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Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990)

af Camille Paglia

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
1,761127,025 (3.8)35
This work offers a unified field theory of Western culture, high and low, since the Egyptians invented beauty. From Emily Dickinson and Medusa to Madonna, it makes a persuasive case for all art as a pagan battleground between male and female, form and chaos, civilization and demonic nature.
Nyligt tilføjet afprivat bibliotek, adornian, agtgibson, Equestrienne, mrdrax, octal
Efterladte bibliotekerGillian Rose, Terence Kemp McKenna, David Robert Jones



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Lots of interesting stuff here; I wish the author could have been one of my art teachers. Also, when possible it is always fun to contrast her critique of a particular work of art with that of Sister Wendy.

Ms Paglia is a woman who manages to blend common sense with high intelligence. She also isn't afraid to voice a contrary opinion; it was the uppity women who changed history, so go for it, Camille. There is nothing more inspiring to me than an old school, badass bitch who isn't afraid of what other people think or say.

Gotta go get some more of her books. ( )
  Equestrienne | Jan 5, 2021 |
When this book appeared in the early 90s it was at the same time an anachronism, and a highly modern masterpiece. An anachronism because few writers –then and now- combine a wide sweeping view of whole swathes of cultural history with startlingly observant close readings of particular works; and modern because its whole argument and method was rooted in the here and now, with its references to pop culture and attacks against the literal minded, the ignorant and the resenters. Paglia sees Western art and literary history as an agon between the Apollonian and the Dionysian, building on Nietzsche. This idea is tremendously fruitful, and she traces it through its various forms with verve, wit and great style. The chapter on The Picture of Dorian Gray is worth the price of admission alone. Paglia simply ‘gets’ Wilde like no one else, in my view. This is criticism in the grand style, criticism as art, historiography as literature. Paglia is the 20th century equivalent of a Burckhardt or a Renan. A work of genius, provocative and beautiful. ( )
4 stem tomcatMurr | May 10, 2013 |
Okay, I didn't read ALL of this book, but it made my brain hurt in a good way. I tried to get like, ANYONE I KNEW to read it so I could discuss it with somebody, but no joy.
Still, after reading Maureen Dowd's "Are Men Necessary" I kind of want to go back to this for a less stupid perspective on women and culture. I don't agree with everything she says but it's certainly thought-provoking. ( )
  JenneB | Apr 2, 2013 |
The subtitle? "Art and decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickenson." (The cover strikingly puts that across visually with a bust half-Nefertiti/half-Dickenson.) In the Preface Paglia says her book "seeks to demonstrate the unity and continuity of western culture." She also revealingly says: "My largest ambition is to fuse Frazer and Freud." I think she succeeds in that fusion, but I can't say that impressed me much, given I'm very skeptical about both thinkers. Freud was famous for his theory of the "family romance," which posited sexuality and aggression in the family formed the psyche. Less well-known to the general public is Frazer, a seminal 19th century cultural anthropologist. His The Golden Bough is on the connections between mythology, folklore, and religion and their origins in trying to control nature; he's a direct ancestor to Joseph Campbell.

Paglia's arguments are a bit scatter-shot, and repetitive. By the time I was half-way through the book, I felt Paglia was pounding spikes into my brain with every mention of: androgene, Appolonian, chthonian, daemonic, hermaphrodite, and especially "beautiful boy." Nevertheless she was also audacious and dazzling in the connections she made and her prose often beautiful and quotable. She mixed classical allusions with pop references from Garbo to Elvis to Madonna. In upholding her ideas of "the terrible duality of gender" and the fecundity of homosexuality in culture, she is sure to outrage liberal and conservative alike. At times she seemed to apotheosize misogyny as the driving creative force in Western culture, as in her insistence of the importance of Sade as great literature and her statement that: "There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper." Truly, I far prefer Virginia Woolf's take on that question in "A Room of Her Own." I admit that if Paglia were male, I doubt I'd be giving her so much slack for that. At one point she even called female genitalia, "grotesque."

The New York Times Review called her "as intellectually stimulating as she is exasperating" and I think that sums her up well. But for a bibliophile and art lover (the book is richly illustrated) there's much to engage your thinking. The writers examined highlighted in the contents page include: Spenser, Shakespeare, Rousseau, Sade, Goethe, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Balzac, Gautier, Baudelaire, Huysmans, Emily Bronte, Swinburne, Wilde, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Emerson, Whitman, Henry James, Dickenson. Paglia left me with lots of food for thought and new ways to look at works I thought I knew from Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus to Coleridge's Christobel. Worth reading, and even re-reading, which is why for all that I was skeptical of so many of her conclusions, I rated this as high as I did. ( )
2 stem LisaMaria_C | Oct 14, 2012 |
It's extremely rare that an author comes up with a radical reinterpretation of the history of western arts that is approachable for both academic and general audiences. I was only ten when this book came out, so I can't speak to what kinds of waves it caused at the time, but I'd suspect they were large. (A handful of feminist academics I know still insist on hating her, though I think her threat to feminism has mainly fizzled out or been replaced by other, more insidious and influential cultural threats.)

Whether or not you agree with Paglia (I don't, for the most part), reading this massive work is an interesting experience that really forces you to rethink the form and meaning of art and literature. She performs some entirely ridiculous readings of cultural artifacts, but she also compellingly catalogues an epic battle of (and within) the sexes that has played out over the past 5,000 years of western civilization. ( )
1 stem sansmerci | Dec 5, 2011 |
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This work offers a unified field theory of Western culture, high and low, since the Egyptians invented beauty. From Emily Dickinson and Medusa to Madonna, it makes a persuasive case for all art as a pagan battleground between male and female, form and chaos, civilization and demonic nature.

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