Sexual Personae

Sexual Personae

Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson

Book - 1991
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Here is the fiery, provocative, and unparalleled work of feminist art criticism that launched Camille Paglia's exceptional career as one of our most important public intellectuals. Is Emily Dickinson "the female Sade"? Is Donatello's David a bit of pedophile pornography? What is the secret kinship between Byron and Elvis Presley, between Medusa and Madonna? How do liberals and feminists--as well as conservatives--fatally misread human nature? This audacious and omnivorously learned work of guerrilla scholarship offers nothing less than a unified-field theory of Western culture, high and low, since Egyptians invented beauty--making a persuasive case for all art as a pagan battleground between male and female, form and chaos, civilization and daemonic nature.

47 photographs.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 1991.
Edition: 1st Vintage Books ed.
ISBN: 9780679735793
0679735798
Branch Call Number: 809.03/PAGLIA
Characteristics: xiv, 718 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.

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lukasevansherman
Jul 30, 2016

This book made a splash when it come out in the early 90s, but, with hindsight, it feels less impressive than idiosyncratic and shallow, despite Paglia's intelligence and erudition. She embraces a contrarian and contentious philosophy of aesthetics and literature and, like many critics, she bends everything to fit her vision and ideas. Coming in near 700 pages (with illustrations), it's a book that doesn't so much win you over with the strength of its arguments and logic as exhaust you with its length and densely packed pages. Her flaw as a thinker is that she quickly dismisses other lines of thought or authors she doesn't like in favor of her own, as well as her anti-feminist (something she shares with mentor Harold Bloom) stance. And what to make of a sentence like "Capitalism is an art work." It's not a political work, but there are some disturbingly reactionary elements. On the plus side, you'll learn what "chthonic" means.

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