Following Nietzsche, Paglia argues that the primary conflict in Western culture is between the binary forces of the Apollonian and DionysianApollo being associated with order and symmetry, and Dionysus with chaos, disorder, and nature. The book received critical reviews from numerous feminist scholars, but was praised by some literary critics. By Paglia's own account, the ancestor of Sexual Personae was a book on aviator Amelia Earhart that she began to write in high school.
Is there a pessimism of strength? An intellectual predilection for the hard, gruesome, evil, problematic aspect of existence, prompted by well-being, by overflowing, by the fullness of existence? Sexual Personae will be a sensation partly because of its message and subject matter.
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ISBN: Cloth. In this brilliantly original book, Camille Paglia identifies some of the major patterns that have endured in western culture from ancient Egypt and Greece to the present. According to Paglia, one source of continuity is paganism, which, undefeated by Judeo-Christianity, continues to flourish in art, eroticism, astrology, and pop culture.
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Camille Paglia, who clearly believes that big books should start with a big bang, makes the following pronouncements on the first page of ''Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson'': ''Sexual Personae seeks to demonstrate the unity and continuity of western culture. That's quite a laundry list, even for a page book. Still, Ms.
Her position on this claim is unclear. But well before this forty-three-year-old professor of humanities at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia is done with her book, you may get the feeling that she, like the gods whose story she tells, has been biding her time for nearly two thousand years, waiting for the right moment to reclaim the earth. That is because the sexual personae of her title, icons she believes have always determined the forms and subjects of Western culture, are pagan gods: Apollo in the shape of Michelangelo, Madonna no less than Medusa, Prince no less than Perseus. Paglia gets the reader to take lines she has excavated from Dickinson as if they mean exactly what they say—a triumph for any critic—to accept their gruesome blasphemies.
In Sexual Personaea landmark work in the field of pseudo-intellectual posturing, Camille Paglia claims that Da Vinci carried the Mona Lisa with him everywhere he went. This sort of fetishization is hardly unique to Italian artists. Rather, it seems almost fundamental to human nature, perhaps even that which, in the final analysis, separates us from the animals.
Amore and mores: Camille Paglia is never afraid to take a contrarian line, attempting to uncover overlooked artistic or sexual elements in the Western literary canon. Despite its broadly chronological approach, the work is also notable for its striking juxtapositions of old and new, highbrow and lowbrow, with references to Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor and Madonna even before the end of the chapter on ancient Egypt. So what is it about this elephantine book that has stood the test of time and leads this writer to keep a copy close to hand on his desk? Take the illuminating reading that Paglia offers of the notorious Marquis de Sade