glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
home
arts
literature
social sciences
special features
discussion
about glbtq
   search

 
   Encyclopedia
   Discussion
 
 

   member name
  
   password
  
 
   
   Forgot Your Password?  
   
Not a Member Yet?  
   
JOIN TODAY. IT'S FREE!

 
  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy
  Copyright

 

 

 

 

 
social sciences

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-E  F-L  M-Z

     
Bookmark and Share
Paglia, Camille (b. 1947)  
 
page: 1  2  

Social philosopher, literary critic, gadfly, and self-described "loud little woman," Camille Paglia is an unlikely media star. Her frequently outrageous cultural commentary and caustic criticism have made her both famous and controversial.

An openly lesbian university professor, who also identifies as a Democrat and a feminist, she not only skewers "political correctness" and the insularity of academe but also attacks "paleofeminists," gay activists, and many of the most cherished causes of the left with an enthusiastic incisiveness that frequently approaches vitriol.

Sponsor Message.

While many cheer her irreverent challenges as a refreshing call for open discourse, others accuse Paglia of egotism, divisiveness, and reactionary posturing.

Camille Paglia was born on April 2, 1947 in the south central New York city of Endicott, the daughter of an immigrant family. Her mother and all four of her grandparents had been born in Italy, and Paglia grew up immersed in middle-class Italian Catholic culture. Her mother worked at a bank and her father was a college language professor. They introduced her to art, literature, and music, including opera.

Young Camille was an excellent student and a tomboy, who developed crushes on women teachers and her counselors at Girl Scout camp. As a high school student, she discovered Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, which influenced her greatly and inspired her to identify as a feminist.

Paglia attended Harpur College of the State University of New York at Binghamton, where she became deeply involved in the enormous cultural, political, and artistic upheavals of the 1960s. She developed a fascination with the avant-garde work of Andy Warhol, and a love of such poets as John Milton, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. She wrote her senior thesis on the work of Emily Dickinson and became friends with a circle of gay men.

In 1968, she graduated from Harpur as valedictorian and entered graduate school at Yale University, where, even before the Stonewall riots launched the gay liberation movement, she came out publicly, and defiantly, as a lesbian. In response to an insult she received from a Yale professor of psychiatry, she decided as a matter of principle to be open about her sexuality.

While Paglia looked for a new job, she reworked her doctoral thesis into a manuscript, which she titled Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. In 1984, she was hired to teach humanities at the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts (later the University of Arts).

She continued to seek a publisher for her book, which was rejected by eight publishing houses and five agents, before finding a positive reception at Yale University Press in 1990. Even then, the book received little notice beyond academic reviews until it was nominated for a National Book Award and released in paper by Vintage Press in 1991, when it became a surprise best-seller.

Sexual Personae launched Paglia into a new career as a social critic and pundit. The book is an ambitious survey of Western literature, art, and culture through the lens of Paglia's belief in biological determinism, the influence of paganism, and the value of popular culture.

While many readers found Sexual Personae stimulating and refreshing, many others were deeply angered at what they considered to be Paglia's dogmatically reactionary assertions, such as, "If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts."

Despite its statements of deliberate provocation, the book also reveals Paglia as a formidable intellect and a literary critic of unusual insight. As is inevitable for a work of such scope, Sexual Personae is uneven, some chapters more convincing than others. But some of them, such as her discussions of Renaissance poet Edmund Spenser and nineteenth-century American literature, are stunning in their penetration.

    page: 1  2   next page>  
 
zoom in
Camille Paglia. Photograph by Misa Martin.
  
 interact  
   
Contact Us
 
Join the Discussion
 
 find 
   
Related Entries
 
More Entries by this contributor
 
A Bibliography on this Topic

 
Citation Information
 
More Entries about Social Sciences
 
   
spacer
Popular Topics:

Literature

 
Michelangelo Buonarroti
Michelangelo Buonarroti


Byron, George Gordon, Lord
Byron, George Gordon, Lord


Modern Drama
Modern Drama


Camp
Camp


Selvadurai, Shyam


Musical Theater


African-American Literature: Gay Male
African-American Literature: Gay Male


Philippine Literature


St. Sebastian
St. Sebastian


Japanese Literature
Japanese Literature

 
 


 

 

This Entry Copyright © 2007 glbtq, Inc.

www.glbtq.com is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.