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Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson PDF, ePub eBook From ancient Egypt through the nineteenth century, Sexual Personae explores the provocative connections between art and pagan ritual; between Emily Dickinson and the Marquis de Sade; between Lord Byron and Elvis Presley. It ultimately challenges the cultural assumptions of both conservatives and traditional liberals. 47 photographs.

30 review for Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson

  1. 5 out of 5

    Warwick

    Few books have roused in me the same mixture of confusion and stimulation as this bizarre doorstop of passionate, un-PC artistic engagement. Paglia, as an iconoclastic feminist who hates feminism, might have been co-opted by the right in the way that, say, Christina Hoff Sommers was co-opted; but this fate was precluded by her conservative-repellant persona of pro-drug, porn-mad lesbianism. So, unclaimed and unwanted by any special interest groups, she relishes her position as a universal provoc Few books have roused in me the same mixture of confusion and stimulation as this bizarre doorstop of passionate, un-PC artistic engagement. Paglia, as an iconoclastic feminist who hates feminism, might have been co-opted by the right in the way that, say, Christina Hoff Sommers was co-opted; but this fate was precluded by her conservative-repellant persona of pro-drug, porn-mad lesbianism. So, unclaimed and unwanted by any special interest groups, she relishes her position as a universal provocateuse, and seizes every opportunity to suggest that potential allies might instead like to go fuck themselves. Paglia comes at you from so far out of left-field that she's actually wandered off the field altogether, and is now yelling at you from way off in the car park somewhere, gesticulating with a rabid look in her eye like someone trying to shift copies of The Watchtower outside a Tube station. Those who can't see past her gender politics – this is a populous group, as you'll see from other reviews – are missing out on a lot of remarkable readings here, which can be genuinely radical in a way that ‘orthodox’ gender theory so often isn't. But seeing that far does require some heavy squinting (abandon metaphor!) for anyone who finds gender essentialism deeply irritating, as I tend to. ‘Let us abandon the pretense of sexual sameness and admit the terrible duality of gender,’ she coaxes. Given her own lifestyle, she seems a unlikely cheerleader for the concept. But for Paglia this gender duality is mythic, archetypal: men stand for rationality and society, while women are in league with the dangerous natural world, that ‘fetid organic life that Wordsworth taught us to call pretty.’ She follows this logic to some eyebrow-raising conclusions: The historic repugnance to women has a rational basis: disgust is reason's proper response to the grossness of procreative nature. For the first couple of hundred pages, I went back and forth on whether I thought that she really believed this stuff. Sometimes she seems to be talking about the psychological concepts of MAN and WOMAN, but at other times she seems to mean plain old real-life men and women. As a man, one reads passages like the following not so much in appreciation as in shock, so rarely is this kind of thing now met with: We could make an epic catalog of male achievements, from paved roads, indoor plumbing, and washing machines to eyeglasses, antibiotics, and disposable diapers. We enjoy fresh, safe milk and meat, and vegetables and tropical fruits heaped in snowbound cities. When I cross the George Washington Bridge or any of America’s great bridges, I think: men have done this. Construction is a sublime male poetry. When I see a giant crane passing on a flatbed truck, I pause in awe and reverence, as one would for a church procession. What power of conception, what grandiosity: these cranes tie us to ancient Egypt, where monumental architecture was first imagined and achieved. If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts. This goes both ways – whence her famous pronouncement, also from Sexual Personae, that ‘There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper’. Exceptions to all of Paglia's edicts (Hadrian in his review talks of ‘her many broad Nietzschean ukases’, which is perfect) spring readily to mind, but they don't seem to damage her theories. She considers women like Myra Hindley or Emily Dickinson not to be challenging the limits of their gender but rather to be exhibiting, in their different ways, a kind of hermaphrodism. The argument seems circular. But to read Paglia, you have to be pragmatic. Forget about whether she's a visionary or a monster, and ask instead: does this approach open up new and productive ways to see the works of literature and art she's discussing? In my case, the answer was a sporadic but resounding ‘yes’. It will be impossible, now, to read The Faerie Queene without being overwhelmed by visions of Paglia's Spenserian enclosed garden, ‘slippery with onanistic spillage’; nor will I ever read Emily Dickinson in the same way having succumbed to the convincing portrait of her here as ‘the female Sade’, whose poems are ‘the prison dreams of a self-incarcerated, sadomasochistic imaginist’. By turns enthralled and annoyed, I never stopped being forced to look at stuff I thought I knew in ways that I had never considered. Take Blake's ‘Infant Joy’, for instance, a lyric I had previously thought of as pretty insubstantial fare: I have no name I am but two days old.— What shall I call thee? I happy am Joy is my name,— Sweet joy befall thee! Pretty joy! Sweet joy but two days old, Sweet joy I call thee; Thou dost smile. I sing the while Sweet joy befall thee. Paglia calls this ‘sadomasochistic’! Her argument – that focusing on a baby's innocence heightens your awareness of its vulnerability in various interesting ways – might be argued with, but it completely changed the way I see the poem. At other times, casting around for connections, she doesn't hesitate to pluck examples from pop culture in a manner that can take your breath away. Simeon Solomon's Until the Day Breaks (1869): In this ‘androgynous brother and sister’, Paglia sees an anticipation of ‘Jean Cocteau's homoerotic ephebes’, which is fair enough and had me thinking already. But then she goes on to suggest that ‘their dreamy incestuous intimacy is learnedly reproduced in Madonna's superb peep-show video, “Open Your Heart” (1986)’— —a link that would occur to few other critics, and is unlikely to have been committed to paper by anyone else! It is mad but, somehow, weirdly mind-expanding. Often, to be sure, her judgements strike you as nonsensical. Her staccato sentences and florid imagery combine to form bizarre, other-worldly epigrams: so pity in Henry James is ‘a grisly fleur du mal of phallic elasticity’; Hester's breasts in The Scarlet Letter are called ‘sacs of engorged significance’; compound German nouns are described orgiastically as ‘spawning prefixes and suffixes and hyphenated by dildos’. These rococo phrases come at you scatter-gun style, one after the other, in disconnected leaps of illogic that can be wearying. (Bryan Appleyard, interviewing Paglia for a magazine, talked about ‘scrabbling for purchase on the baroque cliff face of her mind’.) Often, her argument rests only on an assertion she herself made previously, so that the effect is like someone in a Looney Tunes cartoon crossing a chasm on a bridge they're dismantling behind them to assemble in front. The overall impression is not so much of an argument mounting from one example to another in cumulative force, but rather a crazed, proliferating web of connections leaping from one creative artist to another, metastasising unpredictably across time and space. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't; but when it does, the effect is exhilarating. What I found especially wonderful was not so much her ideas about sex in terms of gender roles, but rather sex in terms of arousal, desire, objectification, fantasy. I am someone who believes, with Klimt, that ‘Alle Kunst ist erotisch’, and have tried ham-fistedly to make this argument in several below-the-line discussions here on Goodreads. In Camille Paglia I have now found my high priestess. ‘Sex is poetry; poetry is sex,’ she says. And, ‘Emotion without eroticism is impossible.’ And especially, ‘Pornography cannot be separated from art; the two interpenetrate each other, far more than humanistic criticism has admitted.’ This is something she shows again and again in places where I would certainly fear to tread. Despite the longueurs, despite all the phallic and vulval non-sequiturs, despite the sense of cocaine-fuelled '80s logorrhoea – despite all that, what Sexual Personae really brings is something that is too often missing from criticism. Enthusiasm! Camille Paglia may be mad, but she is absolutely passionate. She talks about decadent literature or symbolist painting not like it's an academic exercise, but like it's a matter of life or death. For some people, it is. And though I spent a lot of time shouting objections at the page, I have never been sent back to my bookshelves as often or as frantically as I was while I was reading this bonkers, hormonal dissertation.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hadrian

    This is a book which deserves pondering - I have settled on three stars because I'm not sure how to give it both five and one. In this book's preface, Paglia candidly admits that her goal is to be "sensational". This is perhaps the only sentence beyond dispute in the entire book. It is a book of contradictions, even in the front cover. See the juxtapose of the regal visage of Queen Nefertiti and the concealing modesty of Emily Dickinson. Out of her many broad Nietzschean ukases on art history, mo This is a book which deserves pondering - I have settled on three stars because I'm not sure how to give it both five and one. In this book's preface, Paglia candidly admits that her goal is to be "sensational". This is perhaps the only sentence beyond dispute in the entire book. It is a book of contradictions, even in the front cover. See the juxtapose of the regal visage of Queen Nefertiti and the concealing modesty of Emily Dickinson. Out of her many broad Nietzschean ukases on art history, most seem to be arranged the themes of eroticism and sexual desire in art. I can't attest as to any other literary critics have said these before, but she is a fierce writer. Out of the many fascinating and provocative chapters of literary criticism, she seems to come up with new insights on the seemingly worn topics of Spenser, Blake, or Dickinson. She digs her hands into the viscera of these artists, and comes up with pearls. Now this is a fine challenging book, but what's so bad about it? Well... A good deal of her criticism is shoehorned into this Apollonian/Dionysian framework. Her approach to art is not encompassing of many trends or actors, it is either Apollonian or Dionysian, with a few rearranged stock characters. Aside from this nonsensical theoretical background, there's also a sorry undercurrent of hideous stereotyping. It pretends to be transgressive, but has the stench of fatigue and cliche, like a teenage boy reeking of cheap bodyspray saying 'penis' in public. Men must be this, women must be that, and the twain shall never meet. Men are swinging dicks, women are swamps, and a cigar is a penis. In many ways, it is dug-up moldy corpse of Freud-ism, dressed in new clothes. Paglia's political views peek out from the text as well, and they are bizarre. They are not honorably conservative nor liberal, just skewed. Paglia casually refers to all manner of ugly statements about homosexuals or women or trans people. These are not a cause for anger, but for resignation, to see someone capable of such brilliance write such stupidity. As a model for feminist thought, I hear Paglia is now held in slightly more esteem than Phyllis Schlafly or Magda Goebbels. Her most recent writing in the Wall Street Journal, says (among some quite intelligent remarks) that women asking for employment will lead to the downfall of Western civilization. Paglia survives not from the calm rationality of her opinions, but of the art of controversy, and the ability to be brilliant and frustrating and even stupid within the span of multiple pages. That's all that can be said. See for yourself if she's worth your time.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Paglia - as a friend of mine once said to her face at a signing - is a gateway drug. I got ahold of this in high school and it functioned as a syllabus for the next few years. She showed me how raunchy, perverse and gorgeously gilded Spenser can be. She turned me on to Gautier, Pater, and, above all others, to Baudelaire. I continue to return to her readings of Byron and Wilde. This book is nigh-impossible to read cover to cover. Don't try it. The prose is an unceasingly percussive hammering of Paglia - as a friend of mine once said to her face at a signing - is a gateway drug. I got ahold of this in high school and it functioned as a syllabus for the next few years. She showed me how raunchy, perverse and gorgeously gilded Spenser can be. She turned me on to Gautier, Pater, and, above all others, to Baudelaire. I continue to return to her readings of Byron and Wilde. This book is nigh-impossible to read cover to cover. Don't try it. The prose is an unceasingly percussive hammering of vivid declaratives. Better to jump around, sampling chapters here and there. Paglia would have more of a reputation as a stylist if someone would extract and publish in a separate volume all the paragraph-sized prose poems scattered throughout this work of criticism. Pater's famous purpureus pannus on the Mona Lisa is tame stuff next to Paglia's peaens to Egyptian cat-worship and that bust of Nefertiti.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dusty

    As another reviewer said Paglia is like a "gateway drug". Read her and you’re on your way down the yellow brick road of subversive decadence. Whether you agree with her or not, you will be challenged to think. Camille isn’t looking for a gaggle of cheerleaders, she looking for an intellectual bar brawl.

  5. 4 out of 5

    mark monday

    camille paglia: so misguided! despite the sheer idiocy behind many of her theses, she is a compelling, exuberant author, very readable, and definitely brings a certain kind of gusto and an often unique viewpoint to many classic authors. her rather operatic take on emily dickinson is particularly enjoyable. if this book in any way acts as a gateway drug to classic literature, then i suppose there is something positive to it all. that said, and exciting writing style aside, her reductive view of t camille paglia: so misguided! despite the sheer idiocy behind many of her theses, she is a compelling, exuberant author, very readable, and definitely brings a certain kind of gusto and an often unique viewpoint to many classic authors. her rather operatic take on emily dickinson is particularly enjoyable. if this book in any way acts as a gateway drug to classic literature, then i suppose there is something positive to it all. that said, and exciting writing style aside, her reductive view of the genders and her scorn for anything that she finds to be based on intellectual analysis is appalling and also pretty sad. the world is a much bigger place than you realize, camille! there is room for all sorts of things to have value, even michel foucault.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    OK, so her theoretical basis is absolute bullshit, combining personal bias, excessive Freudianism, and reactionary sexual politics into an obnoxious combination. However, the analyses themselves are quite wonderful. Having sat through any number of dry college lectures on the deemed classics of the Western canon, it was nice to see their dark, chthonic qualities exposed. This doesn't have the academic rigor that I was expecting, but it was a very fun read, and now I feel like going back through OK, so her theoretical basis is absolute bullshit, combining personal bias, excessive Freudianism, and reactionary sexual politics into an obnoxious combination. However, the analyses themselves are quite wonderful. Having sat through any number of dry college lectures on the deemed classics of the Western canon, it was nice to see their dark, chthonic qualities exposed. This doesn't have the academic rigor that I was expecting, but it was a very fun read, and now I feel like going back through Spenser and Emily Dickinson and picking out darkly psychosexual cues.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    I will usually read the books I'm given and this one was from a coworker at Loyola University Chicago. I doubt if she, a believing Catholic, read it herself. She likely would have been even more offended than I was. With the exception of overt, practiced racism and sexism, I believe I'm hard to offend, but Paglia's two-faced book did it. On the one hand, she tries to be sexy, treating the literary canon as resting on a seething bed of academically neglected eroticism. On the other hand, she write I will usually read the books I'm given and this one was from a coworker at Loyola University Chicago. I doubt if she, a believing Catholic, read it herself. She likely would have been even more offended than I was. With the exception of overt, practiced racism and sexism, I believe I'm hard to offend, but Paglia's two-faced book did it. On the one hand, she tries to be sexy, treating the literary canon as resting on a seething bed of academically neglected eroticism. On the other hand, she writes about this eroticism with a prurient tone as if it were loathsome. I got the impression of a very neurotic author, divided within herself. Given the book's success, I felt little pity for the author. She's doing fine. The culture which would make such a work a best-seller, however, would appear to be in deep trouble. The offense reaction, of course, suggests that I share the cultural disease. For what it's worth, if the book hadn't been successful, if it had been the work of some closeted intellectual, I would have been more prone to notice its virtues. H.P. Lovecraft, for instance, was a neurotic racist, but I've defended his horror fiction. (Interesting that Paglia associates in my mind with neurotic horror fiction.)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Bird

    This book is one of my all-time favorites and my favorite of Paglia's. I prefer Paglia the "academic" as opposed to the "media whore" (i.e. as she has expressed herself in her column for Salon.com) as I am at least 50% in disagreement with her political / geopolitical and often right-leaning Libertarian point of view. In "Sexual Personae" she presents herself in full-on scholarly mode, in a way that she has not, unfortunately, repeated since this work was published. I have read this book at leas This book is one of my all-time favorites and my favorite of Paglia's. I prefer Paglia the "academic" as opposed to the "media whore" (i.e. as she has expressed herself in her column for Salon.com) as I am at least 50% in disagreement with her political / geopolitical and often right-leaning Libertarian point of view. In "Sexual Personae" she presents herself in full-on scholarly mode, in a way that she has not, unfortunately, repeated since this work was published. I have read this book at least twice; it is rare for me as a reader to return to any text I've read previously. The essence of the work can be summarized via the blurb that appears on the back cover of the paperback edition of "Sexual Personae": "..... [makes] a persuasive case for all art as a pagan battleground between male and female, form and chaos, civilization and daemonic nature" ("daemonic" being a term that appears frequently in this book). Also memorable are Paglia's theory of the artist's metaphysical "sex change" via his / her work of art (a là Coleridge's lesbian vampire / daemon) and the chapter covering Edmund Spenser's "The Fairie Queene", a product of the English Renaissance that I had been unaware of until my discovery of "Sexual Personae" and which I have still not read. "Sexual Personae" also aided me in refining my understanding of the terms "Apollonian" and "Dionysian", in a way that no other writer has besides Nietzsche. Most importantly, it's Paglia's actual writing that draws me in. Whether or not what she is writing can be substantiated academically, that does not concern me. I inherently believe that Paglia knows what she's talking about. Thus I will close with this quote from page 55 of Chapter 2 ("The Birth of the Western Eye") concerning the statuette "Venus of Willendorf" [circa 30,000 B.C.]: "Venus of Willendorf carries her cave with her. She is blind, masked. Her ropes of corn-row hair look forward to the invention of agriculture. She has a furrowed brow. Her facelessness is the impersonality of primitive sex and religion. There is no psychology or identity yet, because there is no society, no cohesion. Men cower and scatter at the blast of the elements. Venus of Willendorf is eyeless because nature can be seen but not known. She is remote even as she kills and creates. The statuette, so overflowing and protuberant, is ritually invisible. She stifles the eye. She is the cloud of archaic night."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Myridian

    This book was horrible. Paglia's worldview is bizarrely Freudian. Paglia writes only the loosest and most unsatisfactory of evidence for any of her assertions. She ignores the lack of evidence for the majority of psychodynamic theory in general and for the "family romance" in particular. When you ignore empirical evidence all you have left is what resonates for you personally, which Freudian theory does not. Though she even picks through psychodynamic theory. The book makes me want to shake her. This book was horrible. Paglia's worldview is bizarrely Freudian. Paglia writes only the loosest and most unsatisfactory of evidence for any of her assertions. She ignores the lack of evidence for the majority of psychodynamic theory in general and for the "family romance" in particular. When you ignore empirical evidence all you have left is what resonates for you personally, which Freudian theory does not. Though she even picks through psychodynamic theory. The book makes me want to shake her. Paglia writes well, but the danger of her compelling prose is that people may believe her.

  10. 4 out of 5

    ALLEN

    "Once you get into it, it isn't as hard as it looks" and "It changed my life" are phrases we often invoke to help stress the importance of important books we'd like to see more people read. Well, in the case of Camille Paglia's SEXUAL PERSONAE, first published in 1990, those phrases are no mere cliches -- they matter, and this book matters. It is important to understand that Paglia earned her academic "chops" teaching students at an art academy. She was no mere Ivy League theorist, with analysis "Once you get into it, it isn't as hard as it looks" and "It changed my life" are phrases we often invoke to help stress the importance of important books we'd like to see more people read. Well, in the case of Camille Paglia's SEXUAL PERSONAE, first published in 1990, those phrases are no mere cliches -- they matter, and this book matters. It is important to understand that Paglia earned her academic "chops" teaching students at an art academy. She was no mere Ivy League theorist, with analysis consisting of meta upon meta. She wrote to be understood -- and this book is not only her breakthrough, but in many cases her summa. I read SEXUAL PERSONAE with difficulty for the first time when it was first published, loved every minute of it, and found application to my life. I re-read it (with a great deal more ease) about five years after that, again loved every minute of it, and found more application. It changed and expanded the world I live in, as well as how I think about "art." One key to Paglia's thought is that art does not exist without those who understand and appreciate it, and that people who appreciate it find that it informs them well beyond just the boundaries of "the picture" or "the sculpture." I can't tell you how many times I've pondered her equation of Lord Byron with Elvis Presley -- both "Byronic" figures, and here's the rub -- no mere camp or parlor game. If you want a history of pictorial art, the Sister Wendy books are fine. If you want an academic history of art, there are plenty of college textbooks, used and new, out there. If you want to know what academics think about what other academics think about what artistic endeavors they deem currently fashionable -- by all means get your ticket punched for Harvard, Princeton or Columbia. But if you want to gain greater insight about how art works in the world -- including yours and mine -- buy this book and read it all. It starts with Nefertiti, moves on through numerous thinkers to Oscar Wilde and Emily Dickinson, and was published in the age of AIDS. Even folks whose reaction is less enthusiastic than mine come away a lot smarter! SEXUAL PERSONAE was, is, and deserves to remain a classic. "Classic" can be a cliche, too, but in this case I mean it. --October 21, 2018 Allen Smalling ("ALLEN") for GR

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    "Shock jock" of academia and belligerence more than a groundbreaking new theoretical synthesis of sex and gender, and about 30 years after a similar radical-feminist sexuality was propounded by several others. I did have a chill of excitement when I read this, though, back in the day... As others have noted, hard to tell if more brilliant or crazy (not knocking either - whatever gets you through the night.) For my money, Donna Haraway's book that came out the same year said much more about nature "Shock jock" of academia and belligerence more than a groundbreaking new theoretical synthesis of sex and gender, and about 30 years after a similar radical-feminist sexuality was propounded by several others. I did have a chill of excitement when I read this, though, back in the day... As others have noted, hard to tell if more brilliant or crazy (not knocking either - whatever gets you through the night.) For my money, Donna Haraway's book that came out the same year said much more about nature, society, gender and sex.

  12. 5 out of 5

    James

    An incomparable, unique, and often ridiculous study of sexuality and literature. I took my time reading this as there is a huge amount of information to absorb, and Paglia's style (made up of brief but incredibly pungent sentences) is wearying, although I don't mean that as a criticism. In the contrary, it gives the reader all the more reason to savor this radically different take on Emily Dickinson, The Fearie Queen, Shakespeare, Whitman, and so many more. One needn't agree with all or even mos An incomparable, unique, and often ridiculous study of sexuality and literature. I took my time reading this as there is a huge amount of information to absorb, and Paglia's style (made up of brief but incredibly pungent sentences) is wearying, although I don't mean that as a criticism. In the contrary, it gives the reader all the more reason to savor this radically different take on Emily Dickinson, The Fearie Queen, Shakespeare, Whitman, and so many more. One needn't agree with all or even most of what she says to find this work fascinating. The book is most valuable for its aesthetic and analytical purposes. Certainly that is Paglia's approach. Whether or not one agrees with the theory that Emily Dickinson was Amherst's Madame de Sade, Walt Whitman was a hermaphrodite, or any of the other sensational statements in Sexual Personae is immaterial. I enjoyed this work as I have enjoyed few other works of modern literary criticism, and in this way Paglia is in league with her mentor Harold Bloom. When reviewing Sexual Personae, one must acknowledge the egregious social conclusions that Paglia draws, mostly in the first chapter. Do I agree with her? Not in the slightest. I am actually inclined to agree, on issues of politics, with the Feminists Paglia so often attacks. So why do I return to Paglia's book? For the same reason I return to Stephen Dedalus's lectures on Shakespeare in Ulysses. They may be bullshit theories, but they are riveting bullshit theories. You'll enjoy this much more if you ignore the Women's Studies/Art Criticism tag on the back and read this as the book Myra Breckenridge always threatened to write.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Ah, Camille Paglia. What can I say that hasn't already been said? This book is well-written and absorbing, but if you are a female with half a backbone at all, you will want to rip it into pieces, piss on it, then set it on fire (which I guess won't be very effective if you just pissed on it). Paglia's main thesis is that men are the movers and shakers, and women are slothful baby producers. Civilation wouldn't exist without men because women have no drive to do anything except sit around and wa Ah, Camille Paglia. What can I say that hasn't already been said? This book is well-written and absorbing, but if you are a female with half a backbone at all, you will want to rip it into pieces, piss on it, then set it on fire (which I guess won't be very effective if you just pissed on it). Paglia's main thesis is that men are the movers and shakers, and women are slothful baby producers. Civilation wouldn't exist without men because women have no drive to do anything except sit around and wait for men to bring them food and build stuff for them. Then where, I ask, did Paglia get the motivation to write this very long, detailed, and well-researched book? The irony is like where Phyllis Schlafly in the 1970's was running a big organization devoted to convincing women that they should be stay-at-home moms. I gave this book 4 stars because, as I said, it is well-written and sucks you in. It enrages me, but I guess that's worth something. NB: I read this book a long time ago, so maybe my opinion would be different now. Guess I'll need to reread it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    A bit of an academic show-off, and later, a celebrity-hound, with some really f*cked-up ideas about the importance of Madonna, Paglia penned her most important (and best-written) book here. Won't say it changed my life, but I couldn't stop talking about for weeks after I finished it. Her take on Emily Dickinson as a super-sadist is dead on the money. This will be read long after everyone has forgotten the pseudo-feminist junk that was popular when this book debuted. You know who I'm talking abou A bit of an academic show-off, and later, a celebrity-hound, with some really f*cked-up ideas about the importance of Madonna, Paglia penned her most important (and best-written) book here. Won't say it changed my life, but I couldn't stop talking about for weeks after I finished it. Her take on Emily Dickinson as a super-sadist is dead on the money. This will be read long after everyone has forgotten the pseudo-feminist junk that was popular when this book debuted. You know who I'm talking about.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    She inadvertantly turned me into the psychopath reader I am today, but doing a line by line interpretation of "Stairway To Heaven" in Guitar World about 10 years ago. This close reading of a classic, unavoidable song blew me right away and impressed me, showing me that brainy reading is something even I could do. There's a lot of repetiton here, I mean how many times can you hear about the gilded masochistic whatever in repressive societal repressiveness until you get sick and tired? Nonetheless, She inadvertantly turned me into the psychopath reader I am today, but doing a line by line interpretation of "Stairway To Heaven" in Guitar World about 10 years ago. This close reading of a classic, unavoidable song blew me right away and impressed me, showing me that brainy reading is something even I could do. There's a lot of repetiton here, I mean how many times can you hear about the gilded masochistic whatever in repressive societal repressiveness until you get sick and tired? Nonetheless, I'm loving her primal erudition, her campiness, and her common sense. She's Italian, dontcha know? She loves the internet, Harold Bloom, pop culture, and midaeval epic poetry. My kind of chick. But there's smart, whip-cracking turns of phrase and a ballsy iconoclasm which never relents and stays interesting as you go through the mountains of text. I love her. Sex and Death: two great tastes that go great together!

  16. 4 out of 5

    A.K.

    A clearly insane person. A clearly fierce intellect. (It is clear that her intellect is fierce; not that the fierceness possesses great clarity.) I won't be putting this down unless it's to throw it in front of an oncoming train and/or soak it with my sad, sad, non-transcendent womanly piss. --- Cut to 3/4 of the way through. Bored now. Nice troll, tho.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Camille Paglia's completely obnoxious and over-the-line and I only agree with her about 1/4 of the time. But when I do, I feel like she's slit open the deepest rivers of impassioned, tangled instincts I have about intellectual women and the utter foolishness of much of the feminist movement - and the dangers of being a woman who lives too far above the waist. Paglia nails it on these topics. Even tho' I'm sure if I ever sat next to her at a dinner party I'd end up wanting to slap her.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Izzy Rey

    Do not get me wrong, I do not buy into all of her theories. Some sound like utter BS, but she is SO fun to read and argue with (in your head). What makes me love this book is the way she categorizes authors and works, and all the little details she points out. How some male authors are femenine in their writing and some females are masculine. Also, this is the book that lead me to works I may have never read. I did not go to school to become an english professor and am not required to have more Do not get me wrong, I do not buy into all of her theories. Some sound like utter BS, but she is SO fun to read and argue with (in your head). What makes me love this book is the way she categorizes authors and works, and all the little details she points out. How some male authors are femenine in their writing and some females are masculine. Also, this is the book that lead me to works I may have never read. I did not go to school to become an english professor and am not required to have more than a basic knowledge of Literature. I am a science geek and am in a medical profession. For her to have laid out this outline...I'll be for ever thankful.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Marley

    I don't even know where to begin with this, so I won't. Oddly, Sexual Personae explained my life to me. I was shocked. What does any of this have to do with me, but it did. Paglia blew me away with her non-namby-pamby feminism that upset all the liberals.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    She's a lunatic and a pagan, but very helpful.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    I read this book a while ago, counting in book-time (As in 6 or 7 books ago—temporally, not too long ago). I can't articulate my thoughts on this titan of a book as of now. I know I loved reading it as well as I know that I disagreed with most of its primary assertions. Also, I have a strange desire to physically fight Camille Paglia. I'm a waif, so I definitely would not hurt her. She simply seems like she would be a fun person to wrestle. (Paglia in a video: "I'm in an in-your-face feminist", dur I read this book a while ago, counting in book-time (As in 6 or 7 books ago—temporally, not too long ago). I can't articulate my thoughts on this titan of a book as of now. I know I loved reading it as well as I know that I disagreed with most of its primary assertions. Also, I have a strange desire to physically fight Camille Paglia. I'm a waif, so I definitely would not hurt her. She simply seems like she would be a fun person to wrestle. (Paglia in a video: "I'm in an in-your-face feminist", during which she accuses feminists of being puritanical and orders them to 'go read a book, go to an art store, go look at a painting, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, go look at Greek art!')

  22. 5 out of 5

    Szplug

    Mint condition for ninety-nine cents—an unbeatable deal, even with the Canuck dollar scorching along at record breaking levels (thanks stuffy Big Six Banks and innate Canadian caution!)—and an author I've not a lot of experience with. I've heard lots about Paglia, split pretty evenly into camps that, whether they love or loathe her, seem to share the opinion that a little bit of Camille goes a long way. The recent columns of hers that I've stumbled across generally contain a dram of counter-intu Mint condition for ninety-nine cents—an unbeatable deal, even with the Canuck dollar scorching along at record breaking levels (thanks stuffy Big Six Banks and innate Canadian caution!)—and an author I've not a lot of experience with. I've heard lots about Paglia, split pretty evenly into camps that, whether they love or loathe her, seem to share the opinion that a little bit of Camille goes a long way. The recent columns of hers that I've stumbled across generally contain a dram of counter-intuitive and provocative insight for every ounce of flouncy, overwritten horseshit: but this volume is beautifully put together, abounds with intriguing and sexy subject matter and, after the quick Sastrean glance through, seems to be written with a sleek wit that would just easily pull you along before suddenly making an attempt on your eye with a wickedly-hued knitting needle. So into the sorta-reading shelf she goes.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    So far, I'm loving this book! I read a little bit of it each evening so that I can at least attempt to really digest her argument. Some of the things she says are a little scary. But, like Angela Carter's work, Paglia definitely wants to create an emotional response in her readers and she does this brilliantly. I think the elicitation of emotional response - whether in agreement or anger - forces us to examine standard cultural beliefs and grants an opportunity for different ways of seeing. Pagl So far, I'm loving this book! I read a little bit of it each evening so that I can at least attempt to really digest her argument. Some of the things she says are a little scary. But, like Angela Carter's work, Paglia definitely wants to create an emotional response in her readers and she does this brilliantly. I think the elicitation of emotional response - whether in agreement or anger - forces us to examine standard cultural beliefs and grants an opportunity for different ways of seeing. Paglia seems to pick a bone with modern feminists, and that's okay. Personally, I don't think feminists are silly, but neither do I think that challenging political and theoretical assumptions is wrong. In fact, it's just what we need, and maybe feminism could warm up to Paglia's wicked side. "Jane Sexes It Up" is a good example of where feminist thought may be going in the future.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    I stopped reading after 150 pages of unsupported theory, grad-school hackery, over-reliance on the myths of the Greek pantheon to "explain" art and gender behavior, and severe overuse of the word "chthonian." Paglia's not and never is boring, but after I found myself rolling my eyes and flipping ahead to see if I was going to get a break from the above-mentioned complaints, I figured I wasn't going to make it through the remaining 600 pages.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mawr

    This book single-handedly resurrected my love of literature, philosophy and history. What is especially good about it is its preference for the enduring truths of human experience over faddish post-modernism.

  26. 4 out of 5

    David

    Paglia’s genius is that everything everyone says about her is true.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Johnny D

    Sexual Personae was a bombshell of guerilla scholarship released in the 1990s, and it made its author - Camille Paglia - a star and media darling during that time. The scope of the book is breathtaking. Paglia begins by summarizing Freud's theory on the invention of religion in pre-history, then goes on to track the human agon of art v. nature from the time of the ancient Egyptians to the nineteen hundreds. Paglia sees two archetypal forces at work in literature and art: The Appolonian (concerned Sexual Personae was a bombshell of guerilla scholarship released in the 1990s, and it made its author - Camille Paglia - a star and media darling during that time. The scope of the book is breathtaking. Paglia begins by summarizing Freud's theory on the invention of religion in pre-history, then goes on to track the human agon of art v. nature from the time of the ancient Egyptians to the nineteen hundreds. Paglia sees two archetypal forces at work in literature and art: The Appolonian (concerned with form, discipline, and ethical rigor) and the Dionysian (celebratory of life, mortality, sex, and the imagination). The book is outrageous in parts, practically unreadable in others, and downright brilliant in enough places to guarantee a place beside other important works of popular scholarship. Paglia is a dynamo!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Harold Bloom’s influence on Paglia is clear: most of her commentary is on poets associated with the Romantic tradition, and her analytic approach is a mixture of Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud. Her chapter on Emily Dickinson in particular changed the way I read that poet.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bryn

    "Come on guys, old dead white guys aren't so bad."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Charles Rouse

    One of the reviewers said that they gave her three stars because they didn't know how to give her both five stars and one star. That kind of gives you an indication of people's reaction to Paglia. Paglia's ideas are inflammatory, odd, brilliant, sometimes, in my opinion, just wrong. I note that her ideas on society are basically radically libertarian. Since I have decided that my views are radically libertarian, I'm interested, but I don't think that's my crowning virtue, in fact I'm troubled th One of the reviewers said that they gave her three stars because they didn't know how to give her both five stars and one star. That kind of gives you an indication of people's reaction to Paglia. Paglia's ideas are inflammatory, odd, brilliant, sometimes, in my opinion, just wrong. I note that her ideas on society are basically radically libertarian. Since I have decided that my views are radically libertarian, I'm interested, but I don't think that's my crowning virtue, in fact I'm troubled that I actually think that people should have so much freedom. I do in fact think that, but I'm somewhat troubled by it. I don't always agree with the good Camille- to put it mildly, but I'm almost always interested in what she has to say. Occasionally, I think she's very wrong headed. In this book, I might mention that Coleridge poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," is indeed a great poem, but I do not at all think the margin notes are a feckless afterthought, which Paglia does seem to think. On the other hand, there is Coleridge, "Christabel." In class in college we went in decorous circles around the mysterious themes to this poem. Paglia addressed the poem directly. That Chapter has the title, "The Daemon as Lesbian Vampire." Well. I never. Of course that is what the poem is about, but Camille is the first person I knew who said as much. If you're offended by poems about lesbian vampires, perhaps this is not the book for you. If you don't mind being pissed off by someone you think is brilliant, here you are.

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