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Camille Paglia

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Camille Paglia (born April 2, 1947) is a social critic, author and feminist.

Paglia is an intellectual of many apparent contradictions: a classicist who champions art both high and low, with a Hobbesian view that human nature is inherently dangerous, and yet who also celebrates dionysian revelry in the wilder, darker sides of human sexuality.

Her significance in the 1990s intellectual world was two-fold:

  1. The seventies had seen the rise of a particularly rigid, doctrinaire "feminism" that many were finding stifling but only a few were challenging (e.g., the "sex positive" S&M lesbians, perhaps typified by Susie Bright[?]).
  2. The left was pushing for a change in the traditional focus of western universities on western culture (sometimes derided as the study of "dead white males"). For example, Stanford University was dropping its well-regarded undergraduate requirement of a year-long course in "Western Culture" in favor of a more broadly-focused study of "Cultures Ideas and Values" or CIV.

Against this backdrop, Camille Paglia appeared on the scene as a female intellectual who enjoyed challenging the left-wing position in these areas, but far from being the usual stodgy conservative, she did so by arguing from an unusual, flashy position that also embraced homosexuality, fetish, and prostitution. Her later writings in her column in Salon often use the word "libertarian," as she speaks out in favor of individual freedom, which may help explain the apparent contradiction, and the consternation she causes in crossing back and forth between the dominant political camps.

Books

  • Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson
  • Sex, Art and American Culture: Essays
  • Vamps and Tramps: New Essays

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