Camille Paglia

The controversial academic, aesthete, and self-described feminist Camille Paglia enunciated her unorthodox views on sexuality and the development of culture and art in Western civilization in two books, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990) and Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays (1992). Her public persona and iconoclastic views enraged many academics and feminists and titillated audiences of television talk shows and college lecture halls as well as those who read her magazine essays and op-ed contributions.

A self-styled in-your-face Italian-American rebel with working-class immigrant grandparents, Paglia was born on April 2, 1947, in Endicott, N.Y., the daughter of a professor of Romance languages. Valedictorian of her class at the State University of New York at Binghamton (B.A., 1968), she became a disciple of outspoken critic and educator Harold Bloom at Yale University, where she received a Ph.D. in 1974. A teacher of literature at Bennington (Vt.) College (1972-80) and Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn. (1980), she was visiting lecturer at Yale (1981-83; 1984). From 1984 she was affiliated with the University of the Arts, Philadelphia (formerly the College of Performing Arts), where from 1991 she was professor of humanities.

Paglia expounded a theory, based on comparisons from Greek myths, of the duality of Western culture: the rational, orderly Apollonion aspect of society feels threatened by the Dionysian, chaotic forces of nature, which are murky and earthbound (her term is chthonic). An admirer of the works of Sigmund Freud, Sir James Frazier, and Charles Darwin, Paglia claimed that perversions in sexual behaviour came not from social injustice but from natural forces. For example, Paglia declared rape to be a sexual, not a violent, act, adding that women should avoid situations that might invite rape.

She posited that men develop cerebral achievement in order to separate themselves from the mother and her inexorable psychological domination. According to Paglia, "If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts." Women, the keepers of the hearth, are chthonic; women writers are unable to rise to the heights of Apollonion designs to which men have access.

Paglia advocated the decriminalization of prostitution, abortion, drug usage, and pornography. She urged the revamping of the U.S. educational system by institution of a core curriculum based primarily on the classics. She also called for the abolition of such highly politicized college majors as African-American studies and women's studies.

At odds with what she called the feminist establishment, Paglia celebrated the feminism demonstrated by unsentimental, independent, "ask-no-quarter, give-no-quarter" women, such as the aviator Amelia Earhart and the actress Katharine Hepburn. A self-proclaimed bisexual who celebrated decadence in its many guises, she also professed admiration for rock stars Madonna and Keith Richards and writers Oscar Wilde and the Marquis de Sade.

 (Encyclopędia Britannica)




Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson , Penguin 1992

Sex, Art and American Culture: Essays , Viking 1992

Vamps and Tramps: New Essays, Viking 1995


See a list of articles and essays of Camille Paglia here   




Mythology's identification of women with nature is correct. The male contribution to procreation is momentary and transient. Conception is a pinpoint of time, another of our phallic peaks of action, from which the male slide back uselessly. The pregnant woman is daemonically, devilishly complete. As an ontological entity, she needs nothing and no one.
Menstruation and childbirth are too barbaric for comedy. Their ugliness has produced the giant displacement of women's historical status as sex object, whose beauty is endlessly discussed and modified. Woman's beauty is a compromise with her dangerous archetypal allure. It gives the eye the comforting illusion of intellectual control over nature.
Whenever sexual freedom is sought or achieved, sado-masochism will not be far behind.
Homosexuality is not "normal." On the contrary, it is a challenge to the norm; therein rests its eternally revolutionary character. Note I do not call it a challenge to the *idea* of the norm. Queer theorists - that wizened crew of flimflamming free-loaders - have tried to take the poststructuralist tack of claiming that there is no norm, since everything is relative and contingent. This is the kind of silly bind that word-obsessed people get into when they are deaf, dumb, and blind to the outside world. Nature exists, whether academics like it or not. And in nature, procreation is the single, relentless rule. That is the norm. Our sexual bodies were designed for reproduction. Penis fits vagina: no fancy linguistic game- playing can change that basic fact. However, my libertarian view, here as in regard to abortion, is that we have not only the right, but the obligation to defy nature's tyranny. The highest human identity consists precisely in such assertions of freedom against material limitation. Gays are heroes and martyrs who have given their lives in the greatest war of them all.
My thinking tends to be libertarian. That is, I oppose intrusions of the state into the private realm-as in abortion, sodomy, prostitution, pornography, drug use, or suicide, all of which I would strongly defend as matters of free choice in a representative democracy.

Men know they are sexual exiles. They wander the earth seeking satisfaction, craving and despising, never content. There is nothing in that anguished motion for women to envy.


Every man must define his identity against his mother. If he does not, he just falls back into her and is swallowed up.


Television is actually closer to reality than anything in books. The madness of TV is the madness of human life.

You can see here a very complete site about Camille Paglia

Leia um artigo de Helena Vasconcelos sobre Camille Paglia aqui.

2005 - On her new book Break, Blow, Burn, here and here