54. 10.18172/jes.158
    https://doi.org/10.18172/jes.158 [Google Scholar]
  47. Laozi
    Laozi 2020Original Dao de Jing: The Hidden Way to Success, Freedom, and Eternity. Translated byJinchun Ye. Northbrook, Illinois: Jin Publishing.
    [Google Scholar]
  48. Lefevere, André
    2017Translation, Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literary Fame. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  49. Lewis, Franklin D.
    2014Rumi – Past and Present, East and West: The Life, Teachings, and Poetry of Jalâl Al-Din Rumi. London: Oneworld Publications.
    [Google Scholar]
  50. Losier, Michael J.
    2003The Law of Attraction: The Science of Attracting More of What You Want and Less of What You Don’t. Victoria, BC: Michael J. Losier.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. McAuley, Jordan
    2009 “Foreword.” InThe Lost Secrets of Fame and Fortune, translated byJoseph Jacobs, n.p.Los Angeles: Mega Niche Media.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. McCann, Dennis P.
    2012 “On Reading Sun-Tzu: The Promise And Perils Of Appropriating A Chinese Classic In International Business Ethics.” Journal of International Business Ethics5(2): 28–38.
    [Google Scholar]
  53. McCreadie, Karen, Steve Phillips, and Steve Shipside
    2009Strategy Power Plays: Winning Business Ideas from the World’s Greatest Strategic Minds. Petaling Jaya: MPH Group Pub.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. McGee, Micki
    2012 “From Makeover Media to Remaking Culture: Four Directions for the Critical Study of Self-Help Culture.” Sociology Compass6(9): 685–693. 10.1111/j.1751‑9020.2012.00485.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9020.2012.00485.x [Google Scholar]
  55. Meng, Hui
    2017 Migration of Text and Shift of Identity: Self-Translation in the Bilingual Works of Lin Yutang, Eileen Chang, and Ha Jin. PhD. Diss., University of Kansas.
  56. Miller, Lucien
    1996 “Postscript: East-West Literary Relations: The ‘Wisdom’ of the ‘East’. Masterworks of Asian Literature in Comparative Perspective, n.p., edited byBarbara Stoler Miller. Delhi: Sri Satguru.
    [Google Scholar]
  57. Moezzi, Melody
    2021The Rumi Prescription. New York: TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
    [Google Scholar]
  58. Nehring, Daniel, Emmanuel Alvarado, Eric C. Hendriks, and Dylan Kerrigan
    2016Transnational Popular Psychology and the Global Self-Help Industry: The Politics of Contemporary Social Change. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK: Imprint: Palgrave Macmillan. 10.1057/9780230370869
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230370869 [Google Scholar]
  59. Nord, Christaine
    2016 “Skopos and (Un)certainty: How Functional Translators Deal with Doubt.” Meta, 61(1), 29–41. 10.7202/1036981ar
    https://doi.org/10.7202/1036981ar [Google Scholar]
  60. Ohebsion, Rodney
    2005The New Art of War: A New Rendition of Teachings from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, Baltasar Gracian’s The Art of Worldly Wisdom, and the Works of Han Fei Tzu. US: Immediex Pub.
    [Google Scholar]
  61. Orsi, Robert A.
    2006 “2 + 2 = Five, or the Quest for an Abundant Empiricism,” Spiritus61: 113–121. 10.1353/scs.2006.0043
    https://doi.org/10.1353/scs.2006.0043 [Google Scholar]
  62. Patañjali
    Patañjali 2005The Yoga Sutras. Translated byCharles Johnston. Ottawa: EBooksLib.
    [Google Scholar]
  63. Percy, Allan
    2009Nietzsche Antistress: en 99 pilules philosophiques. Paris: Éditions de l’Opportun.
    [Google Scholar]
  64. Phillips, Tim
    2008 “Introduction”. InNiccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince: A 52 Brilliant Ideas Interpretation, edited byTim Phillips, 1–4. Oxford: Infinite Ideas Limited. 10.1515/9781503626973‑002
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9781503626973-002 [Google Scholar]
  65. Review of The Alchemist
    Review of The Alchemist, byPaulo Coelho and translated by Margaret Jull Costa. Kirkus Reviews (1 July 1993). https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/paulo-coelho/the-alchemist/
    [Google Scholar]
  66. Rindfleisch, Aric
    1996 “Marketing as Warfare: Reassessing a Dominant Metaphor.” Business Horizons39(5): 3–11. 10.1016/S0007‑6813(96)90060‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0007-6813(96)90060-9 [Google Scholar]
  67. Romano, James Vincent
    1997 Baltasar Gracián and the Fabrication of Subjects: The Oráculo Manual as ‘Self-Help’ Writing. PhD. Diss., University of Minnesota.
  68. Rumi
    Rumi 1993The Love Poems of Rumi. Translated byDeepak Chopra, ed. andFereydoun Kia. London: Rider.
    [Google Scholar]
  69. Rumi
    Rumi 2003Rumi: The Book of Love. Poems of Ecstasy and Longing, edited and translated byColeman Barks. New York: Harper San Francisco.
    [Google Scholar]
  70. Rush, Ormond
    1997The Reception of Doctrine: An Appropriation of Hans Robert Jauss’ Reception Aesthetics and Literary Hermeneutics. Roma: Editore Pontificia Università Gregoriana.
    [Google Scholar]
  71. Sadler, William
    1996The I Ching of Management: 64 Days To Increase Management Success. Boca Raton, Florida: Humanix Books.
    [Google Scholar]
  72. Smiles, Samuel
    1986 [1859]Self-help: With Illustrations of Conduct and Perseverance. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
    [Google Scholar]
  73. Smith, Richard J.
    2012 “How the ‘Book of Changes’ Arrived in the West.” New England Review33(1): 25–41. 10.1353/ner.2012.a475797
    https://doi.org/10.1353/ner.2012.a475797 [Google Scholar]
  74. Suoqiao, Quian
    2011Liberal Cosmopolitan: Lin Yutang and Middling Chinese Modernity. Leiden; Boston: Brill. 10.1163/ej.9789004192133.i‑272
    https://doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004192133.i-272 [Google Scholar]
  75. Sun Tzu, Lawrence Kane, and Kris Wilder
    2020Sun Tzu Said: Classic Warfare for the Modern Mind. Burlen, Massachusetts: Stickman Publications.
    [Google Scholar]
  76. Swirski, Peter
    2019 “That’s Artertainment! (No, It’s Not a Typo).” The Art of Artertainment: Nobrow, American Style, edited byPeter Swirski and Tero Eljas Vanhanen, 1–14. Wilmington, Vernon Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  77. Weir, David
    2011American Orient: Imagining the East from the Colonial Era through the Twentieth Century. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  78. Young, Stephanie L., and D’Arcy J. Reynolds, Jr.
    2017 “’You Can Be an Agent of Change’: The Rhetoric of New Age Self-Help in Enlightened.” Western Journal of Communication81(1): 1–20. 10.1080/10570314.2016.1231930
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10570314.2016.1231930 [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): esotourism; new-age-ification; popularizations; self-help; wisdom literature
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error