Monday, April 2, 2012

Happy Birthday, Camille Paglia

Today is the birthday of Camille Paglia, who has been called a feminist, an anti-feminist, and all sorts of names in between.  For those of us who were in grad school in the 90's, we were in awe of any scholarly work which became a bestseller, like Paglia's Sexual Personnae.

Of course, if I had transformed my dissertation on domestic violence in the Gothic into a larger book and given it a sexy title, maybe I'd have had similar success.  I will always wonder if I should have done more to turn my dissertation into a book.  I had a good idea:  I looked at the realistic way that domestic violence of all sorts was presented in a genre, the Gothic, famous for its unbelievability, and I explored what those writers might be saying, in a code of sorts.  But to turn my dissertation into a book, I'd have had to have written at least another 200 pages, and I didn't feel like I had that much more to say.

But I digress.

I have vague memories of Paglia in the 90's.  I have vague memories of being both infuriated and intrigued by things she would say, but I can't remember anything specifically.

Now, I have a fondness for those times and for my younger self.  Now our collective attention spans seem so short that it's impossible to imagine that we would have an ongoing public argument/discussion about how feminists are aging (Paglia attacked Germaine Greer) or about icons like Simone de Beauvoir.  I vaguely recall feminists of all ages weighing in on comments that Paglia would make--and they'd all get air time.

Hard to imagine that happening now.  Or maybe I'm just not as plugged in, so I don't see it.

I've always appreciated that Paglia comes back to poetry and literary criticism.  She's always been an ardent supporter.  She's been a cheerleader, of sorts, especially of poets from past centuries.  She likely could have made more money from more inflammatory subjects, but she gives poetry a platform.

Paglia was born in 1947, so she's still got time left for important work--ah, the joy of being a writer, as opposed to a ballerina, whose best years are done by one's 20's.  It will be interesting to see where she goes next.

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