1 Jan 2004

Camille Paglia

Feminist Fatale

Although a reincarnate maenad, Camille Paglia is a worshipper of definite Apollo as well as of disorganizing Dionysus. She celebrates great art, archetypes, porn, rock'n'roll, and Renaissance man. In her crusade against feminist puritans and ahistorical academics, Camille Paglia generates diverse reactions; she creates rapture, turmoil & fury - but never indifference ...

Camille (Anna) Paglia (1947, Endicott, New York) is a social critic, author and avowed 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.

Paglia came to attention with the publication of her first book, Sexual Personae, in 1990, when she also began writing about popular culture and feminism in mainstream newspapers and magazines. She reached the height of her fame in 1992 with the publication of Sex, Art and American Culture, which was much read on college campuses. Her next book, Vamps and Tramps (1994), was a collection of short pieces along and new material such as a theoretical manifesto about sex, No Law in the Arena. In 1998 she published a short volume about Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds in the British Film Institute Film Classics series.

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. She describes herself as a "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. She is also an atheist, though she thinks comparative religion should be at the center of world education.

Paglia is now a contributing editor at Interview magazine. She continues to write articles and reviews for media and scholarly journals.