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Sex, Art and American Culture, Sexual Personae - Camille Paglia Interview (2003)

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Camille Anna Paglia (/ˈpɑːliə/; born April 2, 1947) is an American academic and social critic. Paglia, a self-described dissident feminist, has been a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, since 1984. The New York Times has described her as "first and foremost an educator".

She is the author of Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990) and a collection of essays, Sex, Art, and American Culture (1992). Her other books and essays include an analysis of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, and Break, Blow, Burn (2005) on poetry. Her most recent book is 2012's Glittering Images. She is a critic of American feminism and of post-structuralist theory as well as a commentator on multiple aspects of U.S. social culture such as its visual art, music, and film history.

Paglia is known for her critical views of many aspects of modern culture, including feminism and liberalism. She has been characterized variously as a "contrarian academic" and a feminist "bête noire," a "witty controversialist," and a maverick,[9] Margaret Wente has called Paglia "a writer in a category of her own... a feminist who hates affirmative action; an atheist who respects religion" and "a Democrat who thinks her party doesn't get it." Martha Duffy writes that Paglia "advocates a core curriculum based mostly on the classics" and rails against "chic French theorists Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan," and "has a strong libertarian streak — on subjects like pornography — that go straight to her '60s coming-of-age." Elaine Showalter has called Paglia a "radical libertarian," noting her socially liberal stands on abortion, sodomy, prostitution, drug use, and suicide. Paglia has denounced feminist academics and women's studies, celebrated popular culture and Madonna, and become a media celebrity, writing op-eds and gossip columns, appearing on television and telling her story to journalists.

Paglia has said that she is willing to have her entire career judged on the basis of her composition of what she considers to be "probably the most important sentence that she has ever written": "God is man's greatest idea."

Paglia's Sexual Personae was rejected by no fewer than seven different publishers (not unusual, in and of itself), but when finally published by Yale University Press, became a best seller, reaching seventh place on the paperback best-seller list, a rare accomplishment for a scholarly book. 'Paglia called it her "prison book", commenting, "I felt like Cervantes, Genet. It took all the resources of being Catholic to cut myself off and sit in my cell." Sexual Personae has been called an "energetic, Freud-friendly reading of Western art", one that seemed "heretical and perverse", at the height of political correctness; according to Daniel Nester, its characterization of "William Blake as the British Marquis de Sade or Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson as 'self-ruling hermaphrodites who cannot mate' still pricks up many an English major's ears".

Paglia is a devotee of Oscar Wilde and Walter Pater, cherishing "performance, artifice and play rather than earnestness." She has expressed admiration for Dorothy Parker and Mary McCarthy, as well as for models, singers and movie stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, and Barbra Streisand.

In 2005, Paglia was named as one of the top 100 public intellectuals by the journals Foreign Policy and Prospect. In 2012, an article in The New York Times remarked that "[a]nyone who has been following the body count of the culture wars over the past decades knows Paglia".

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