Camille Paglia: A Primer genre: He Said, She Said

Camille Paglia

Camille Paglia is difficult to characterize despite the fact that she fits into a number of defining categories. She is a noted intellectual, an educator, an author, and a social and cultural critic. Both within and beyond these classifications, she defies convention. In my opinion, her contradictions are her greatest contributions. Rather than adopting a purist approach, she has often deconstructed elements of accepted establishments while retaining other segments that fit her particular constructs. Like her or not, her observations push the envelope; forcing traditionalists to defend positions many prefer to accept as settled. The following are some of her notable quotations from BrainyQoute:

Capitalism is an art form, an Apollonian fabrication to rival nature. It is hypocritical for feminists and intellectuals to enjoy the pleasures and conveniences of capitalism while sneering at it. Everyone born into capitalism has incurred a debt to it. Give Caesar his due.

My thinking tends to be libertarian. That is, I oppose intrusions of the state into the private realm - as in abortion, sodomy, prostitution, pornography, drug use, or suicide, all of which I would strongly defend as matters of free choice in a representative democracy.

Teenage boys, goaded by their surging hormones run in packs like the primal horde. They have only a brief season of exhilarating liberty between control by their mothers and control by their wives.

Woman is the dominant sex. Men have to do all sorts of stuff to prove that they are worthy of woman's attention.

The following is from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

From Wikipedia:

Camille Anna Paglia (born April 2, 1947 in Endicott, New York) is a social critic, intellectual, author, and teacher. She is University Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She has been called the "feminist that other feminists love to hate", one of the world's top 100 intellectuals, and by her own description "a feminist bisexual egomaniac".

Paglia is an intellectual of many apparent contradictions: a classicist who champions art both high and low, with a view that human nature is inherently dangerous, while at the same time celebrating dionysian revelry in the wilder, darker sides of human sexuality.

She came to public attention shortly after the publication of her first book, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, in 1990, when she began writing about popular culture and feminism in mainstream newspapers and magazines. As a public intellectual, Paglia challenged the positions of the so-called "liberal establishment" at the time, which included figures in media, academe, activism and politics such as Gloria Steinem, Andrea Dworkin, professors at many Ivy League universities, and organizations such as National Organization for Women and ACT UP.

She describes herself as a feminist, and as a Democrat who voted for Bill Clinton and Ralph Nader, but her world view embraced risque elements not typically associated with those groups, such as fetishism, pornography, and prostitution. She is a trenchant critic of contemporary feminists, going so far as to compare victim-focused feminists with the Moonies. As a proponent for the legalization of drugs and prostitution, and the lowering of sexual consent laws, she identified herself with libertarian thought.

Ferociously critical of the influence that French philosophers Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault had on the teaching of humanities in American academe, she advocated that comparative religion, art history and the close reading of canonical literature be brought to the center of education, with greater attentiveness toward chronology and facts in the student's approach to history.

Her most notable allies and supporters (though, of course, for different reasons), were Andrew Sullivan, Christina Hoff Sommers, Virginia Postrel, Harold Bloom, Bill Maher, and Matt Drudge. Elise Sutton, a dominatrix who advocates female domination of males, describes Paglia as a female supremacist and a friend.1

In addition to having written five books, she has been a columnist for since its inception, is currently a contributing editor at Interview magazine, and is on the editorial board of the classics and humanities journal Arion. She continues to write articles and reviews for popular media and scholarly journals, such as her long article, "Cults and Cosmic Consciousness: Religious Vision in the American 1960s," published in Arion in winter 2003.

In September 2005, she was ranked #20 in a survey of the "Top 100 Public Intellectuals" in the world, in a list compiled jointly by editors of the journals "Foreign Policy" and "The Prospect" (UK). The list, which included only 10 women, also included feminist thinkers Germaine Greer, Martha Nussbaum, and Julia Kristeva.

She is currently (as of 2006) writing a third essay collection for Vintage Books, and working on a book to serve as a companion piece to Break, Blow, Burn, which will be concerned with the visual arts rather than poetry.

The following link is to an article from Salon in which Paglia was interviewed. It offers additional insight into her more recent thoughts as well as a discussion of her latest work, Break, Blow, Burn, a compilation of poetry with Paglia's associated cultural critique: Salon

Daniel DiRito | April 19, 2006 | 6:30 AM
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