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Camille Anna Paglia (born 2 April 1947 in Endicott, New Yorkmarker) is an Americanmarker author, teacher, social critic and dissident feminist. Since 1984 Paglia has been a Professor at The University of the Artsmarker in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her book, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, published in 1990, became a bestseller.


Paglia is an intellectual of many seeming contradictions: an atheist who respects religion and a classicist who champions art both high and low, with a view that human nature has an inherently dangerous Dionysian aspect, especially the wilder, darker sides of human sexuality. She favors a curriculum grounded in comparative religion, art history and the literary canon, with a greater emphasis on facts in the teaching of history. She came to public attention in 1990, with the publication of her first book, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. Her notoriety as the author of this book made it possible for her to write on popular culture and feminism in mainstream newspapers and magazines. Openly lesbian herself, Paglia has challenged what she has called the "liberal establishment", including academia, feminist advocacy groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW), and AIDS activists ACT UP.

Paglia describes herself as a feminist and as a registered Democrat whose 2000 presidential vote was "Ralph Nader. Because I detest the arrogant, corrupt superstructure of the Democratic Party, with which I remain stubbornly registered." She campaigned for John F. Kennedy as an adolescent and later voted for Bill Clinton. However, she criticized Clinton for not resigning after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which she says led to America being "blindsided by 9/11." In the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Paglia supported Barack Obama. Paglia has broken with liberal orthodoxy by taking controversial stances such as rejecting the idea that homosexuality is an inborn trait and being skeptical about global warming. Paglia's views have led to accusations of neoconservatism; she described those making the accusations as "idiots." Paglia's embrace of fetishism, pornography, prostitution and homosexuality puts her at odds with American social conservatives. Her views on recreational drugs, prostitution and sexual consent laws tend to be libertarian.

Paglia wrote a column for from its inception in 1995 until 2001. Paglia rejoined Salon in February 2007. She is a contributing editor at Interview magazine and is on the editorial board of the classics and humanities journal Arion. Paglia is currently writing her third collection of essays and a companion volume to Break, Blow, Burn dealing with the visual arts rather than poetry.



Paglia is the elder daughter of Pasquale and Lydia Anne (Colapietro) Paglia. Her mother was born in Ceccano, Italymarker. Her father's ancestors also came from Italymarker.

Despite their modest means, her parents exposed her to classical Western art and culture. The first music to make an impression on her was Bizet's Carmen, an opera which, in her words, "struck me with electrifying force." She was three when she first heard the opera, but was still enamored of it in her writing more than 40 years later.

Paglia spent her primary school years in rural Oxford, New Yorkmarker, where her family lived in a working farmhouse. Her father, a veteran of World War II, taught at the Oxford Academy high school. In 1957, her family moved to Syracuse, New Yorkmarker, so that her father could begin graduate school; he eventually became a Professor of Romance Languages at Le Moyne College. She attended the Edward Smith Elementary school, T. Aaron Levy Junior High and William Nottingham High School.

By all accounts, she was an excellent student at Nottingham High School. She spent her Saturdays in the Carnegie Library, absorbed in books and manuscripts. In 1992 Carmelia Metosh, her Latin teacher for three years said "She always has been controversial. Whatever statements were being made (in class), she had to challenge them. She made good points then, as she does now. She was very alert, 'with it' in every way." Paglia thanked Metosh in the acknowledgements to Sexual Personae, later describing her as "the dragon lady of Latin studies, who breathed fire at principals and school boards."

She attended Spruce Ridge Camp, a Girl Scout facility in the Adirondacks where, by her later account, she had crushes on the woman counselors. She took a variety of names when she was there, including Anastasia (her confirmation name, inspired by the Ingrid Bergman film), Stacy, and Stanley. An iconic experience was the time the outhouse exploded when she poured too much lime into it. "It symbolized everything I would do with my life and work. Excess and extravagance and explosiveness. I would be someone who would look into the latrine of culture, into pornography and crime and psychopathology...and I would drop the bomb into it."

Paglia discovered Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex in 1963. It led Paglia to stop working on the book about Amelia Earhart she had been writing for three years, and to resolve to write a "mega-book that will take everything in", the beginning of what later became Sexual Personae. On July 8 1963, Newsweek magazine published her letter about equal opportunity for American women. On November 24 1963, Syracuse's Herald American profiled her outstanding achievements as a student, noting her longtime study of feminist icon Amelia Earhart.

College years

Binghamton University, Harpur College (1964–1968)

She entered the Harpur Collegemarker at Binghamton Universitymarker in 1964, graduating as class valedictorian in 1968. The essays she wrote during those years on "sexual ambiguity and aggression in literature, art and history" grew into Sexual Personae.

She had been writing poetry prior to entering college (her poem "Atrophy" had been published in her local newspaper in 1964), but it was at Harpur that she received an education in it, taking courses in Metaphysical poetry and John Milton. She later wrote that the biggest impact on her thinking were the classes taught by poet Milton Kessler. "He believed in the responsiveness of the body, and of the activation of the senses to literature... And oh did I believe in that. Probably from my Italian background — that's the way we respond to things, with our body. From Michelangelo, Bernini, there's this whole florid physicality leading right down to the Grand Opera, the great arias."

She wrote her senior thesis on Emily Dickinson, and aspired to be a poet, inspired by the work of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Gerard Manley Hopkins. She submitted a reconfiguration of the Dido episode of Virgil's Aeneid to the college literary magazine, but its editor, Deborah Tannen, rejected it, saying that "Poets don't write like this anymore."

At Harpur she befriended three gay men who have had a lifelong influence on her thinking: Bruce Benderson (a classmate at Nottingham High School), Stephen Jarratt, and Stephen Feld. Her father got her a summer job working the night shift at St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse as an emergency ward secretary. "It was unbelievable, like being in a war without any danger to myself," she later said. "I forced myself to look at every single horrible thing — once, OK? After a while, you start to adjust. It was pivotal because it's one of the reasons I'm not sentimental at all about death or disease."

At Harpur, she did not fit the typical gender roles. Seeing a female student being groped on the street by two drunken men, she hit one of them in the teeth; she was 19 at the time. She was once put on probation for committing 39 pranks, a fact in which she takes pride. She told an interviewer in 2003 that she follows the model of the "Hindu gurus, the aging masters and sage" because they're "actually very funny. They're funny, they're prankish. Zen masters are known to be prankish." She said, "To me, comedy is a symptom of a balanced perspective on life, and people who are going around, like gloomy gusses, in that Sontag style of intellectual, these people are suffering from something coming from their childhood, it has nothing to do with the proper intellectual response to life..."

Yale Graduate School (1968–1972)

Paglia did her graduate studies at Yalemarker just as the women's movement and gay liberation exploded into American consciousness, yet here too her sexual orientation and sexually ambiguous persona led to conflict. A friend of hers at the time, Robert Caserio, recalled in 1996: "She did not act in a way that convention there dictated. Yale was an extremely genteel place. Camille wasn't genteel. She was so upfront and she wore pants in a very aggressive way. She was an out-feminist and identified with gay sexuality. We were all very much more discreet."

A few months after beginning her studies, she attended a party in the home of R. W. B. Lewis, one of her teachers, and ended up being insulted by Robert Jay Lifton and his wife for being a lesbian. Lifton was, at the time, the Foundations' Fund research professor in psychiatry at Yale, a position he held until 1984. This verbal attack seems to have emboldened her not only to be out as a lesbian, but also to be so provocatively. She has repeatedly noted she was openly lesbian while at Yale Graduate School, even claiming to have been the only open lesbian there from 1968 to 1972.

While at Yale, Paglia quarreled with Rita Mae Brown, whom she later characterised as "then darkly nihilist", and argued with the New Haven, Connecticutmarker Women's Liberation Rock Band when they dismissed the Rolling Stones as "sexist". She also "had two close encounters with Kate Millett (author of Sexual Politics) just after she became famous, in New Haven, Connecticutmarker, and in Provincetown, Massachusettsmarker, but she was too morosely self-absorbed to notice." Because of what she saw as Millett's "careless" attitude toward scholarship, Paglia became critical of her and those who supported her work.

Her study of sexuality in Western literature continued to develop with her reading of D. H. Lawrence's Women in Love (1920) and Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene (1590). In 1970, she wrote a 160-page paper for her last graduate seminar at Yale entitled "Male and Female in Virginia Woolf." Her original plan for her book "Sexual Personae" was that it would end with a study of Woolf and Lawrence.

In 1971, she discovered Kenneth Clark's The Nude (1956), a book which would have a profound impact on her dissertation and later work. "If ever I was in love with a book, it was with this one," she wrote in Sex, Art & American Culture; and in an article for Women's Quarterly in 2002, she called it "the best introduction by far to representation of the human figure in art."

In 1971 Paglia received an M.Phil from Yale, a degree awarded when all coursework and examinations towards a Ph.D. have been completed but the dissertation has not yet been written and accepted, and began her dissertation under the supervision of her mentor Harold Bloom. It was then titled "The Androgynous Dream: the image of the androgyne as it appears in literature and is embodied in the psyche of the artist, with reference to the visual arts and the cinema." While reading a draft of her thesis in 1971, Bloom wrote in the margin that a passage was "Mere Sontagisme!" Paglia later wrote, "It saddened me, but I knew Bloom was right. Susan Sontag, who could have been Jane Harrison's successor as a supreme woman scholar, had become synonymous with a shallow kind of hip posturing."

In a letter dated February 13, 1972 to Carolyn Heilbrun at Columbia University, Paglia inquired about her forthcoming book on androgyny; Heilbrun wrote back saying that her book could not deal with all available material on the subject. When asked about Paglia's letter years later, Heilbrun could not remember it. When Heilbrun's Toward a Recognition of Androgyny came out, Paglia panned it in a review for the Summer 1973 issue of the Yale Review. "Heilbrun's book is so poorly researched that it may disgrace the subject in the eyes of serious scholars," she wrote. She noted that "the most distinguished commentators on androgyny are Mircea Eliade and G. Wilson Knight"; and criticized Heilbrun for her reliance on the work of Joseph Campbell, and for including "four flattering references" to Kate Millett while making "fifteen glib jibes" at Sigmund Freud. The author of the review was clearly an expert on the history of androgyny, but as it was the journal's policy for reviews to be published without attribution, few knew that Paglia wrote it.

Teaching career

In the fall 1972, Paglia began teaching at Bennington College, which hired her in part thanks to a recommendation from Harold Bloom. At Bennington, she befriended the philosopher James Fessenden, who first taught there that very semester. One of her students, Mitchell Lichtenstein became a prominent filmmaker, writing and directing Teeth in 2007, a movie that was inspired by the myth of the vagina dentata, and was heavily influenced by Paglia's work. Another student of hers was Mark W. Edmundson, now a professor at the University of Virginiamarker, who in January 1997, wrote about her as follows: "She was appointed as my faculty advisor in her first term. I went in for my advisorial visit and she was entirely herself, talking very fast about many things I knew nothing about. I ran in fear. Alas, I was too puzzled to take any of her classes, which seemed to be full of very sophisticated people from LA and from New York."

Writer Heidi Schmidt, who attended her classes, recalled in 1996: "She was thought of as peculiar. She was so full of excitement and so intense. She would light one cigarette and then forget about it and light another, so she was waving two cigarettes. I think people took her quite lightly, she was thought of as eccentric."

Yet another Bennington student from Paglia's time there was Judith Butler, who went on to a successful academic career. In a 2005 interview, Paglia said of Butler: "She was a student when I was at my first job at Bennington in the 70s, and I saw her up close. And I know what she knows. I mean, she transferred from there, to Yalemarker, and her background in anything is absolutely minimal. She started a career in philosophy, abandoned that, and has been taken as this sort of major philosophical thinker by people in literary criticism. But has she ever made any exploration of science? For her to be dismissing biology, and to say gender is totally socially constructed — where are her readings, her studies? It's all gameplay, wordplay, and her work is utterly pernicious, a total dead-end."

Paglia's first scholarly publication was "Lord Hervey and Pope," published in the 1973 18th Century Studies. (A Times Literary Supplement cover story on Lord Hervey, November 2, praised the paper as "brilliant."). The article was a revision of a term paper she wrote. In April 1973, she attended a Susan Sontag lecture at Dartmouth Collegemarker and later invited her to Bennington to speak there on October 4. The event proved controversial because Sontag read a short story instead of giving the expected cultural lecture. Paglia later commented, "I was stunned because I thought she was going to be a major intellectual", later writing at length about their meeting in an essay entitled "Sontag, Bloody Sontag", published in Vamps & Tramps. Susan Sontag said of Paglia, "We used to think Norman Mailer was bad, but she makes Norman Mailer look like Jane Austen."

Another intellectual disappointment for Paglia was Marija Gimbutas, who published The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe in 1974. At the same time, Paglia launched "a detailed attack on an exhibit at Bennington's Crossett Library, 'Matriarchy: The Golden Age,' which used appallingly shoddy feminist materials alleging the existence of a peaceful, prehistoric matriarchy, later supposedly overthrown by nasty males."

Through her study of the classics and the scholarly work of Jane Ellen Harrison, James George Frazer, Erich Neumann and others, Paglia developed a theory of sexual history that contradicted a number of ideas in vogue at the time, hence her criticism of Gimbutas, Heilbrun, Millett and others. She laid out her ideas on matriarchy, androgyny, homosexuality, sadomasochism and other topics in her Yale Ph.D. thesis Sexual Personae: The Androgyne in Literature and Art, which she defended in December 1974. In September 1976, she gave a public lecture drawing on that dissertation, in which she discussed Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene, followed by remarks on Diana Ross, Gracie Allen, Yul Brynner, and Stephane Audran.

In March 1975, she saw Germaine Greer speak in Albanymarker. She was disappointed, reporting later that "During the question period, I nervously raised my hand from the crowd and asked if Greer, a former English professor, would be writing on literary subjects again soon. Her reply was stern and swift: 'There are far more important things in the world than literature!'"

Paglia's appraisal of Greer remains ambivalent. In her MITmarker lecture, she said of Greer, "What a loss. What a loss! If that woman had stayed on her original track, all of feminism would have been different. She was sophisticated, sexy, literate. What happened to her? After three years, she turned into this drone, this whining, "Woe is me, all the problems of the world!" Something went wrong in feminism." Paglia also published a scathing review of Greer's The Whole Woman in the New York Times, calling it "shot through with unhelpful and passe invective against men." In contrast, Paglia said in an interview, "I am a huge admirer of Germaine Greer and consider her a paragon of the erudite and fiercely combative feminist intellectual. The exclusion of her work and life from the overwhelming majority of women's studies curricula in the U.S. is an absolute outrage." Paglia has also praised Greer as "bold, independent, learned and devastatingly witty."

In another disheartening experience, Paglia "nearly came to blows with the founding members of the women's studies program at the State University of New York at Albanymarker, when they categorically denied that hormones influence human experience or behavior. These women (whose field was literature) attributed my respect for science to 'brainwashing' by men." Similar fights with feminists, lesbians, chauvinists, homophobes and academics culminated in a 1978 incident that led her to resign from Bennington a year later.

Paglia finished Sexual Personae in the early 1980s, but could not get it published. She supported herself with visiting and part-time teaching jobs at Yale, Wesleyanmarker, and other Connecticutmarker colleges. She taught night classes at the Sikorsky Helicopter plant. Her paper, "The Apollonian Androgyne and the Faerie Queen," was published in English Literary Renaissance, Winter 1979, and her dissertation was cited by J. Hillis Miller in his April 1980 article "Wuthering Heights and the Ellipses of Interpretation," in Journal of Religion in Literature, but her academic career was otherwise stalled at a time when her peers were moving on to important positions at major universities. In a 1995 letter to Boyd Holmes, she recalled: "I earned a little extra money by doing some local features reporting for a New Havenmarker alternative newspaper (The Advocate) in the early 1980s." She wrote articles on New Haven's historic pizzerias and on an old house that was a stop on the Underground Railroad."

In 1984, she joined the faculty of the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts, which merged in 1987 with the Philadelphia College of Art to become the University of the Artsmarker. While travelling in Europe, she wrote about German women as follows: "The women, stern-faced, melt the submissive heart...All look like Lotte Lenya!"

In 1990, Paglia was angered by a letter from literary critic Frederick Crews that, while complimenting her for her recently published work Sexual Personae, also called Sigmund Freud "a fraud" and Carl Jung "a charlatan", and told her to "get over" her respect for them. In 1997, Paglia remarked, "You can imagine how I, as an Italian-American Amazon, responded to this", and pointed out the irony that at Yale in 1969 she had formally protested to the director of graduate studies the way that "psychoanalytic" and "Freudian" were used as pejoratives by professors in her seminars, and that the "last straw" had been an insulting reference to Crews. Paglia concluded, "Whatever spiritual funk Crews is now in (dare one suggest that abrupt mid-career alienations replay ambivalence toward one's own father?), no minor academic will ever topple a giant like Freud..."

For some years, Paglia shared a residence with the artist and teacher Alison Maddex. Their relationship included Paglia legally adopting Maddex's son (who was born in 2002). In 2009, the couple apparently separated.

Paglia and Feminism

In Sexual Personae, and in media statements and campus appearances made after its publication, Paglia criticized leaders of the American feminist movement. Paglia claimed that they were ignorant of art, science and history, were hostile to men, and were harming young women by teaching them to see themselves as victims. Paglia compared feminists to cults such as the Unification Church. Paglia's stance aroused controversy. Paglia has been associated with the term "postfeminism", but rejects this label.

Gloria Steinem compared Sexual Personae to Mein Kampf, and likened Paglia to Adolf Hitler. In response, Paglia called Steinem "evil" and equated her with Joseph Stalin.

Paglia has repeatedly excoriated Patricia Ireland, former president of the National Organization for Women, calling her a "sanctimonious," unappealing role model for women whose "smug, arrogant" attitude is accompanied by "painfully limited processes of thought.' Paglia contends that under Ireland's leadership, NOW "damaged and marginalized the women's movement."

Molly Ivins wrote a scathing review of Sexual Personae in which she accused Paglia of historical inaccuracy, demagoguery of second-wave feminists, egocentrism, and writing in sweeping generalizations. Ivins concluded her review with this passage: "There is one area in which I think Paglia and I would agree that politically correct feminism has produced a noticeable inequity. Nowadays, when a woman behaves in a hysterical and disagreeable fashion, we say, 'Poor dear, it's probably PMS.' Whereas, if a man behaves in a hysterical and disagreeable fashion, we say, 'What an asshole.' Let me leap to correct this unfairness by saying of Paglia, Sheesh, what an asshole."

Betty Friedan said in an interview, "How can you take her seriously? She is an exhibitionist, and she takes the most extreme elements of the women's movement and tries to make the whole movement antisexual, antilife, antijoy. And neither I nor most of the women I know are that way."PLAYBOY. Let's discuss other feminists. What is your relationship with Betty Friedan, the founder of modern American feminism?
PAGLIA: I have always loved her – I love that style. The National Organization for Women banished her, and she has troubles with the movement leaders like I do. It was a shame she didn't embrace me from the moment I came on the scene.
PLAYBOY: In her Playboy Interview, we asked her about you and she said, "How can you take her seriously? She is an exhibitionist, and she takes the most extreme elements of the women's movement and tries to make the whole movement antisexual, antilife, antijoy. And neither I nor most of the women I know are that way. "
PAGLIA: The truth is we have similar opinions. If she had come into line with me when I came onto the scene, we could have smashed everybody.
" Interview with Camille Paglia" May 1995 Playboy

Paglia has called feminist philosopher Martha Nussbaum a "PC diva," and accused her of borrowing her ideas without acknowledgement. She further contends that Nussbaum's "preparation or instinct for sex analysis is dubious at best."

Naomi Wolf traded a series of sometimes personal attacks with Paglia throughout the early 1990s. In The New Republic, Wolf labeled Paglia, "the nipple-pierced person's Phyllis Schlafly who poses as a sexual renegade but is in fact the most dutiful of patriarchal daughters" and called Paglia's writing "full of howling intellectual dishonesty."

Katha Pollitt called Paglia "the Charles Murray of sex. You know, "There's nothing you can do about it."' Pollitt also accused Paglia of "glorify[ing] male dominance".

Paglia and French Thought

Paglia is critical of the influence modern French writers have had on the humanities in the U.S.marker Paglia has singled out Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, and Jacques Derrida for criticism, and has also made dismissive remarks about Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Monique Wittig, Georges Bataille, Jean Baudrillard, and Claude Lévi-Strauss. She disparaged Pierre Bourdieu's 1984 scholarly study Distinction as an "egregious theoretical verbosity" and a "boneless blob of a book that is predicated on now totally passé French manners and mores." Paglia has condemned Foucault because she believes that he deliberately spread HIV.Huw Christie, "AIDS and Decadence" Continuum, vol 4, issue 3, p 20.

[Huw Christie:] What did you mean when you said of Michel Foucault that if what you'd reliably heard of his public behavior after he knew he had AIDS is true then he should be condemned by any ethical person?

[Camille Paglia:] People say this was not true, blah blah blah. I'm sorry, I happen to believe it. This information came to me very reliably. There were only two people between me and Foucault. Foucault told a famous gay writer, who told my close friend, who told me, that when he realized he had AIDS, he was so angry that he determined he would take as many with him as he could. He would take as many to death as he could. That he deliberately went to bars and would deliberately have sex with people and not tell them and try actively to take them with him.

However, Paglia's assessment of French writers is not purely negative. Paglia has called Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex "brilliant" and "the only thing undergraduate sex study needs", and identified Jean-Paul Sartre's work as part of a high period in literature. Paglia has made positive comments about Roland Barthes's Mythologies and Gilles Deleuze's Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty, while finding both men's later work flawed. Gaston Bachelard influenced Paglia. Paglia wrote that she "loved Bachelard, whose dignified yet fluid phenomenological descriptive method seemed to me ideal for art", adding that he was "the last modern French writer I took seriously."


Sexual Personae: The Androgyne in Literature and Art (1974)

Sexual Personae is the dissertation she presented to the Graduate School of Yale University in candidacy for her Ph. D in December 1974, and which formed the basis for her 1990 book by the same name. The 451 page study, organized into four chapters, examined the appearance of sexually ambiguous figures in art and literature from classical antiquity to the modern period. She wrote that her thesis was based on the assumption that "the inner dynamic of all artistic creation is a psychic union between masculine and feminine powers." She described her method as interdisciplinary, as it combined "literary criticism, art history, and psychology in what I believe is a new synthesis."

Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990)

The two-volume manuscript of Sexual Personae was completed in February 1981 and rejected by seven publishers and five agents throughout the 1980s before its eventual acceptance by Ellen Graham for Yale University Press in 1985. For the next few years, Paglia continued to teach while perfecting volume one of the book for its eventual publication in February 1990, and releasing a few additional portions of it in other journals and books.

Her paper "Oscar Wilde and the English Epicene" was published in 1988 in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, edited by Bloom; '"Sex and Violence, or Nature and Art", was published in 1988 in Western Humanities Review; and "Sex," was published in the Spenser Encyclopedia by A. C. Hamilton in 1989.

After the release of Sexual Personae on 15 February 1990 the book received little publicity from its publisher as was typical of university presses at the time, but it sold well for months, prompting Yale University Press to send it for a second printing by November 1990. It was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award that year, and then reprinted in paperback by Vintage Press in 1991. It became a best-seller, as did her subsequent books Sex, Art and American Culture: Essays (1992) and Vamps and Tramps (1994).

Throughout the 1990s, Paglia said that a second volume to Sexual Personae would be forthcoming, and was to include her thoughts on sports and popular culture. Eventually, she decided not to proceed with the book as planned, as it would need to undergo too many revisions in order to reflect her changing attitude towards popular culture.

John Updike wrote that Sexual Personae "feels less a survey than a curiously ornate harangue. Her percussive style — one short declarative sentence after another — eventually wearies the reader; her diction functions not so much to elicit the secrets of books as to hammer them into submission.... The weary reader longs for the mercy of a qualification, a doubt, a hesitation; there is little sense, in her uncompanionable prose, of exploration occurring before our eyes, of tentative motions of thought reflected in a complex syntax."

Sex, Art, and American Culture (1992)

Sex, Art, and American Culture (1992) exposed readers to Paglia's views on figures such as Madonna ("the future of feminism"), Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Mapplethorpe and Anita Hill.

Paglia's controversial piece on Madonna, which was originally published in the New York Times in 1990, would be the first of several articles, reviews and other commentary about her.

In Elizabeth Taylor: Hollywood's Pagan Queen, Paglia called Taylor Hollywood's only living queen and wrote of her devotion to her, mentioning the fact that she at one point had collected five hundred and ninety nine pictures of Taylor.

The Beautiful Decadence of Robert Mapplethorpe defended Mapplethorpe's cultural importance and talent while criticising activists and liberals for playing down the disturbing aspects of his work.

In The Strange Case of Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, Paglia denied that Anita Hill had been sexually harassed and criticized her for not having responded properly to any incident that may have occurred between her and Clarence Thomas, writing "I suspect Hill's behavior was compliant and, to use her own word about a recent exchange with a Thomas friend, "passive.""

Two chapters, Rape and Modern Sex War and The Rape Debate, Continued, were mainly about date rape, which in Paglia's view contemporary feminists had been incapable of preventing. Paglia wrote, "Rape is an outrage that cannot be tolerated in civilized society. Yet feminism, which has waged a crusade for rape to be taken more seriously, has put young women in danger by hiding the truth about sex from them."

In a long article titled Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf, Paglia critically reviewed books about homosexuality in ancient Greece by classicists David M. Halperin and John J. Winkler. Paglia criticised Halperin and Winkler for what she regarded as their shoddy scholarship and careerism, and expressed dismay that philosopher Martha Nussbaum gave their books a favourable review. Paglia attacked Michel Foucault at length in this article, questioning his learning and denying his originality as a thinker. Paglia wrote, "Foucault is the Cagliostro of our time. Nowhere is this more evident than in his treatment of Émile Durkheim, his true source...An entire book could be written applying Harold Bloom's theory of anxiety of influence to Foucault's desperate concealment of his massive indebtedness to Durkheim, to whom he barely, dismissively, and inaccurately refers."

Vamps and Tramps (1994)

Vamps and Tramps was a collection of Paglia's writings since Sex, Art, and American Culture. The book was a bestseller and exposed a wide readership to Paglia's views on contemporary issues such as feminism, academia, the Clinton presidency, the life of Jacqueline Kennedy, and the career of Barbra Streisand.

Paglia explained her title this way: "I want a revamped feminism. Putting the vamp back means the lady must be a tramp. My generation of Sixties rebels wanted to smash the bourgeois codes that had become the authoritarian totems of the Fifties. The 'nice' girl with her soft, sanitized speech and decorous manners had to go. Thirty years later, we're still stuck with her — in the official spokesmen and the anointed heiresses of the feminist establishment...Equal opportunity feminism, which I espouse, demands the removal of all barriers to woman's advance in the political and professional world — but not at the price of special protections for women which are infantilizing and anti-democratic."

Vamps and Tramps included "No Law in the Arena: A Pagan Theory of Sexuality". In it, Paglia discussed controversial sexual issues such as rape, abortion, sexual harassment, prostitution, pornography, and homosexuality. The section on homosexuality discussed debate over what causes people to be gay: "There may indeed be a genetic component predisposing some people toward homosexuality, but social factors in childhood play an enormous role in determining whether that tendency manifests itself or not. Parents are not specifically to blame, insofar as they themselves are affected by historical forces of disintegration. But the family matrix is central to the sexual story." Paglia called the idea that people are born gay "ridiculous," adding that "it is symptomatic of our overpoliticized climate that such assertions are given instant credence by gay activists and their media partisans." Paglia mentioned neuroscientist Simon LeVay's research on the hypothalamus, writing, "Media reports, manipulated by gay activists, trumpeted that LeVay, despite his careful qualifiers, had incontrovertibly established that gay people were born that way and that moral opposition to gayness would hence cease, since homosexuality is not a matter of choice."

Paglia also addressed the issue of conversion therapy. Paglia wrote that, "ACT UP's hysteria made me reconsider those vilified therapists and ministers who think change of homosexual orientation is possible and whose meetings are constantly disrupted by gay agitators. Is gay identity so fragile that it cannot bear the thought that some people may not wish to be gay? The difficulties in changing sexual orientation do not spring from its genetic innateness. Sexuality is highly fluid, and reversals are theoretically possible."

Vamps and Tramps also included transcripts of Paglia's previous TV and film appearances, including her 1993 collaboration with Glenn Belverio in his short film "Glennda and Camille Do Downtown," which played at the Sundance Film Festival and won first prize for best short documentary at the Chicago Underground Film Festival, and The Return of Carry Nation, an article reprinted from Playboy, attacking anti-pornography feminists Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin.

The Birds (1998)

In 1998 Paglia's fourth book was published. It was an analysis of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds for the British Film Institute's "Film Classics Series".

Break, Blow, Burn (2005)

2005 Paglia's study of poetry entitled Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-three of the World's Best Poems was published. The book contains full texts of the 43 poems, each followed by an essay. The title is from a line in "Holy Sonnet XIV" by John Donne. It was named as one of the "New York Times Notable Books of the Year" for 2005, and was on the bestseller lists for, Booksense, The New York Times, The Northern California Independent Booksellers Association and the Toronto Globe & Mail.

In this book, she wrote essays on poems by William Shakespeare, John Donne, George Herbert, Andrew Marvell, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, William Butler Yeats, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, Theodore Roethke, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Frank O'Hara, Paul Blackburn, May Swenson, Gary Snyder, Norman H. Russell, Chuck Wachtel, Rochell Kraut, Wanda Coleman, Ralph Pomeroy, and one song, "Woodstock," by Joni Mitchell.

While speaking at events during the 2006 promotional tour for the paperback version of her book, she attacked the positive reputations that poets John Ashbery and Jorie Graham have enjoyed in academe. Of Graham she said, "Maybe she had some talent early on... She is like a mirror to the professors; they look into her and see themselves."

Paglia also spoke of how she regretted not including poems by Allen Ginsberg in the book, since she has been a fan of his since reading "Howl". She said that she tried to excerpt the first hundred lines of "Howl", but that it gave the wrong impression of the work. The poem also did not entirely meet her standards. Paglia told a reporter for the Toronto Star: "'Howl', when I reread it, came across as so garish, stagey, hammy. It didn't work for this book."


  • Sexual Personae: The Androgyne in Literature and Art (Dissertation: 1974)
  • Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990)
  • Sex, Art and American Culture: Essays (1992)
  • Vamps and Tramps: New Essays (1994) ISBN 0-679-75120-3
  • The Birds (BFI Film Classics) (1998)
  • Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-three of the World's Best Poems (2005) ISBN 0-375-42084-3

News articles

Articles by Paglia


Articles about Paglia

  • Articles on Camille Paglia
  • Racy radical; The feisty, fast-talking Camille Paglia declares victory over the feminist establishment. Nothing is sacred to Camille Paglia. She's battled the left and the right. And now she's taking on academia.; [SOUTH SOUND Edition], JEN GRAVES. 'The News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash.: 17 April 2005. p. E.01
  • Ten great female philosophers: THE THINKING WOMAN'S WOMEN; Radio 4's 'Greatest Philosopher' poll yielded an all-male Top 20. But is philosophy really a female-free zone? On the contrary, insists Camille Paglia and "here are 10 to prove the point";, [First Edition], The., 14 July 2005. p. 18.19
  • Cover Story: Malcontent of Sexual Politics, Donahue, Deirdre. USA TODAY. McLean, Va.: 12 May 1992. p. D1
  • AN AMAZON'S RUTHLESS, REVAMPED FEMINISM; [FINAL Edition] Jeff Simon - News Book Reviewer. Buffalo News. Buffalo, N.Y.: 27 November 1994. pg. G.7
  • Our sometime sister, now our queen; Books, Nigella Lawson. The Times, London (UK): 30 March 1995. pg. 1
  • Book review of The Birds by Jeffrey Crouse in The Journal of Film and Video, Volume 54, Numbers 2-3, Summer/Fall, 2002, pp. 101-102.

Notes and references

External links

Discussion groups

  • Googlegroups Paglia-L, the original Paglia discussion group founded in September 1993.
  • Camille Paglia discussion group.

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