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Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays Paperback – September 8, 1992
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From Publishers Weekly
Provocative cultural critic Paglia (Sexual Personas) here offers 21 previously published essays and interviews that celebrate pop culture while trashing feminism and academic theory. Her paeans to Madonna, tributes to Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando, and discussions of rock music and bodybuilding include attacks on the prudery of old guard establishment feminists, while her reviews of scholarly works on cross-dressing and gay history trumpet Paglia's contention that today's intellectuals refuse to acknowledge the dark, immutable powers of sexual drive. Reverence for these powers led Paglia to take her controversial stand, fully documented here, against sympathy for victims of date rape. Paglia lacks the subtlety and decorum of the very scholars--from Freud and Jung to Leslie Fiedier--whom she claims as her forerunners; she instead resembles the rock stars whom she so venerates, stripped of their capacity for self-mockery. Yet for all their faults, her essays engage with an ambitious range of art and ideas, her invocation of primal sexuality adding a missing element to critical debates. While she should be taken with a truckful of road salt, Paglia should not be ignored. Author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Paglia (humanities, Univ. of the Arts), the controversial author of Sexual Personae (Yale Univ. Pr., 1990), here offers 12 recent essays on popular culture, sexuality, feminism, and educational reform. All but three of these impassioned diatribes were previously published, including her brazen attack on humanities education ("Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders"), the Newsweek article in which she dismisses the phenomenon of date rape, and her New York Times essay on Madonna as a feminist. Paglia's vehemence and fearless expression of unpopular opinions are refreshing yet often maddening, as when she lapses into unsupported generalizations (battered women stay with their husbands "because the sex is very hot"), absurd enthusiasms (she "worships" television), or self-aggrandizing egotism ("before feminism was, Paglia was!"). Furthermore, the new material is repetitive ("The MIT Lecture") or disappointing ("East and West," a choppy set of Paglia's course notes). Paglia is never boring, however, and cannot fail to challenge and ignite readers. Recommended for informed readers.
- Ellen Finnie Duranceau, MIT Lib.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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>>>Camille Anna Paglia (born 1947) is an American author, teacher, and social critic. A self-described dissident feminist, she has been a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia since 1984. She wrote "Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson" (1990), a best-selling work of literary criticism, among other books and essays on art, popular culture, feminism, and politics. She also wrote an analysis of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, and Break, Blow, Burn on poetry. Paglia is known as a critic of American feminism, and is also strongly critical of the influence of French writers such as Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault.<<< Publisher's Note
Professor Paglia's collection of essays is a vintage 1992 Vintage first printing (paperback). For our concern, which is with criticism, her essay "Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the hour of the wolf" is relevant here: The key problem with criticism is that, in the US as much as in England, it came out of the department of English, which traditionally "was and is parochial in its construction". She continues "The folly was in thinking that you could make critics just by training them in criticism. Criticism without learning is futile. It produces lightweights, poseurs and triflers (p209)." She accuses "middlebrow New Criticism" as "puritanical moralism" (same), and eventually extends the argument to much of feminist (now even more so in gender) reasoning.
This explains a lot more than a first glance would suspect, not least the seemingly endless expansion of the university curriculum into independent sub-branches like film and gender studies, normally worst when combined into one. The Diana Holmes/Robert Ingram (Authors and Series Editors) book on François Truffaut, in their French Film Directors Series, Manchester University Press (1998) - which I reviewed as fbuk63 Funny angles on 11/10/2012 - is an illustrative example for such a constellation: In slight variation of François Truffaut FN1/, it reflects a "certain tendency" of more recent film history and film reviews to taint their subject with a feminist brush, in particular by accusing film directors of misogy-nist views, and generally unbalanced psychic conditions.
This method of what I have labeled "insight through hindsight" has been applied to Truffaut, but it tends to be applied throughout by many others to more directors - Polanski, by that logic, is even more of an ideal target, so would be Bergman, Antonioni, Pasolini. We risk, by this token, to have the pantheon of great directors being dissected and pathologised by a bunch of dubiously qualified "experts", and - more irritatingly - the students of film at universities to be indoctrinated accordingly!
FN1/ Truffaut's famous "certain tendency" appeared first in 1954 in the Cahiers du cinéma. At Cannes, in 1958, he presented his article and was subsequently banned from the festival - only to return the following year to collect the first prize for his "Les quat'cents coups"! In full, the sentence reads: "The sole aim of the notes that follow is to try to define a certain tendency in the French cinema - a tendency known as that of 'psychological realism' - and to suggest its limitations."
fbus71 - Camille Paglia-Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays, Vintage 1992 -What criteria criticism: A certain tendency - 31/10/2012
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