The Catholic Pagan: 10 Questions for Camille Paglia

Frankly, I have little to add here, except that Camille Paglia is one of my favorite authors, not because I agree with her, I often disagree almost violently with her. But she is ruthlessly, inexorably honest, in her beliefs and in why she believes such. In fact, my first exposure to her was in a Playboy interview in the late 80s or early 90s (yes I did read the articles, although not always first, that was the joke page):)

I simply admire her, for above saying what she mean clearly, well, and honestly, no matter who gets caught in the crossfire. The world would be a better place if more of us did so.

Camille Paglia is an American cultural critic who serves as the University Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she has taught since 1984. She received her B.A. from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1968 and her M.Phil and Ph.D degrees from Yale University in 1971 and 1974, respectively.

Her six books are Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990); Sex, Art, and American Culture (1992); Vamps & Tramps: New Essays (1994); The Birds, a study of Alfred Hitchcock published in 1998 by the British Film Institute in its Film Classics Series; Break, Blow, Burn:  Camille Paglia Reads Forty-Three of the World’s Best Poems (2005), and Glittering Images: A Journey through Art from Egypt to Star Wars (2012). Her third essay collection is currently under contract to Pantheon Books.

Professor Paglia was a co-founding contributor and columnist for Salon.com, beginning with its debut issue in 1995.  She has written numerous articles on art, literature, popular culture, feminism, politics, and religion for publications around the world—most recently includingTIME and the Sunday Times of London. Her essay, “Theater of Gender:  David Bowie at the Climax of the Sexual Revolution,” was commissioned by the Victoria & Albert Museum for the catalog of its major exhibit of Bowie costumes, which opened in London in 2013 and is currently touring internationally.

Although raised Catholic in an Italian-American family, Professor Paglia left Catholicism in her youth and embraced the sexual revolution. Nevertheless, she still cites Italian Catholicism as the strongest influence on her personal identity. On Feb. 22, I conducted the following email interview with Professor Paglia about her secular work and its Catholic influences.

You’ve been teaching at University of the Arts since 1984. What do you love most about your job?

There is no doubt that my commitment to the vocation of teaching is part of my Catholic heritage. I view classroom teaching as a discipline and duty, a responsibility to convey the legacy of the past to the next generation. As I strictly monitor attendance and enforce order, I sometimes ruefully feel like a teaching nun from the over-regulated era of my upstate New York youth! I have a powerful sense of the descent of modern education from the medieval monasteries and cathedrals, whose Gothic architecture has been imitated on so many college campuses here and abroad. My faith in that nurturing continuity is certainly diametrically opposed to the cynically subversive approach of today’s postmodernist theorists, who see history as a false or repressive narrative operating on disconnected fragments.

Despite your teaching schedule, you’ve found time to speak and write a great deal, including your last book in 2012. What’s your next big project?

For the past five years, I have been researching Paleo-Indian culture of Northeastern America at the end of the Ice Age, as the glaciers withdrew. I am particularly interested in Neolithic religion, which was focused on elemental nature, a persistent theme in my work. I have been studying Native American tribal history and doing surface collecting of small stone artifacts. Professional archaeologists and anthropologists have tended to gravitate toward Indian lifestyle issues like kinship patterns, governance, hunting strategies, food preparation and fabrication of tools, clothing, and shelter. I have found surprisingly few attempts to approach Native American culture from the perspective of world art and world religion. There is a puzzling gap in the record, and I hope to be able to make a contribution. However, this challenging project will be long in the making. In the meantime, I am preparing for my third essay collection, which is under contract to Pantheon Books.

Identifying yourself as a “dissident feminist,” you often seem more at home with classical Greek and Roman paganism than with postmodern academia. How has this reality affected your public and professional relationships?

I feel lucky to have taught primarily at art schools, where the faculty are active practitioners of the arts and crafts. I have very little contact with American academics, who are pitifully trapped in a sterile career system that has become paralyzed by political correctness. University faculties nationwide have lost power to an ever-expanding bureaucracy of administrators, whose primary concern is the institution’s contractual relationship with tuition-paying parents. You can cut the demoralized faculty atmosphere with a knife when you step foot on any elite campus. With a few stellar exceptions, the only substantive discourse that I ever have these days is with academics, intellectuals, and journalists abroad.

In your view, what’s wrong with American feminism today, and what can it do to improve?

After the great victory won by my insurgent, pro-sex, pro-fashion wing of feminism in the 1990s, American and British feminism has amazingly collapsed backward again into whining, narcissistic victimology.

Read the whole article, The Catholic Pagan: 10 Questions for Camille Paglia | America Magazine. it’s all this good.

H/T to somebody on Twitter, sorry I forgot who, though. 😦

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7 Responses to The Catholic Pagan: 10 Questions for Camille Paglia

  1. Talk about eclecticism, and is she not a postmodern atheist? I thought I heard her say this once? Besides her “dissident” feminism. But yes surely a brilliant mind, which thankfully I don’t have. But she is a true radical, and we do need them sometimes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Yep, a Lesbian as well, I think. But yes she thinks, and speaks, very clearly, and reasonably.

      Like

      • Yes I knew about her sexuality, at least below the surface. Oscar Wilde is one of her favorites to read and quote.

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Yep, I noted that as well, still not a bad source at that.

          Like

        • Btw, I am not as friendly to reading her as you, but then I bet ya knew that? 😉 She is one of the biggest postmodernists we have! And of course I don’t see either modernity or postmodernity friendly ground for the absolutes of Judeo-Christianity! This is surely why “Francis” is trouble for Traditional Catholicism! Of course in my opinion.

          Like

        • NEO says:

          Yeah, I knew that, you’ll note that I note I disagree with her a lot, I just like that she puts it out there fairly and honestly, so I can figure out what I’m fighting. 🙂

          Like

        • Yes, I get you! YOU are more brave than I! 😉

          Liked by 1 person

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