Camille Paglia’s Second Wave – The American Conservative

The internet was abuzz with the name Camille Paglia when two characters from the recent popular HBO series The White Lotus appeared poolside reading a copy of her seminal 1990 tome Sexual people. It was just one of many recent examples of the dissident feminist writer and provocateur’s resurgence in popularity among millennials and older Zoomers, long after her first wave of notoriety in the early ’90s.

When the book was completed in 1980, after nearly twenty years of painstaking research and refinement, Camille Paglia said she did not expect it to be acclaimed before her death. Bearing in mind other writers like Emily Dickinson whose writings gained readers posthumously, she did not find herself in despair when she was rejected consecutively by seven publishers. Paglia likened his commitment to scholarship for his own good to that of medieval monks, eschewing the careerism of scholars whose goal is to achieve mass readership and rise through the academic ranks. In his eyes, a true scholar is much like a prophet: he will not be fully understood or appreciated for generations.

When Sexual people was later published in 1990 by Yale University Press, Paglia’s career skyrocketed almost overnight. Although she was castigated by establishment feminists, her work and public persona were well received by those whose views on art, pop culture and gender were deemed politically incorrect.

Paglia’s media presence has dwindled in recent years to rare appearances advertising his latest collection of essays, Provocation (published in 2018). Some questioned whether her career had come to an end when some of her students at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia attempted to ‘cancel’ her in April 2019. The petition demanded that she be removed from her post. in the light of its “triggering”. comments about transgender and sexual assault, and being replaced by a queer woman of color. But university president David Yager refused to appease the students, citing how “artists over the centuries have faced censorship, and even persecution, for the expression of their beliefs through their work”.

Despite its disappearance from the public spotlight, Paglia’s work resurfaces, spokesperson for a new “voiceless” generation. Like his first wave of popularity in 1990, his commitment to the importance of metaphysics, aesthetics, a broad view of history, and sexual dimorphism, as well as his critique of poststructuralist theory and political correctness, fill a gaping void in academia and mass media – a void that has only deepened over the past thirty years, proving his work even more prophetic than when it first emerged. .

This new generation of enthusiasts discovered it through various points of sale. Some through a nearly two-hour interview with Dr. Jordan Peterson in which the two engage in a lively discussion of Freudian psychoanalysis, Jungian archetypes, and the hegemony of poststructuralism in academia. Others found her through an adorable profile in city ​​newspaper written in 2019 by journalist Emily Esfahani Smith, who pointed out that “the world may be less enchanted than it was when Paglia was a child, but she is still in awe of it. His life’s work has been to share this message with others.

She rose to popularity among gay millennial men thanks in part to Milo Yiannopoulos, who some refer to as the male version of Paglia. Yiannopoulos praises Paglia’s “pre-Stonewall” understanding of homosexuality as an attempt to transgress the status quo, thus challenging the naïve assertion that homosexuality is a neutral form of sexual expression on par with gender. heterosexuality.

Paglia has also amassed fans thanks to the hosts of the scared red podcast. Dasha Nekrasova and Anna Khachiyan, both born in the USSR, have made a name for themselves for their ironic takes on “libfem” girlbosses, the performative sincerity of social justice warriors, and the extent to which “revivalism” is a projection of psychological, aesthetic and spiritual decadence. They frequently cite Paglia when castigating the fragility of WASPish middle-class feminists, drawing popular lines of Free women, free men and Sexual people like, “if civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass shacks”, and “there is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper “.

She’s been an inspiration to other millennial podcasters, including Perfume Nationalist, Evil Thespian and Contra Gentiles, and is the subject of Instagram meme pages like @camillepagliaquotes, who post short takes daily. and succincts of Paglian. The page’s admin (who prefers to remain anonymous) attributes Paglia’s rise in popularity to “it offers an antidote to the outdated jargon and stagnant ideology of the social justice movement. Paglia represents individuality, dissent, passion, humor, wit, love of art, interest in history and appetite for learning. By contrast, in year zero, the Left’s collectivist mentality for social justice is a dead end.

The “Madonna of academe” is not without its millennial detractors. In his latest book Boomers: the men and women who promised freedom and brought disaster, The American Conservative Editor Helen Andrews offers a critique of what she sees as Paglia’s contradictions. Andrews insists that ‘Paglia, of all people’, as a proponent of supposedly decadent, ‘sex-positive’ amoral feminism, ‘should have known that this escalation of license would not stop in a balance happy”. The rampage of pornography, abortion, prostitution, and homosexuality, and the proliferation of entertainment and mass media—which Paglia claims to ardently support—have only served to weaken academic integrity. and democratic principles like freedom of speech, which Paglia has dedicated his career to defending. But even in her censorship of Paglia, Andrews still acknowledges her genius, saying she is more of a critic and writer than most of her contemporaries.

A feminist who believes biology should be the foundation of gender studies, a self-identified transgender who thinks prescribing puberty blockers to children is ‘criminal’, a pro-choice Democrat who thinks abortion is murder and an atheist pagan who believes comparative religion should form the basis of a multicultural agenda, Paglia’s paradoxical sensibilities did not sit well with the simplistic orthodoxies crafted by culture warriors during her first wave of popularity, let alone today.

So does his new legion of fans, who find themselves increasingly suffocated by the lack of nuance and intellectual integrity in today’s mainstream discourse. Although Paglia’s age and cultural background may prevent him from fully grasping the many facets of the issues facing young people today, his loyalty to reality rather than ideology sets an iconoclastic example. for people of all cultural and political persuasions to navigate their way through murky cognitive dissonance. in our time.

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