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Author Topic: Paglia, Poems and Politics
Brett Mann
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posted 31 March 2005 07:45 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Since a couple of other threads have drifted in Paglia's direction, and because I think she has a lot to say, here's a thread to discuss her and her work. InthisNYT review, we can get a taste of Paglia's passion for poetry and her crusade to share classic literature with the younger generations.

A sampling of the review :

"But the most threatening thing about her, from the American viewpoint, is that she refuses to treat the arts as an instrument of civil rights. Without talent, no entitlement. She has the powers of discrimination to show what talent is -- powers that add up to a talent in themselves. A critical scope that can trace the intensity uniting different artistic fields is not unprecedented in America, but she is an unusually well-equipped exponent of it. Making a solid attempt to pin down the sliding meanings of Wallace Stevens's little poem ''Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock,'' she brings in exactly the right comparison: a piano piece by Erik Satie. She compares the poem's ''red weather'' with a Gauguin seascape: right again. These comparisons help to define the Post-Impressionist impulse from which all the verbal music of Stevens's ''Man With the Blue Guitar'' emerged, while incidentally reminding us that Paglia, before she made this bid on behalf of poetry, did the same for painting, and with the same treasury of knowledge to back up her endeavor. But above all, her range of allusion helps to show what was in Stevens's head: the concentration of multiple sensitivities that propelled his seeming facility. ''Under enchantment by imagination, space and time expand, melt and cease to exist.'' Nobody has a right to a creative mind like his. It's a gift."

Well, life isn't fair. But we have to try to be. Life isn't egalitarian, although we struggle to make it so. Paglia reminds us of the hierarchical nature of humanity and history and that art serves a higher master than social justice.

Brett


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jeff house
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posted 31 March 2005 10:54 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Paglia reminds us of the hierarchical nature of humanity and history and that art serves a higher master than social justice.

Social injustice.


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Cueball
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posted 01 April 2005 06:17 AM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yes, really. Do you mean to say that Paglia is saying that art should not be informed by political content, or just not left egalitarian social justice politics. Is facist content ok in art?

If Paglia is simply rejecting the use of art by left egalitarians, then it would seem that Paglia is trying to enforce her own politcal bias in art. Tell me she is not that bad a philospher.

I haven't read a lot of her, though I was very found of her cameo in the movie Henry Fool, but I had come to expect, based on reputation, a formidable intelligence. I thought I would disagree, but be challenged at least.

It one thing to reject politcs in art on philosophical grounds, quite another to exclude one specific faction. Please tell that she is not saying that art can only serve her own political agenda or the politics of inequality?

Lena Riefenstahl is AOK, Eisenstein is out. Pour qua?

That's it? That is the whole thing? Stalanism turned on its head?

[ 01 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


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skdadl
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posted 01 April 2005 07:01 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I didn't read the review quite that way, and I would also note that Clive James is a relatively old-fashioned BritCrit with his own drum to beat.

But from what he says (and certainly from Paglia's table of contents), what she has done here is to try to resurrect old-fashioned study of "the canon," or at least a canon (a pretty idiosyncratic one to me, and obviously very slanted towards the Americans in the C20).

I'm actually not opposed to doing this, especially for arriving undergraduates or for people who've just never met literary history before. Back in my day , all first-year students in every faculty (including the engineers and business guys) had to do an introductory English course (ours were called survey courses) that bounced everyone over the mountaintops of (mainly) poetry and short prose, from Chaucer to Dylan Thomas, just to give everyone a sense of the historical framework.

What has intervened, of course, since the late sixties has been major challenges to the canon (almost all DWEMs) and to the very notion of canonization in literature or art generally.

Now, Paglia started to make her name in the first place by challenging the challengers, many of the more intensely academic of whom are indeed easy to mock if you talk in soundbites, which she often has. In some ways her critique of the upheaval in literary studies has been coarse, as was her attack on feminism; but in some ways I think her defence of canonical study has value.

I personally don't see how one can simply pretend that the questioning of the canon never happened, nor that it wasn't a Good Thing. But I also think that it is a Generous Thing to give students a framework, however contingent and open to question, from which to begin to fill in literary history for themselves. If I were teaching a survey course now, I would make the questioning of the canon part of the course, but I would still want to give students as many of the raw materials to start work with as possible.

Beyond that, it sounds from James's review that Paglia's approach to poetry is fairly standard "New Criticism" (= "close reading"), the techniques that developed in Britain from the early twenties on and in the U.S. from the early forties. Again, I have no objection to teaching close reading as a technique; but it is true that its theoretical assumptions were increasingly modernist, formalist, and often at least ahistorical if not anti-historical. Those assumptions produced a lot of great art and great criticism both, but they are of a period themselves now.

James himself talks about the problems Paglia causes herself by playing pundit. When I say she sounds coarse, that's what I mean. I also think that that ego-driven need of hers has blinded her to learning much from many of the people she has mocked.

And it sounds as though her list of C20 poets (only Brit = Yeats!) is impossibly quirky. If I were sneaking Americans into a survey course about the development of English literature, it wouldn't mainly be C20 poets I'd be introducing, and I certainly wouldn't be cutting Eliot, Auden, Thomas, Larkin, Walcott, and Heaney, eg, in their favour (although, as James notes, those may present permissions problems -- there must be ways around those).

Anyway, a start. Ok, looney?


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jeff house
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posted 01 April 2005 11:00 AM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
"Close reading" sounds good as a slogan, and in fact actual close reading does provide many a surprise. No one favours "sloppy reading", of course.

My previous experience with Paglia suggests to me that she often imposes her own concerns on her interpretations. That is, we get more Paglia and less John Donne than we might expect.

Still, I might just buy her book. Someone getting excited about poetry appeals to my Anna Akhmatova side.


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Brett Mann
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posted 01 April 2005 12:14 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well, good responses all. Especially yours, Skdadl - I started this thread to help clarify some of my own feelings and views of Paglia, and I can see it's helping. Regarding political content informing art, I think Paglia's response would be that true art transcends political goals. Having said this, I think her position would be not to judge art of any kind on the a-priori basis of its political import. Unfortunately for those of us on the left, some great artists have been fascistically inclined (the only really good example I can think of now is Salvador Dali.)

Regarding "rescuing the canon" of traditional literature, I would suggest that before this canon can be fairly judged and accepted or dismissed, it must first be understood and appreciated. In this sense I do see Paglia as something of a saviour of artistic and literary knowledge. Coarse in her criticism? Yes, at times, but I tend to attribute a good deal of this to the confrontative tone of debate and discussion generally in America over the last number of years. A confessed weakness of of Paglia's is her focus on western culture almost exclusively. And as I've said before, when she stoops to punditry and one-liners, she is often no more gifted than many others. When all the smoke finally clears, I think Paglia will be remembered as the one who saved the baby from being thrown out with the canonical bath water.

Brett


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Cueball
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posted 01 April 2005 03:35 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by looney:
Well, good responses all. Especially yours, Skdadl - I started this thread to help clarify some of my own feelings and views of Paglia, and I can see it's helping. Regarding political content informing art, I think Paglia's response would be that true art transcends political goals. Having said this, I think her position would be not to judge art of any kind on the a-priori basis of its political import. Unfortunately for those of us on the left, some great artists have been fascistically inclined (the only really good example I can think of now is Salvador Dali.)


You mentioned "social justice" and the NYT review says that: "she refuses to treat the arts as an instrument of civil rights."

Art should serve the purposes of the artist and the artist's audience. Good art combines technique, sensitivity to subject and knowledge, and combines those apsects in a creation that succesfully captures what the artist feels, in a form that the audience understands.

An artist has no reason not to approach politcal themes in their art, as politics is just as much a part life as "death" -- an excelent subject for art. If those approaches then go on to serve the purposes, such as the cause of civil rights, then so be it, even better if that is what the artist intended.

Certainly there is a lot garbage "politcal" art, but there are probably more bad murals of Agean coastlines painted on the walls of Greek restaurants.

[ 01 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


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Brett Mann
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posted 01 April 2005 04:39 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yeah, I agree completely Cueball. Politics is a perfectly legitimate (necessary?) subject for art. Some of the very best art has an explicity political theme -Guernicaby Picasso, for instance. I've had a chance to think about this a bit today, and I've come up with a formula something like this - the reason art serves a higher master than politics, even the best politics, is that political reality is group reality, while the truest truths about our lives are always found at the individual level. This is the level that true art addresses.

A 'signature" I saw recently quotes Neitze as saying that insanity is a fairly rare condition among individuals, while among groups, organizations, epochs and institutions it is the rule. Ultimately we can only trust our personal individual experience to guide us, and this is the province of art. And more than just describing this individual reality, art helps shape it. Was it Yeats who said poets are the unacknowledged legislators of reality? The transcendent importance of individual reality over group realities is one of Doris Lessings central themes, and most important messages. Anyway, that's why art trumps politics, I think.

Getting back to Paglia, I'm looking at an interview in Salon from 2003, before the Iraq invasion. Some snippets -

"Well, first of all, I'm on the record as being pro-military and in insisting that military matters and international affairs were neglected throughout the period of the Clinton administration --"

This tells me she is deeply misinformed about the central issue facing humanity- the avoidance of nuclear war. Even if every other opinion she has is brilliant, she is utterly uninformed and asleep at the switch on this one.

"As we speak, I have a terrible sense of foreboding, because last weekend a stunning omen occurred in this country. Anyone who thinks symbolically had to be shocked by the explosion of the Columbia shuttle, disintegrating in the air and strewing its parts and human remains over Texas -- the president's home state! So many times in antiquity, the emperors of Persia or other proud empires went to the oracles to ask for advice about going to war. Roman generals summoned soothsayers to read the entrails before a battle. If there was ever a sign for a president and his administration to rethink what they're doing, this was it."

Note the "symbolic thinking". This is dangerously close to what is known as "magical thinking" - a form of superstitious, primitive and sometimes demented reasoning. But guess what? Artists get to talk this way, because they are dealing, by definition, with realities which expand beyond our rational, linear, logical knowledge.

"What privileges American over Iraqi lives? Why does the chance of American casualties through random terrorism outweigh the certain reality of Iraqi devastation in a crushing invasion?"

Once again, Paglia cuts through to the core of the matter, and that's why I continue to find her interesting. Her point may seem banal by Canadian standards. By the standards of discourse in the mainstream American media, it is nothing short of revolutionary. And brave.

Brett


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Cueball
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posted 01 April 2005 05:54 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Yeah, I agree completely Cueball. Politics is a perfectly legitimate (necessary?) subject for art. Some of the very best art has an explicity political theme -Guernicaby Picasso, for instance. I've had a chance to think about this a bit today, and I've come up with a formula something like this - the reason art serves a higher master than politics, even the best politics, is that political reality is group reality, while the truest truths about our lives are always found at the individual level. This is the level that true art addresses.

Really? I think it is a commonly held misconception or the reigning capitalist ideology that people are solely seperate indivduals. Human beings are social animals, and while I would reject the idea that they are solely social animals I would reject also that they are primarily indivduals, seperate from their social context.

Even in its creation most art exists in a social context where there is an artist and an audience. Guerinca loses its meaning locked in a vault. Most art is about the indiduals relationship to the community, and very little is just purely about the indivdual truth. In fact most art that is purely about the indidual is usually passed over by the rest of us a self-indulgent. Most art is about the indiduals relationship to their social context.

As well, Art usually serves the community, is commissioned and is bought and sold in a social context. I don't see how art can escape its social relevance including its political value.

If this were not the case there would be no need for Paglia to write books and give interviews.

[ 01 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


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faith
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posted 01 April 2005 07:28 PM      Profile for faith     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I once saw Paglia in an interview where she stated that only the art (we are speaking of visual art here) that is a product of the establishment is relevant. Art that is 'protest' art , 'socially critical', or critical of the ruling classes is irrelevant because everyone knows that all the 'great' art comes from the church and the aristocracy. After picking my jaw off the floor and having about a half dozen exceptions to her foolish statement pop into my head I had to turn off the interview , I just couldn't watch.
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Brett Mann
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posted 01 April 2005 07:45 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yes, Cueball, art affects the community. But it does so through the individual. Therefore individual experience is the primary, essential, and irreplacable conduit of all awareness. Society and stuff like that are just add-ons. Now to the extent that our individual experience is shaped by our societal surroundings, the situation is reversed, and societal, cultural determinants become paramount. But individuals can live outside of and without society. Society cannot live without individuals.

Skdadl, you said -

"Beyond that, it sounds from James's review that Paglia's approach to poetry is fairly standard "New Criticism" (= "close reading"), the techniques that developed in Britain from the early twenties on and in the U.S. from the early forties. Again, I have no objection to teaching close reading as a technique; but it is true that its theoretical assumptions were increasingly modernist, formalist, and often at least ahistorical if not anti-historical. Those assumptions produced a lot of great art and great criticism both, but they are of a period themselves now."

I'd rather be a neophyte than a poseur. Can you bring me up to speed on "new criticism" and "close reading"?


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Cueball
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posted 02 April 2005 12:04 AM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by looney:
Yes, Cueball, art affects the community. But it does so through the individual. Therefore individual experience is the primary, essential, and irreplacable conduit of all awareness. Society and stuff like that are just add-ons. Now to the extent that our individual experience is shaped by our societal surroundings, the situation is reversed, and societal, cultural determinants become paramount. But individuals can live outside of and without society. Society cannot live without individuals.


You have completely accepted the dynamic of the ruling ideology, one where indivdual and society are in juxtaposition. It is a false dichotomy. Actually they are integerated.

My point was not that art affects the community, which it does, but that the aritst exist in the community, and that society and indivdual are integrated. It is a two way street.

Simple example: A writer writes a book, and editor or publisher asks for revision, writer agrees. Both artist and art are transformed.

Let me ask you this. If you were born without sight, the ability to hear or smell and even the sense of touch, how would you know you exist? You wouldn't know you exist because there would be no sense-response dynamic. Your consciousness would have nothing to test itself against so as to invent itself. In other word the "irreplacable conduit of all awareness," you spoke of would not even be aware of itself.

Human society is a major provider of sense to be responded too in the dynamic that forms the "irreplacable conduit of all awareness." In the social realm individuals are in constant contact with each other and those indivduals make up what we call society, and are constanly engaging in a discourse of mutual interaction and response and changing awareness.

If it wasn't this way, this web site would be meaningless and your question to Skdadl pointless, as her answer would not impact your awareness.

The individual does not stand alone, seperate from society, and nor does the artist -- if it they did then Picasso would have spent his entire life trying to invent paint, rather than painting, or learning from past masters. Milton would have to invent langauge.

People learn and are shaped by society, a society whom even their mother is a part. I am sure your mother would love to know that she is just an "add on" to your personal experience. How can you insist that "individuals can live outside of and without society," when the truth is that indivduals would not even come into existence if it were not for the social activity of fucking?

On the other hand, society can and does live without indivduals, that is why they invented the electric chair.


Cafe Latte anyone? "Close reading" is Hand to hand Combat for pedants.

[ 02 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


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Tommy_Paine
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posted 02 April 2005 06:01 AM      Profile for Tommy_Paine     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by faith:
I once saw Paglia in an interview where she stated that only the art (we are speaking of visual art here) that is a product of the establishment is relevant. Art that is 'protest' art , 'socially critical', or critical of the ruling classes is irrelevant because everyone knows that all the 'great' art comes from the church and the aristocracy. After picking my jaw off the floor and having about a half dozen exceptions to her foolish statement pop into my head I had to turn off the interview , I just couldn't watch.

Paglia used to be a regular contributor to "Salon", where I began reading her. It struck me that she rose to prominance from her verbal skills. Her machine gun delivery is difficult to analize as she gallops from one great whopping idiocy to another, without letting you catch a breath.

In print, she enjoys no such advantage.

She's a looney, she is.


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skdadl
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posted 02 April 2005 08:06 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
looney, I'm not sure I'm up for the full lecture on Anglo-American New Criticism all at once, so I'll just do dribbles for a while, ok?

If you really want to read around in the New Critics, a good place to start is Cleanth Brooks, The Well-Wrought Urn (1947), easily the most readable and practical of the New Critical classics. Each chapter is a reading of a major English poet/poem. There are far fewer than Paglia seems to have done, but the readings are indeed very "close." Every half-decent library should have a copy; it may even still be in print.

You might also try googling New Criticism Brooks Wimsatt Warren, which is bound to lead you to some good essays on the American biggies. (I wouldn't just google "New Criticism," since that could mean anything. The major players will pin down the right sources.)

To me, the best place to get to know the Anglo New Critics (who weren't necessarily called that) is in the great journal Scrutiny, bound copies of which you will have to find in a major public or university library. A great representative of the Scrutiny critics would be Derek Traversi. Read one of Traversi's readings of a Shakespeare play, eg, and by the end you will at least have the play down by heart.

Formalist approaches to literature really got going in English universities with F.R. Leavis (if before him in poetry itself by Pound and Eliot). Leavis was immensely opinionated and irritating and overbearing, but he is an immovable object in English studies and every student should at least take a dip in the old rascal. (His wife Queenie is another matter.)

I'll come back to summarize some of the prejudices of that kind of formalist reading. In my view, it works perfectly on Romantic poetry for the pretty good reason that it runs on Romantic notions of form itself, of the complete, enclosed, perfectly self-referential whole. It also worked pretty well on Renaissance poetry because much Renaissance poetry can be made to look more Romantic than it is, so that's how the New Critics made it look. It is a disastrous way to read, eg, C18 lit, although see Brooks's interesting experiment with Pope's "Rape of the Lock" in Urn. Brooks has to do major damage to the poem (as in leave a lot of it out) to make it do what he enjoys, but he does.

Anyway, enough for now.


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Tommy_Paine
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posted 02 April 2005 08:28 AM      Profile for Tommy_Paine     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Am I being too philistinianly dissmisive of Paglia?

Maybe. I tend to think that Paglia's ad hominem attack on Rosie O'Donnel, taking on her physical appearance instead of critiquing her politics doesn't predispose me to taking her very seriously.


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skdadl
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posted 02 April 2005 08:34 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Oh, Tommy, she bothers me in person too, the few times I've watched her.

Coyote came up with a wonderful simile about someone else the other day, told him he sounded like "a chihuahua on his third espresso" -- and I thought of that immediately when people started talking about Paglia. I mean, it just seems impossible to me for anyone else to have a conversation with her; she's all free association and rapid-fire showing off -- she transmits but she does not receive.

She may be interested in both feminism and literature, but from all I've seen, she has a distinctly conservative take on both, when you can winkle it out from all the extra verbal fireworks.


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Tommy_Paine
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posted 02 April 2005 08:43 AM      Profile for Tommy_Paine     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I don't have a problem with her conservative take on things. That's always arguable, and I can respect a well argued conservative position.

I just wonder how someone like her gets to prominence when a factory schlub like me can read an article by her and see numerous fallacious arguments, be they straw man, ad hominem etc.

Makes you wonder what goes on in academia, even if I probably can't spell it.


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bittersweet
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posted 02 April 2005 10:18 AM      Profile for bittersweet     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by looney: Was it Yeats who said poets are the unacknowledged legislators of reality?
It was Shelley. Unpredictably, I was absolutely nuts about Shelley when I first encountered him in my brief post-secondary education. This is how I remember the context of his "legislators" comment:

He wrote that the Romantic poets had failed to become "the unacknowledged legislators of the world" because they'd ended up worshipping/codifying their own metaphors. His idea was that the endless creation of new metaphors was the vital way we continually shape our understanding. Poets, like children at play, recreate the world through metaphors which correspond to their impressions of it. Imagination isn't independent of reason, but serves to offer a constant flow of new metaphors for reason to reconcile. He saw danger in the tendency to formalize these metaphors ("fictions") into petrified metaphysical systems--a trap he felt the Romantic poets had fallen into (and also Christianity). Since the imagination ceaslessly transforms and enlivens, if you get rid of the poets (the desire of Plato and other dictatorial personalities)--or if the poets get stuck worshipping their own canon--you lose that progressive, transforming impetus and create tyranny. Thus, the imagination is essentially revolutionary. Shelley felt that didactic poetry puts the cart before the horse: poets are the unacknowledged legislators because they first intuit from the world fictions which are then modified by reason, and upon this vital, continually redemptive process is civilization built.

I wonder what Paglia thinks of Shelley.


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skdadl
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posted 02 April 2005 10:25 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Shelley is apparently one of the poets she reads in her new book -- James mentions only a reading of "Ozymandias," but she may discuss more.
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Brett Mann
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posted 03 April 2005 09:59 AM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Sorry for the slight hiatus folks - computer problems yesterday. Also yesterday (April 2) the Globe and Mail book review section ran a review of Paglia's new work on poetry Break, Blow, Burn by Rex Murphy, of all people. Now Rex grates on me badly, and I'm increasingly finding him to be a verbose shill for an indefensible establishment, and I wouldn't mind if he were transfered to the meteorlogical division of CBC to read weather reports, but this review isn't bad. He's at his best discussing literature, I guess. The review is here.

Skdadl - thanks for the sources and explication. I think - . It looks like I've been given enough reading references to occupy all the rest of my born days. I will particularly seek out "The Well-Wrought Urn" since you describe it as "for the most part readable" and because it was published in 1947. (digression - I'm coming to find delight in reading books from that era (or any earlier era) which are as relevant today as when they were written. Primitive Christianity by Rudolph Bultman, Meridian 1956,is a good example which I'm currently reading.)

I wonder if Murphy is capturing the essence of close reading with this ? -

"Until very recently, from Samuel Johnson to the advent of modern politico-criticism, this has always been the approach to poetry. Bring as much real information -- lexical, historical, biographical -- to bear on a poem as one can, compare other readings, exercise one's taste and judgment, and allow -- over time and after several readings -- the poem to "settle." It was such a sensible recipe that, naturally, in an exquisite academic age, it had to go. Blow, Break, Burn is an attempt to bring it back."

Returning to the chicken and egg problem of society and the individual, of course they are inextricably bound together and mutually influencing. But not in some regards. We are borne alone. We die alone. We face God's judgement for our individual lives, I think, not as members of this or that group, tribe, nationality or party but alone. The real question facing us perhaps is how and whether to apportion value and primacy to individual experience. And in this regard, I am coming to believe that group thinking and decision making is always inferior to individual thinking in some important ways. When we think together as a group, there is always the danger that the group process will serve to limit the number of available options, at the same time that it opens others. Simply put, groups are stupider than individuals. Another reason why the best art must always focus on the individual and reflect primary human experience with an absolute minimum of influence from cultural filters and preconceptions. There is something in the individual human being, all human beings, which is eternal, I believe. Cultures, societies, nations and civilizations do not enjoy this immortality.

Brett


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skdadl
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posted 03 April 2005 10:24 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
looney, I (predictably) did not like Rex's review at all, and the paragraph you've just quoted is to me such good evidence of his fakery that I have to requote it here:

quote:
"Until very recently, from Samuel Johnson to the advent of modern politico-criticism, this has always been the approach to poetry. Bring as much real information -- lexical, historical, biographical -- to bear on a poem as one can, compare other readings, exercise one's taste and judgment, and allow -- over time and after several readings -- the poem to "settle." It was such a sensible recipe that, naturally, in an exquisite academic age, it had to go. Blow, Break, Burn is an attempt to bring it back."

Now, that is precisely what the New Criticism and what they called "close reading" was NOT.

From the late C19 on, in literature and art themselves first and then in criticism, the whole point of formalism was to rebel against drawing in "the lexical, historical, biographical." That rebellion happened at different times in different places; interestingly, probably the last refuges of the traditional classical, historicist approach to literary history and criticism were Germany and France, which helps to explain May 1968.

The Anglo-American New Critics famously attempted to exclude more and more from the analysis of the text -- author's bio, historical context, increasingly everything except purely literary allusions to other literary texts. That became the theoretical basis of their work: it developed especially in a series of essays on what New Critics considered the various sentimental "fallacies" of reading -- the intentional fallacy, the biographical fallacy, the sympathetic fallacy, etc etc etc.

Some of those essays are important to read and think through, I would say especially "How Many Children Had Lady Macbeth?" by L.C. Knights (in
Scrutiny [1933]) and "The Intentional Fallacy" by William K. Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley (in their book The Verbal Icon [1954]).

Knights taught us all to remember that the characters in a play or a story are part of a single text written by one writer, not people with independent lives outside the text. Wimsatt argued powerfully against the significance of any author's "intention," partly because we -- and s/he -- may never know what that was anyway.

I don't think anyone any more would argue those views in as uncomplicated a way as they did then, but that perspective is still part of the discipline of learning to read more closely, I believe.

[ 03 April 2005: Message edited by: skdadl ]


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Brett Mann
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posted 03 April 2005 11:02 AM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Thanks for the clarification, Skdadl. And note that it was I who made the connection between close reading and Rex's description of criticism, not him.
I stand better informed, and begin to remember that Paglia had something to say about this form of literary criticism which deliberately excludes the express intentions of the artist. Let me do a little reading and get back to you.

Brett


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skdadl
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posted 03 April 2005 11:18 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well, but looney, Rex did imply that criticism had always been one sort of thing (HIS sort of thing), from Dr Johnson until very recently, which is both wrong and, I suspect more importantly, crooked politics on his part.

If Rex had ever bothered to read Northrop Frye, eg, he would know that criticism has a history every bit as much as literature itself does, major periods, different modes, and so on. But Rex doesn't care to have his prejudices interrupted by the facts. He'd rather make cheap jokes about, in that review, academics (which?), or critics with "politics" (he hasn't?).

By the way, in writing too much too fast above, I have probably oversimplified the story of the academy here in the mid-C20. There always have been, of course, careful textual scholars and historians and bibliographers and biographers in literature departments. What I was describing was the critical orthodoxy that was taught to undergraduates at least until the end of the 1960s, and to some degree is still part of the training, although life got more complicated with the post-formalists, the New Historians, etc.


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skdadl
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posted 03 April 2005 11:24 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
And a PS: Rex refers to Harold Bloom in that review as a "mentor" of Paglia's. Aha. That explains a lot.

Bloom's background was certainly American New Criticism, although he then struggled with postmodernism for a time and then reacted against it. In my view, he now just does the grandiose.

His readings can be valuable, but they can also be very silly. Like Rex, he seems most interested in slapping Greatness labels on the Right People.

I guess.


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Brett Mann
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posted 03 April 2005 03:53 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Skdadl, watching you take Rex Murphy apart with a scalpal has justified starting this thread in itself. Please feel encouraged to continue if you are so moved. He is a smarmy man who can stand some "de-construction."

I need to clarify a bit. You originally wrote "Beyond that, it sounds from James's review that Paglia's approach to poetry is fairly standard "New Criticism" (= "close reading"), "...

Now Murphy is saying that Paglia approaches these poems from a "lexical, historical, biographical" form of criticism which you say is in fact antithetical to real "new criticism." I'm agreed that his superficial view of criticism is typical of his intellectual rigour, but who's right on this one? Murphy or James? I guess we'd both have to read

Break, Blow, Burn . At which point I will defer to you to explain where Paglia's mode of analysis fits academically. My head is swimming with literary theories and categories I only dimmly remember encountering, and just to complicate things more, I want to examine the underlying role of structuralist, deconstructionist, post-modern systems of philosphy in shaping the academic changes Paglia is rebelling against. If I was over my head before, now I'm looking up from the bottom of the pool. I have only a passing familiarity with these philosophers - Derrida and the rest, but what I understand of their ideas I have grave misgivings about.

Bittersweet, thanks. You make me want to read/re-read Shelley. I'll start with Paglia's take on Ozymandias.

[ 03 April 2005: Message edited by: looney ]


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Cueball
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posted 03 April 2005 06:48 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by looney:
Returning to the chicken and egg problem of society and the individual, of course they are inextricably bound together and mutually influencing. But not in some regards. We are borne alone. We die alone. We face God's judgement for our individual lives, I think, not as members of this or that group, tribe, nationality or party but alone. The real question facing us perhaps is how and whether to apportion value and primacy to individual experience. And in this regard, I am coming to believe that group thinking and decision making is always inferior to individual thinking in some important ways. When we think together as a group, there is always the danger that the group process will serve to limit the number of available options, at the same time that it opens others. Simply put, groups are stupider than individuals. Another reason why the best art must always focus on the individual and reflect primary human experience with an absolute minimum of influence from cultural filters and preconceptions. There is something in the individual human being, all human beings, which is eternal, I believe. Cultures, societies, nations and civilizations do not enjoy this immortality.

Brett



Yout missing my point again. It is not a chicken egg problem. That is your idea. The chicken egg thing is a dichotomy. I am saying there is no dichtomy, that indivdual conciousness and the group conciousness form each other and are integrated with each other.

What I think you are failing to consider --And what I am suggesting to you as a possibility --is that this idea you have about there being a dichotomy of indivdual vs. group, may in fact be an example of the very 'group think,' you think you are avoiding in that this conceived, and perceived, dichotomy is part of ideological underpinings of capitalist orthodoxy, and one that serves the interests of the ruling class --an ideological view that has come to you through your exposure to the group. Ideology being the unspoken assumptions that formulate the politcal, cultural and social relations between people.

The idea that group and indvidual are opposed in a dichotomy, serves the interests of capitalist social relations be isolating indivduals from each other, something that lessens the chance of effective collective action against the ruling social order; imposing the view that an indivdual is soley responsible for their own success or failure, something that helps justify opposition to social services, which impact coporate profits; placing indivduals in constant competition with each other.

On the other hand your contention that we are born alone and die alone, are irrelevant to a discussion about art as neither just born people or the dead make art. Art is created in life, a state that neither dead people or unborn ones have an impact on. I am also fairly certain your mother was with you when you were born, so you were not "born alone," so to speak. Also you postulated a god, and the existence of a soul, something I will neither dispute or reinforce, but I will say these postulate make a hash out of your contention that "we die alone," given that within that theological construct death brings your soul to god, and you are presumably in congress with numerous other souls as well, and thereby not alone at all.

You seem to have posed a very athiest/materialist proof, whereby we are born/die alone in the context of monotheastic theological pardigm in a manner that only seems to put the fundaments of your proof at odds with your arguement, in a manner that only serves to make your conclusion seem sloppy.

That sounds harsh, and I don't really know how else to but it. I am certainly not going to deny the possibility of a god but, I want emphasize that nothing I have said about ideology denies the existence of god and the critique I have offered regarding capitalist ideology stands with or without the existence of god.

And as for groups being stupider than indivduals at this or that, I think it depends entirely on what you are talking about. A group may not paint a great picture, but it is more likely to survive a shipwreck in antartica.

[ 03 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


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Brett Mann
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posted 03 April 2005 07:56 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
You raise a number of fair and interesting questions, Cueball. While I have bent over backwards to acknowledge the interwoven nature of the individual and society, you are quite right, I continue to press for the sovereignty of the individual. Now this is almost nonsensical. Clearly every individual is an on-going product of some culture or other. But here things get a little more complicated, because people can and do jump from one culture to another, and chose what they wish to adopt as their own. You might respond that this is due to some kind of meta-cultural, pre-determined influence as well, but at some point, I think we find it easier and simpler to concede that people do in fact have free will, and continue to surpass and modify the cultures they were situated in.

Regarding the God thing, I don't advance this as a logical argument exactly, but more as a way of conveying my perspective. I don't expect non-believers to accept this view. I simply report my own viewpoint on this one.

An important appended note - I am in complete concurrence with you that anything that works against our ability to co-operate together in the struggle for social justice, which has become a struggle for universal survival, is to be questioned closely. And I am also saying that central to this struggle must be an appropriate respect for the individual, or I'm not on board.

[ 03 April 2005: Message edited by: looney ]


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Cueball
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posted 03 April 2005 07:59 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Where did I challenge the existance of a god?
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Cueball
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posted 03 April 2005 08:13 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
You might respond that this is due to some kind of meta-cultural, pre-determined influence as well, but at some point, I think we find it easier and simpler to concede that people do in fact have free will, and continue to surpass and modify the cultures they were situated in.

I absolutely believe in human free will. I also, do not believe people should be, or ever are, entirely subject to the society around them, again, that to me is an unatural dichotomy. I am arguing against dichotomy and for discourse as the primary mode that actaully drives social relations.


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Brett Mann
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posted 03 April 2005 08:20 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Cueball, you never did deny the existence of God. I apologize if I implied that. I may have been unconsciously responding to anticipated objections rather than what you actually said. But since we're back at it, let's look at the theological objections you raise. If as a believer, I die and immediately join God, where is the aloneness, where is the individuality? It is real and it is fearful, my friend, because the possibility exists that I may equally not join God, but be expelled from His Presence.

I won't pretend to have any answers. These are interesting questions. I sometimes wonder about America as a whole in a next world scenario and wonder to what degree perfectly decent hard-working, caring people will be judged by their creator and found wanting because they unquestioningly supported mass murder as nation.

None of us know the mind of God. Only a fool (and we are surely all fools) would presume. I think the truest light we can steer by is the seed of kindness and courage we were all born with. This sometimes reaches its highest expression in poetry.


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Cueball
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posted 03 April 2005 08:26 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Poetry is great.
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Brett Mann
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posted 07 April 2005 06:39 AM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Perhaps this thread has run its course, but if anyone is interested in a extensive sampling of Paglia quotes on sexuality, art and feminism, it can be found here.

A couple of samples:

"The two deepest thinkers on sex in the twentieth century are Sigmund Freud and D.H. Lawrence. Their reputations as radical liberators were so universally acknowledged that brooding images of Freud and Lawrence in poster form adorned the walls of students in the Sixties. Yet the voluminous and complex works of both men were swept away by the current women's movement, when it burst out in the late Sixties and consolidated its ideology in the Seventies. Whatever their motives, the first feminist theorists acted as vandals and Bolsheviks. The damage they did to culture has in the long run damaged the cause of feminism."


And...

"My own proposals for reform include the abolition of all literary conferences and the replacement of women's studies with sex studies, based on the rigorous study of world history, anthropology, psychology, and science. Today, in politically correct America, questions of quality, learning, and intellectual distinction are out of style."

So far I've only found passing references in Paglia to Shelley, Bittersweet, but I'm still looking. I seem to have misplaced my copy or Sexual Personae - or loaned it out again. This is probably the only book which I have repeatedly bought copies of to give to friends.

Brett


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kingofbabblon
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posted 10 April 2005 08:00 AM      Profile for kingofbabblon   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
looney, I think you’re not (looney). You ask good questions.

The mistake people make is to think that art a moral agent. It isn’t. This erroneous belief is tied up with the birth of modernism and the “Avant Garde”. The Italian Futurists were notorious Fascists, Wagner was anti-Semitic, and Ezra Pound said: "Mussolini has told his people that poetry is a necessity of State, and in this displayed a higher state of civilization in Rome than in London or Washington". They all made good art.

The human need to create is independent of ethics. Good people can make bad art and bad people can make good art. The idea that artists should be engaged in promoting some sort of ideological agenda has been thoroughly discredited by the examples of Stalinist Socialist Realism and the “non-degenerate” art idealized by the Nazis in the last century.

Cueball says: “Good art combines technique, sensitivity to subject and knowledge, and combines those apsects in a creation that succesfully captures what the artist feels, in a form that the audience understands.” Really? Audiences didn’t understand Manet, Monet, Van Gogh or Charlie Parker. According to Cueball’s definition, therefore, they all made bad art. Sounds like a tautology to me.

The Group of Seven’s work was dismissed as insulting garbage when it was first shown at the AGO 85 years ago. Now, nothing could be more conservative than having a print of theirs on the wall. What happened? Did the paintings somehow rehabilitate themselves? Or did the artists force the audience to see beauty in a new way?

Regarding Paglia, looney, the fact that you have actually read Sexual Personae tells me you aren’t just blowing smoke. Bittersweet, if you really want to know what Paglia thinks of Shelly, read the section on him in Sexual Personae.


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kingofbabblon
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posted 10 April 2005 11:54 AM      Profile for kingofbabblon   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
looney, I think you’re not (looney). You ask good questions.

The mistake people make is to think that art a moral agent. It isn’t. This erroneous belief is tied up with the birth of modernism and the “Avant Garde”. The Italian Futurists were notorious Fascists, Wagner was anti-Semitic, and Ezra Pound said: "Mussolini has told his people that poetry is a necessity of State, and in this displayed a higher state of civilization in Rome than in London or Washington". They all made good art.

The human need to create is independent of ethics. Good people can make bad art and bad people can make good art. The idea that artists should be engaged in promoting some sort of ideological agenda has been thoroughly discredited by the examples of Stalinist Socialist Realism and the “non-degenerate” art idealized by the Nazis in the last century.

Cueball says: “Good art combines technique, sensitivity to subject and knowledge, and combines those apsects in a creation that succesfully captures what the artist feels, in a form that the audience understands.” Really? Audiences didn’t understand Manet, Monet, Van Gogh or Charlie Parker. According to Cueball’s definition, therefore, they all made bad art. Sounds like a tautology to me.

The Group of Seven’s work was dismissed as insulting garbage when it was first shown at the AGO 85 years ago. Now, nothing could be more conservative than having a print of theirs on the wall. What happened? Did the paintings somehow rehabilitate themselves? Or did the artists force the audience to see beauty in a new way?

Regarding Paglia, looney, the fact that you have actually read Sexual Personae tells me you aren’t just blowing smoke. Bittersweet, if you really want to know what Paglia thinks of Shelly, read the section on him in Sexual Personae.


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kingofbabblon
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posted 10 April 2005 11:58 AM      Profile for kingofbabblon   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
sorry, I meant to refresh my browser, not re-post. i'll get the hang of this....
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skdadl
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posted 10 April 2005 12:16 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Not to worry, king of. Lots of people seem to end up with double posts. I've never figured out how they do that.

I wanted to question one of your claims above:

quote:
The mistake people make is to think that art a moral agent. It isn’t. This erroneous belief is tied up with the birth of modernism and the “Avant Garde”.

Maybe I'm not reading that right. To me, modernism was militantly amoral, in reaction to high C19 moralism. One is much more likely to find moralizing about art among politicians, actually, then and now and in every period I can think of. Hitler's implacable hatred of "decadent" art is a "moral" way of looking at art; so was Stalin's glorification of the heroic worker-state.

looney, I don't have time to do it now, but I have quite a lot to say about the link you've given us to extracts from SP above.

One thing I have to register before I go: I was utterly SHOCKED by the linked quotations I found there from one Otto Weininger. The man may be an interesting case study, but his misogyny is profound and disturbing. Who made those links? What has he to do with Paglia? Was she a fan?

Certainly, what you have quoted from Paglia on D.H. Lawrence is just her being stupid. There may have been some feminists in the seventies who made unintelligent attacks on Lawrence, but who cares? Lawrence studies are both long and deep, and the quotations that you offer there don't begin to touch even the old stuff. New biographies have been published recently, and they are much more complicated than Paglia's propaganda or any propaganda from the other side.

Y'see, looney, that's the problem: Paglia fell into the trap that Hegel warned us about. She "became what she beheld." And she did that, of course, because it promised short-term media success.

Lawrence: great writer; very troubled man. The one virtue of feminist critiques of him was that they spurred bios of Frieda, who was indeed a very interesting woman.


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Mandos
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posted 10 April 2005 12:24 PM      Profile for Mandos   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The Medium Lobster on Paglia:
quote:
Her Salon caricature’s eternally arched eyebrow will live on

You have to hand it to Camille Paglia. Well over a decade after actually mattering, this warrior of the word still maintains the intellectual fortitude to starfuck anyone from Rush Limbaugh to Matt Drudge while protecting the English language from the ravages of her erstwhile creation, the blogosphere, in an interview promoting her “next major work,” a collection of other people’s poems titled - no doubt with some restraint - “Break, Blow, Burn.”


http://fafblog.blogspot.com/2005/04/her-salon-caricatures-eternally-arched.html


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jeff house
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posted 10 April 2005 01:19 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I stole into the bookstore and read a couple of Paglia's analyses of poems. Each is five to six pages long, and, if the ones I read are typical, they are quite obvious.

Her analysis of "Kubla Khan", for example, did not really reach much beyond what was contained in a standard English lit lecture.

If the rest is like that, it is hard to see what the big deasl is.


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Brett Mann
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posted 10 April 2005 01:25 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Thanks, Kingofbabblon, you eloquently reinforce the case I was trying to make of the independence of art from other human endeavours.

Skdadl, I posted that link to the Paglia quotes before I followed the Otto Weinenger connection, and I too was shocked by the depths of his mysogyny. "An interesting case study" is not a bad way to view him I think, because he is fairly interesting. Some of his observations are quite profound, I think, others horribly misguided and unsupportable. If I were a woman reading much of his stuff, I would feel quite justified in contemptuously dismissing anyone operating from such flawed and insulting assumptions. And yet he does address a fascinating topic, one that is all but verboten in the current intellectual climate - the real differences between men and women, as reflected in patterns of psychology, values and behaviour.

Sorry if I'm not totally au courrant with the latest thinking, but it is clear to me that at one (early and prolonged) point in the feminist movement, it became common knowledge that men and women were practically identical in their makeup and potentialities. Any differences were held to be completely the result of social conditioning, and, as a friend at the time said, "the only difference between men and women is their genitals". This view continues to have a major influence on public policy in a range of fields, and is demonstrably false.

We have always known as a human race that men and women are fundamentally different in their makeup in some important ways, and there is a growing body of medical and scientific knowledge about the neurological, developmental, endocrinological and other hard science differences between the sexes to settle the question definitively.

What this discussion is most emphatically not about is an argument for the overall superiority of one sex over the other. Otto Weinenger was evidently a fevered, lost and somewhat brilliant young man who apparently committed suicide at 23 years of age. In a sense, he may have been the first victim of his own views. Moreover, his analysis of woman's psychology was admittedly based on a period when women were under massive social pressure to repress and amputate much of their real selves to conform to a rigid, sexist stereotype of sex roles.

Anyway, his contribution to the current discussion is clearly limited at best. Let's keep the focus on Paglia if we can, although she leads us so directly to so many unsavoury people. The Marquis de Sade is one of her intellectual cultural heroes, an unrecognized world shaper.

Mandos, I'll just repeat myself that Paglia can be predictable and even a bit of a light-weight in some of her off the cuff cultural criticism. Her true genius is only really available in Sexual Personae, and I've lost my damn copy of the book!


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Cueball
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posted 11 April 2005 01:02 AM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Cueball says: “Good art combines technique, sensitivity to subject and knowledge, and combines those apsects in a creation that succesfully captures what the artist feels, in a form that the audience understands.” Really? Audiences didn’t understand Manet, Monet, Van Gogh or Charlie Parker. According to Cueball’s definition, therefore, they all made bad art. Sounds like a tautology to me.


No. Exactly the opposite.

Notice I said understands not likes. There is a difference.

I was quite careful in the phrasing, precisely because of the problem you touched on.

While I think liking something requires and understanding of something, I do not think that understanding necessarily means liking it. Therefeore the Derrida must create something that is understandable but it is not an absolute that once understood it will be accepted.

For instance do I understand the movie, Kiss of the Spider Woman? Yes. Do I like it? No. Is it a good movie, technically and did it capture something of the original intention of the Derridas who created it? Yes.

So Kiss of the Spider Woman is a good movie that I do not like.

My point is that the Derrida can consider themselves personally succesful if they set into play in the discourse something of their intent. This is necessary in the defintion because there is no real set standard for defining what is good Derrida aestheletically, and therefore a different standard of success is needed beyond aesthetics. Wether the audience accepts or rejects the creation, and define it either as good or bad, is another matter.

I do not think that people rejected Van Gogh or Charlie Parker because they did not 'understand,' necesarily but moreso because their work did not conform to the current aesthetic sensibilities. My definition attempts to insert itself somewhere between Derrida and audience, so that the definition is not so much in social context -- "is it liked by the audience?" --, but one defined by the Derrida goals and audience at the same time -- "did the Derrida set something into play in the discourse that captures something of the Derrida's intent?"

Therefore Van Gogh can remain qualified as a good Derrida even if he was rejected in the 19th Century, especially when he is recontextualized in the 20th.

Also it is possible for a Dierida to create 'great Derrida' with the intent of having it rejected, when the Deirida intends to liberate the Deirida from its intentions entirely by rejecting them, or by way of recontextualizing the name of a prominent European philosopher in an apperently random manner into a discourse about the the defintion of what makes good art and its unlikely relationship to Camile Paglia to give her at least some substantive value, in more or less the same manner that the Bolsheviks gave a new, and possibly even greater meaning, to the Romanov's by decontextualizing them from their palace and recontextualizing them in the ground -- I am thinking Sex Pistols, not Charlie Parker.

[ 11 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


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periyar
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posted 11 April 2005 05:56 AM      Profile for periyar   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
This is an interesting thread. I’m particularly interested in the discussion about the cannon. One of the things that made my first year of university memorable was the English lectures because unlike the five years of high school English, we had a diverse cannon. We also applied a formalist, feminist and psychoanalytic critique to every piece of literature we read, whether it was a novel, play, short story or poetry. I loved that! We read the classical texts as well as modern writers- and first year English was a required course for most disciplines- engineers, commerce students etc.

In my high school years, I was never exposed to any writers of colour, some white women writers, lots of white males, Shakespeare and Chaucer too. I didn’t mind because I love reading- but that first year of university English exposed me to so much more. There was a lot of grumbling and resistance from the guys –particularly regarding the feminist analysis.

In a political theory class with an excellent professor, I read the Closing of the American Mind by Bloom and Cultural Literacy by Hirsch. The professor had us read it critically which was also eye opening and a good complement to the English class.

I think it is important to know the classical cannon, but my high school experience was solely that- so much so that I thought that was the natural order of the world- which in turn made me feel a bit unnatural. I loved the experience of deconstructing the making and reading of literature that I was taught in first year. It was very much a politicized experience for me. I remember talking to a friend who taught in a different department at the same university and she told me the professors/instructors had to fight for that format and here I thought this was how all universities taught English. This was back in 1988. I’m sure that a lot has changed.


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kingofbabblon
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posted 11 April 2005 07:06 AM      Profile for kingofbabblon   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Cueball wrote:

No. Exactly the opposite.

Notice I said understands not likes. There is a difference.

I was quite careful in the phrasing, precisely because of the problem you touched on.

While I think liking something requires and understanding of something, I do not think that understanding necessarily means liking it.

quote:

Cueball, thank you for your response, but this is a red herring. You are referring to what Kant called disinterested appreciation, i.e. I think The Life of Pi was a “good” book (well written), but I didn’t like it. But we were both talking about understanding. I never said anything about liking.

Are you saying that the people who saw the first Group of Seven exhibition actually understood the work but didn’t like it? I guess you can have that opinion. I think that at the time they neither understood NOR liked it. Over time, with repeated exposure, they grew to understand it. Then a lot of people began to like it. Same goes for Manet, Van Gogh, Charlie Parker, etc. But in every case the artist led the way, usually at their own expense. To argue otherwise is to diminish their achievements.

“I do not think that people rejected Van Gogh or Charlie Parker because they did not 'understand,' necesarily but moreso because their work did not conform to the current aesthetic sensibilities.”

This is semantic hair-splitting. It amounts to the same thing. It was the artists who reconfigured aesthetic sensibilities and forced the expansion of understanding. Ah, the good old days!

Skdadl, you raised a good point about modernism and morality. It was nature of the enmeshment of art and politics in the late 19 – early 20C that led to the confusion between esthetics and ethics. I hope to reply in detail later today.


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kingofbabblon
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posted 11 April 2005 07:09 AM      Profile for kingofbabblon   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
ok, I haven't got the quote thing down yet either....
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Cueball
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posted 11 April 2005 09:57 AM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
This is semantic hair-splitting. It amounts to the same thing. It was the artists who reconfigured aesthetic sensibilities and forced the expansion of understanding. Ah, the good old days!

First of all I appreciate what you are saying in terms of the movement of art and the role of the artist in pushing the envelope of what is 'readable' within art. Fine.* Although I think you have missed my point in search of your own.

I think its a little bit much to take me to task for 'semantic hairsplitting,' when it seems to be the task you have set for yourself when you made your earlier comment about my definition. I meant in my earlier statment (and thought this would be obvious from the original context, where I was talking about the artist's existence inside a social context) that the artist must make art that can be understood (ie art that is interpretable,) not that it must be understood by any audience, at any place in the time/space discontinuum, to be good.

The latter, as you so deftly pointed out is stupid. I appologize for not being absolutely clear the first time.

Perhaps it would be better phrased thus, when taken out of its original context:

quote:
“Good art combines technique, sensitivity to subject and knowledge, and combines those apsects in a creation that succesfully captures what the artist feels, in a form that an audience can interpret.++

The purpose of that clause in that sentence was to establish that the artist has relationship to an audience through their art, and that the art and the artist exist in a social context, not to define a distingushing qualifier of good or bad. In other words, the "Life of Pi" is neither good nor bad, but simply senseless if one is reading an edition in Mandarin, and one can only read English -- it ceases to be art at all.

*And I might take issue with it in the specific, (and there is something I sense on the margins of it that bothers, instinctively -- I think its a sense of hero worship) but in the main you are talking about an interelationship, between artist and audience, and the fact that there is an interealtionship is the essential thrust of what I was getting at with Looney.

[ 11 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


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posted 11 April 2005 11:02 AM      Profile for kingofbabblon   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
“Good art combines technique, sensitivity to subject and knowledge, and combines those apsects in a creation that succesfully captures what the artist feels, in a form that an audience can interpret.”

Works for me, where "can" is a potential possibility, not an immediate requirement.

bty, what's a "Dierida"?


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Cueball
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posted 11 April 2005 11:07 AM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Anyway, his contribution to the current discussion is clearly limited at best. Let's keep the focus on Paglia if we can, although she leads us so directly to so many unsavoury people. The Marquis de Sade is one of her intellectual cultural heroes, an unrecognized world shaper.


Gosh, golly Gee wizz! How terrible.

A friend of mine remarked recently when she finally came upon a copy of Juliette second hand: "I had such a hard time finding it. On the other hand Justine is available everywhere."

Interesting and curious.

Angela Carter thinks De Sade can be given a feminist interpetation, as De Sade is one of the first European writers to impute sexual intent and ambition to his female characters, as opposed to them being simple obejects of conquest, or baby factories.

[ 11 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


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Cueball
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posted 11 April 2005 11:10 AM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by kingofbabblon:

Works for me, where "can" is a potential possibility, not an immediate requirement.

bty, what's a "Dierida"?


Its me mispelling the name of a french performance artist. Aka Derrida. I thought I would decontextualize him and see if I could understand him better this way.

[ 11 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


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kingofbabblon
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posted 11 April 2005 11:27 AM      Profile for kingofbabblon   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Its me mispelling the name of a french performance artist. Aka Derrida. I thought I would decontextualize him and see if I could understand him better this way.

What a coincidence. There was a famous French philosopher with the same name. He published a lot of stuff about post-structuralism, language, politics, etc. I wonder what he thought of his namesake's art??

Anyway, how's the decontextualizing working? Any new insights into his work?


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Cueball
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posted 11 April 2005 11:33 AM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Was it good for you?
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kingofbabblon
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posted 11 April 2005 11:47 AM      Profile for kingofbabblon   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Too early to tell
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Cueball
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posted 11 April 2005 11:52 AM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Ok then... Group of Seven:

Is it not possible that the Group of Seven (Derridas) were established as icons of Canadian art partly because the ruling elite of Canada required a distinct culture indepenent of British culture, as part of the campaign to create a Canadian identity, to go along with increasing economic and political independence? Isn't it possible that appreciation was directly promoted by government bodies such as the Heritage Minstry and the media in the form of the CBC, toward this end?

Was it not, in this sense, art serving a political purpose, even if the content of the art were nothing more than pictures of lakes, and trees and such.

[ 11 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


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skdadl
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posted 11 April 2005 12:09 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Hee. Cueball, if I haven't written to you, it's partly because I disagree with you but don't want to disagree with you, if you see what I mean.

Specifically on the issue of the Impressionists, who were among the first wee groupings of C19 formalist rebels, I disagree. I honestly do not believe that people knew how to see what they had painted. I know that that is hard to believe now, when impressionist art is the stuff of toilet-paper commercials, and we have all learned how to connect the dots (or the smudges). But at the time, I think they really did shock people.


I'm here really to talk to periyar, and her reflections on studying the canon.

It's a problem, yes? If we reject it, for all the right reasons, then we rob the next generation of the tools they need to surpass it.

That was precisely the subject that one of the greatest of late C20 English-language poets, Derek Walcott, embedded in his poetry, the conflict between his schooling (classical British) and his culture (West Indies -- complicated story).

I think it would be wonderful to try to resurrect the old survey courses now in the context of what we have learned about deconstructing the canon over the last forty years. One would start by recognizing that most of one's students already know who has been excluded from the canon: all those women who ran the Paris salons through two centuries, eg, up to the revolution -- that sort of thing. Or the people who never wrote, or were never published, or were never acknowledged because they were of the wrong class or race or sex.

There are works that were undervalued for those reasons, no question, and it would be interesting to get students going after them; but it is also important to recognize that most marginalized people really were silenced -- no point in lying about that.

I would love a chance to teach the canon, but in that context. I would start off by questioning the canon on grounds of class, race, sex, assuming that most young people now know why that needs to be done. But I would also like them to know why Derek Walcott sounds like Keats, or why Seamus Heaney would want to resurrect Beowulf, as the greatest poets have wanted to do, generation after generation.

University literature departments have been a theoretical battleground since the early seventies, perhaps quieting down in the nineties -- and there were good reasons for the battles, however byzantine some became. The one positive development I know of since then is that it has become easier to speak of history, particularly social history, as part of one's reading of literary texts than it has been for over a century.

In my view, Paglia is irrelevant to all that. She is at best a journalist, at worst a sensationalist, but she has given us all an opportunity, at least, to talk about more important things.

[ 11 April 2005: Message edited by: skdadl ]


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kingofbabblon
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posted 11 April 2005 12:19 PM      Profile for kingofbabblon   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yep - not just possible but highly likely. Once the Gof7 had become assimilated into popular taste and were no longer offensive, the politicians hopped on the bandwagon. Promoting images of Canada as vast expanses of rugged pines while at the same time selling off gigantic tracts of land to multinationals for clear cutting and general large scale destruction.
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Cueball
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posted 11 April 2005 12:42 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Specifically on the issue of the Impressionists, who were among the first wee groupings of C19 formalist rebels, I disagree. I honestly do not believe that people knew how to see what they had painted. I know that that is hard to believe now, when impressionist art is the stuff of toilet-paper commercials, and we have all learned how to connect the dots (or the smudges). But at the time, I think they really did shock people.


Edited to simplify. I didn't say that. kingofbabblon, said that I said that.

I didn't say that.

[ 11 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


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Cueball
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posted 11 April 2005 12:48 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by kingofbabblon:
Yep - not just possible but highly likely. Once the Gof7 had become assimilated into popular taste and were no longer offensive, the politicians hopped on the bandwagon. Promoting images of Canada as vast expanses of rugged pines while at the same time selling off gigantic tracts of land to multinationals for clear cutting and general large scale destruction.

Are you absolutely sure that it was the politcians who jumped on the bandwagon? I mean the conciouse use of art as a means to define national identity was (and is) fairly well established. Are you sure that the politcians, and the elite they served, didn't decide: "We need to define an national identity here, and we need more than to redesign the flag. We need our own Canadian artist, poets, and writers as well!"

To be realistic, there wasn't anything particullarly shocking or new in the G7 stuff, at the time it was being done, it was fairly current. Really, it just needed to be promoted.

[ 11 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


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kingofbabblon
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posted 11 April 2005 01:32 PM      Profile for kingofbabblon   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Are you sure that the politcians, and the elite they served, didn't decide: "We need to define an national identity here, and we need more than to redesign the flag. We need our own Canadian artist, poets, and writers as well!"

Are you suggesting that the Group of Seven was dreamed up as marketing program to promote national identity? Like those golf balls? And then they auditioned the painters, sort of like the way they invented the Monkees??


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Cueball
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posted 11 April 2005 02:20 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I don't know? Is that what I am saying? It thought I was saying that the popularization process of the Canadian culture was something that was policy of the Canadian government.

quote:
Promoting the creation, dissemination and preservation of diverse Canadian cultural works, stories and symbols reflective of our past and expressive of our values and aspirations.

In line with the discussion about Paglia and art and its relationship to politics. How it is interpreted for instance, such as:

quote:
Promoting images of Canada as vast expanses of rugged pines while at the same time selling off gigantic tracts of land to multinationals for clear cutting and general large scale destruction.

I thought, that if there was an idication that art could serve the politcal will of a nation, then one would think that it could also, serve the political will of the artist.

Are you sure that Tom Thompson was completely unaware that he was creating an image of a country, as he painted images of a country?

Is it such a stretch to think that someone like Thomspon thought that if he could truly get across the raw power of Canada's wilderness that he might play a role in protecting it? He used to hang around Algonguin Park isn't that the case. That is where he drowned right?

Was that before or after it became a park?

[ 11 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


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Brett Mann
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posted 11 April 2005 03:07 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Skdadl, a google search led to this interview with Paglia which sheds a good deal of light on the nature of new criticism and close reading, for me at least, and clearly indicates Paglia is practicing a form of close reading in Break, Blow, Burn. The interview is
here.

(Apologies for amateurish url insert). The interview is found on a website with the delightful name of Bookslut.

She says of New Criticism "I was in college around the time when the New Criticism, which adores explication de texte and all this close reading, was in decline. I would say it was in its height in its founding in the 30s and 40s; but by the 50s, it had become very derivative. It was practiced by these sort of third-raters, people without the real talent and erudition and prose style of the ones who had founded it in North America. And so I was in revolt, I thought, against it in my college years. For example, I found Cleanth Brooks’s The Well Wrought Urn absolutely stifling. I found it Protestant. I came from an Italian immigrant family, I thought it was repressive in its exclusion of anything about sex or aggression; its whole idea about the creative process I found sentimental."

Paglia has a change of heart, however, and comes to say:

"As a teacher, I began to realize that the New Criticism has been the basis of my training, and it gave it a discipline of attention to detail in artwork -- not just poetry, but to painting, everything else. And I observed the destruction of the New Criticism by poststructuralism coming in the 70s, then postmodernism -- they called themselves the New Historicism, which supplanted the New Criticism. And the people practicing it, people like Stephen Greenblatt, they’re not good historians. They’re not erudite."

Paglia sums up her view of New Criticism :

"At any rate, I feel that the New Criticism, despite all my rebellion, was the basis of my ability for talking about art. Even about film. What I did in my book where I was talking about the Hitchcock film The Birds, which I did for the British Film Institute in 1998, that is a New Critical approach. I go from beginning to end, frame by frame.

What I am saying in this book is that New Criticism is the model for the true cultural critic. Yes, I support all efforts of multiculturalization of disciplines, what cultural studies pretends to do. I support that idea. What cultural studies unfortunately does is that it applies this British Marxist style, very reductionist. It uses things from the Frankfurt School; it’s very prissy about “media,” it’s always turning up its nose at what the people actually want. It pretends to speak to the people when it doesn’t know what the people actually want."

While promoting and explicating the canon of western literature and art, Paglia uses a kind of jiu jitsu trick. She pays close attention, not only to the texts she is explicating, but to the culture that is exposed to them. She is a pop-psychologist - a term dripping with frivolity and easily derided. But it does mean she keeps at least one of her many eyes on the reality of popular culture in America, and thinks and reasons about it.

Skdadl, I'm fairly sure that when your read the appended interview in its entirety, you will concede, whether you agree with Paglia's argument or not, that she is much more than a journalist or "sensationalist". I think it is clear from this interview that her central motives and abilities seem to be those of a teacher.

[ 11 April 2005: Message edited by: looney ]


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posted 12 April 2005 04:36 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well, looney, I will come back later and read the full interview, but from those extracts you've quoted there, it feels to me that her method is that of a name-dropper and a self-promoter. She's just tossing in as many labels as she can, to pretend to people that she's covered the whole territory, but that sure never convinces me. And simply repeating that other people are not "erudite" is snobbery. Criticism requires demonstration to convince.

Do you know which of John Donne's poems she reads in her new book? It would be interesting to compare that reading with Cleanth Brooks's reading of "The Canonization" ("For God's sake hold your tongue and let me love") in The Urn. Sexy poem; don't remember how sexy Brooks got. She's entitled to her opinions about how sexy he was, of course.


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kingofbabblon
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posted 12 April 2005 11:53 AM      Profile for kingofbabblon   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
skdadl wrote:

quote:
In my view, Paglia is irrelevant to all that. She is at best a journalist, at worst a sensationalist

In my view, Paglia is one of the best cultural historians of recent times. Sexual Personae is a brilliant, thorough analysis of Western art from antiquity to the 19th C. It has genuinely original insights based of exhaustive research. She understands artists and making art in a social context.

Unfortunately, since it was published 15 years ago, she has done nothing to back it up. The book created a firestorm of controversy, but she has spent all of her energy since then spewing an endless torrent of opinions. Vamps and Tramps was just a loose collection of thoughts and lacked the discipline that was so astonishing in Sexual Personae. She has created lots of reaction and debate but added nothing substantial to her original work. In fact, she has made herself the subject of her work.

To be fair, I have not read her new book on Poetry.

[ 12 April 2005: Message edited by: kingofbabblon ]


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faith
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posted 12 April 2005 01:29 PM      Profile for faith     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Is anyone on this thread that attempts to define and codify art , actually an artist? Not that you need to be an artist to have an opinion on art , but most people have an opinion on the finished product not on the creative process.
As a working artist I can look around at my walls and see examples of my work that are traditional in concept and work that is a product of my politics and a social comment on the feminine in world history.
Both types of work are relevant to my experience and from comments that I have had from an audience most people 'understand' if they take the time to analyse what they are looking at. Artists often work by necessity in isolation and their work is a product of their inner impulse but it is often created with the intent of reaching the audience. Just as an author hopes to be understood through their words at the same time their words promote a wider understanding in the audience, so it is with images.
And Cueball you are right on when you speak of the effort to promote a Canadian art movement . Not only was government looking for an image that was distinctly Canadian but so was business. The CN provided free travel across Canada to paint the landscape and therefore encourage immigration to the west.

The art world throughout history was dominated by the attitudes of those that could pay for it. The church and the aristocracy made the rules but clever artists found a way to circumvent the oppressive heirarchical structure in many ways , often showing the superficial nature of their subjects. I guess the point is that if the artist is left to their own devices to create what they feel from within their own nature we get a much different product than when the society is tightly controlled by ruling oligarchy narrowly defining what is acceptable. The rise of a middle class meant that the hold on the art world was no longer just in the hands of a few. When people like Paglia speak on the art world I get almost a sense of anger and frustration that the 'right' people are no longer in control, and if all of us feminist dumbasses would just get back in line and recognise the genius that is Paglia the world would be a much better place. What is true of Paglia is that almost every intelligent woman I have met wouldn't give her the time of day , and so she continues to be defended by the people who like her undermining of a more egalitarian world and feminism - the boys.


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kingofbabblon
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posted 12 April 2005 03:29 PM      Profile for kingofbabblon   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Is anyone on this thread that attempts to define and codify art , actually an artist?

Good question Faith. I have a degree in painting with minors in philosophy and history, I was on scholarship at the Banff School of Fine Art, I have taught art at university and college, and have exhibited my paintings in Canada, Europe and Korea. I also play music and write songs.

Does that make me an artist? Depends on your definition, I guess.

quote:
What is true of Paglia is that almost every intelligent woman I have met wouldn't give her the time of day

I have met many intelligent women and they have held a wide variety of views on Paglia. That’s true of me, not true of Paglia.

quote:
she continues to be defended by the people who like her undermining of a more egalitarian world and feminism - the boys.

25 years ago I met a young Anishinabekwe woman, Rebecca Belmore, in a town in Northern Ontario. She was in high school at the time and we became, ummmm, friends. I saw her talent and she saw my paintings. Many adventures followed until we parted ways in the late 80s. In a recent piece in the Globe and Mail she made reference to the early influence I had on her. This year she is Canada’s official representative at the 2005 Venice Biennale (way to go Bek – Rose would have been so proud of you!).

What’s my point? Well Faith, your assertion that anyone who “defends” Paglia is anti-egalitarian and sexist is quite an insult. But that’s okay, I’m used to it. I guess since I have a dick between my legs (“the boys”) my experiences and opinions have no credibility, right?

But then, ad hominem attacks based on gender really say more about the author than their target. Or can only men be sexist?

[ 12 April 2005: Message edited by: kingofbabblon ]

[ 12 April 2005: Message edited by: kingofbabblon ]


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Cueball
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posted 12 April 2005 05:28 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Don't be so touchy. What ad hominem attack? Raising the issue of gender bias is completely legitimate as Paglia raises it herself, in her attacks on feminism.

I noticed a similar phenomena on a recent Leonard Cohen thread. Zero female participation. If I mentioned this in the thread would that automatically be an ad hominem attack on the participants in the thread? I don't think so.

I find it interesting that whenever women make analysis that include identifying gender as causual, or relevant to the position that people take, men generally get defensive. So what of Faith's assertion that it is usually men who defend Paglia, true or not?

Also, do you deny that gender affects the political perceptions of people, both male and female? Or is it that intellectual discourse exists somwhere outside of the real.

I think you should confront the issue Faith in a clear arguement (which you are obviously capable) especially in the light of the fact that the issue is relvant directly to Paglia's work.

[ 12 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


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Brett Mann
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posted 12 April 2005 05:42 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Here's an anecdote I've mentioned already, but it directly addresses the question of the degree of female support for Paglia. When I saw her speak to a packed house at the U of T (Edward Johnson Building, I think) there were at least as many women as men in the large audience. And I was not exaggerating when I said she received at least 6 or 8 very enthusiastic and prolonged standing ovations. I don't remember hearing any boos or other negative comments at all.
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kingofbabblon
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posted 12 April 2005 06:42 PM      Profile for kingofbabblon   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Huh? Do I need to provide a definition of ad hominem fallacy? I never said anything about Leonard Cohen. I was responding to specific points faith made. I don't care what you think men generally get or usually do. How did this become all about what you find interesting?

Is there anyone out there that actually heard what I said? Can I get a straight-forward response?

quote:
do you deny that gender affects the political perceptions of people, both male and female?

Huh?? You're joking, right? What is this, Some kind of Stalinist show trial? Am I being charged incorrect thinking? I want a lawyer!

Seriously, I was under the impression that this was a forum for the intelligent discussion and debate of cultural issues. I guess I was mistaken. Anyone out there know of such a board?


From: toronto | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged
Cueball
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posted 12 April 2005 08:18 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I don't remember you responding to anything at all, except to have a tizzy as soon as someone suggested that they thought gender might be relevant to a discussion of Camile Paglia.


As far as the whole Faith thing goes, I am sure Faith can speak for herself. But essentially what you did was dismiss, and then attack her attempt to bring gender issues into the discussion. I can't really think of anything fundamentally more sexist than dismissing gender issues as irrelevant as soon as they are raised. And... you are still avoiding it.

You really have to wonder about someone who thinks gender issues are irrelevant to a discussion about Camile Paglia... or do we?

Point about the Leonard Cohen thing: In that thread I attacked Cohen, and no women stepped up to defend Canada's great romantic poet, only men did. Perhaps you see the parrallel.

But you are right, it was I, not you, who introduced that topic of Leonard Cohen and I am oh so appologetic for bringing up things that I thought are interesting. Next time I will PM you, and get you to approve before hand the introduction of evidence or new topics into the discussion. I failed to realize this was only supposed to be a discussion of what you find interesting, and an opportunity to show of your erudition, and a chance to drop some names.

Nice to know that your, ummmm, 'friends,' still love you and are successful and talk about how influential you are in the G&M -- thats a big and important paper now isnt it! Even a pat on the bottom for Bek -- way to go Bek! How is that all specifically relevant to this discussion about art, in terms of facts and arguementation? Oh yes -- Its relevant to establishing your credentials -- lets call it an ad hominem defence.

[ 12 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


From: Out from under the bridge and out for a stroll | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
kingofbabblon
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posted 12 April 2005 10:14 PM      Profile for kingofbabblon   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
cueball wrote:

quote:
I don't remember you responding to anything at all

Well, first off I responded to her questioning whether or not there were any artists on the thread. Do you remember that?

Then I responded to her comment that all the people she knew who defended Paglia were men. I said that that was not my experience. I know women who agree with her very much. So that's my experience, okay? I was at a talk she gave around 1993-4 and the reception from women there was very positive. looney described his experience that sounded similar.

I was trying to point out that faith's comment that, "she (Paglia) continues to be defended by the people who like her undermining of a more egalitarian world and feminism - the boys" was a) not true and b) itself a sexist comment.

Again, as I said, many women agree with Paglia. In my experience.

But it's the latter part that bothers me the most. The implication is that if you agree with Paglia, then you must be anti-egalitarian "boy". That is an ad hominem argument. I am a male, I agree with much of what Paglia says and I don't think that necessarily makes me anti-egalitarian.

As for whether or not Paglia undermines feminism, well, that depends on your definition of feminism, doesn't it? Suffice to say that some of the women I know who agree with Paglia CALL THEMSELVES feminists.

Finally, her derisive comment about "the boys". I think that's sexist. And I am a man, not a boy. I don't call women who disagree with Paglia "the girls". They are women. No double standards. In my world, that's called egalitarianism.

As for gender issues, I will ask the same question I left with before - can only men be sexist?


From: toronto | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged
Cueball
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posted 12 April 2005 10:51 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well, to that, I might say that some feel that Paglia fits into an old tradition of being a woman who perpetuates sexism against women, by reaffirming the sexist discourse. The slave master who is also a slave, so to speak, who accepts and perpetuates opression in order to benefit from sucking up to the man (litterally.)

quote:
But it's the latter part that bothers me the most. The implication is that if you agree with Paglia, then you must be anti-egalitarian "boy". That is an ad hominem argument. I am a male, I agree with much of what Paglia says and I don't think that necessarily makes me anti-egalitarian.


I don't think that was implied. I think it was stated. So, if I said I agreed with Marx, say, I would be a Marxist, with all that entails. If I said I agreed with Hitler, I would be a Facist, along with all that entails.

So, a large part of what Paglia is known for is her anti-feminist stance. If one is a feminist, as Faith states that she is, and one establishes that the primary feminist prinicipal is an egalitarian one in regards to the rights of women, and Paglia is anti-feminist, then she is also anti-egalitarian in that regard.

Or do you disagree that paglia is anti-feminist? Or do you disagree that feminism is egalitarian in spirit?

She also seems to have noted (rightly or wrongly) that the greatest number of Paglia defenders are males. Does it seem so odd that if one accepts the core of feminist beliefs, (wherein womens rights are hobbled under a patriarchal system,) that one then conclude that the reason so many of Paglia's defenders are male is because she supports a system that justifies the superior rights of males?

I thought that was pretty clearly argued, and she did not randomly impune your motives for having your position, but showed logically why males would defend Paglia out of self-interest.

What is ad hominem about that?

[ 12 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


From: Out from under the bridge and out for a stroll | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
kingofbabblon
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posted 13 April 2005 12:15 AM      Profile for kingofbabblon   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
do you disagree that paglia is anti-feminist?

Absolutely. I actually disagree with her on a lot of stuff, but I agree with Paglia's own position on the topic:

"I consider myself 100 percent a feminist, at odds with the feminist establishment in America."


From: toronto | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged
Cueball
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posted 13 April 2005 01:49 AM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
So then perhaps you were reacting a little hastily when you suggested that Faith's statement was an ad hominem attack and perhaps allow the possibility that it is simply an arguement consistent within the logic of her analysis as a feminist, and it is just that you disagree with that analysis.

What aspect of the feminist "establishment" do you and Paglia find yourselves at "odds" with?

I ask this because it seems to me that the feminist "establishment," is in constant dialogue with itself about what it is, to the point where I would question its existence as an "establishment" at all, as in an organized body with a clear hierarchy, or even a group with a unified will that expressess an underlying ideology in the form of a agreed upon political philosophy.

Unless of course you mean you disagree with the fundamental principals that seems agreed upon, such as women should be accorded equal rights under the law, and deserve a fair shake in the job market (equal pay for equal work, not get fired for not fucking the boss, etc.)

That isn't what you are opposed to, is it?

[ 13 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


From: Out from under the bridge and out for a stroll | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
faith
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posted 13 April 2005 03:39 AM      Profile for faith     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Wow , you go away and teach an art class and you come back and all hell breaks loose!
You guys have defended my position much better than I could seeing as how I've had 2 glasses of nice red merlot and have to keep retyping to get the spelling right.
Camille Paglia has gone out of her way , not just to state her opinions but to visciously attack what she calls the feminist establishment ,but to me are just women who have worked hard for other women and gained the respect of the feminist community.
I find Paglia like the obnoxious ass who insists on crashing the party even though she knows that she is not wanted . I wouldn't have responded at all but the topic of art was brought up and like I said before I have heard the stupidity of her position and well - it just bugs the hell out of me. I'll go now - Paglia is a complete waste of time .
Oh and by the way if it wasn't for certain male establishment publishers she would be long forgotten.

From: vancouver | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged
Brett Mann
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posted 13 April 2005 10:24 AM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Faith, your critique of Paglia reminds me of criticisms of Pierre Trudeau found in right-wing circles, in that both of these people were utterly brilliant in many ways, a claim that can be rarely made by their detractors of themselves. In fact, the first question which arises is whether the critics understand or are familiar with the person they are criticising. Are you familiar with Paglia's work at all, or is all your animus based on a fragment of an Paglia interview you saw on TV? Here are a few quotes from Sexual Personae to suggest the range and direction of her thought -

"In 'A Room of One's Own', Virginia Woolf satirically describes her perplexity at the bulging card catalog of the British Museum: why, she asks, are there so many books written by men about women but none by women about men? The answer to her question is that from the beginning of time men have been struggling with the threat of woman's dominance."

"Women have been discouraged from genres such as sculpture that require studio training or expensive materials. But in philosophy, mathematics, and poetry, the only materials are pen and paper. Male conspiracy cannot explain all female failures. I am convinced that, even without restrictions, there still would have been no female Pascal, Milton, or Kant. Genius is not checked by social obstacles: it will overcome. Men's egotism, so disgusting in the talentless, is the source of their greatness as a sex. . . . Even now, with all vocations open, I marvel at the rarity of the woman driven by artistic or intellectual obsession, that self-mutilating derangement of social relationship which, in its alternate forms of crime and ideation, is the disgrace and glory of the human species."

and,

" Campus speech codes, that folly of the navel-gazing left, have increased the appeal of the right. Ideas must confront ideas. When hurt feelings and bruised egos are more important than the unfettered life of the mind, the universities have committed suicide."

My criticisms of classical (first wave?) feminism are several - feminism has been intellectually dishonest (in fact, anti-intellectual), destructive of relations between men and women, and of our western cultural heritage. Feminism has been Stalinist in its rigidity and complete intolerance for dissenting viewpoints, and Maoist in its wholesale rejection of tradition. Feminist discourse on sex in general is laughably shallow and absurd, misguided and deliberately mis-informed.

Since I applaud the gains in women's rights and equality achieved by classical feminism, I am especially disturbed by how far it has strayed from common sense, intellectual rigour and honesty. Feminism has made a deadly wrong turn and Paglia may be the one to save it. In this sense she is indeed a feminist, and an extremely important one.


From: Prince Edward County ON | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 13 April 2005 10:44 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
"Even now, with all vocations open, I marvel at the rarity of the woman driven by artistic or intellectual obsession, that self-mutilating derangement of social relationship which, in its alternate forms of crime and ideation, is the disgrace and glory of the human species."

Now, y'see, that is straight politics and straight journalism, quite unanchored in a careful reading of history, driven by personal commitments and expressed through overgeneralizations.

Furthermore, the literary history that precedes that line in the passage you've quoted, looney, is laughable. Especially in the century of Pascal and the one following, there were in both England and France a number of outstanding women writers the equal or superior of their male contemporaries, one of them a member of Pascal's own circle, Mme de Lafayette, easily the greatest French novelist of the C17 and an immense influence in the development of the novel. Many further suspect that she wrote much of what is attributed to La Rochefoucauld.

Pope's "borrowings" from Lady Mary Wortley Montague are infamous. Voltaire was right to be devastated by the death of his lover, Mme du Chatelet, translator of Newton. Aphra Behn was every bit as good a dramatist as William Wycherley. And I could go on.

There were indeed class factors that freed those women and not others to be creating as much as they did that early. Suggesting that social history has had no influence on who is writing when (given, to begin with, the prerequisite of literacy) is simply ludicrous.

Paglia's history is simply out of date. It is also superficial.

And the game of "greats" is a game for tiny minds, the kind of minds that care about celebrity rather than genuine accomplishment through craft and art.


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
faith
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posted 13 April 2005 12:42 PM      Profile for faith     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I hesitate to post after skdadl's last words because they really sum it all up nicely and seem as if they should be the last word.
but-
I have been around for 50 years now and over the years even a non feminist woman could not ignore the publicity hound that is CP. I have read her in various articles ,seen her on TV and she was even included in a PBS special on feminists, I have also read and listened to other feminists on the subject of CP.
I haven't read the latest utterings of CP nor am I likely to - what I would like to ask Is - are you related to her , or perhaps own shares in the publishing house that is pushing this book? I ask because this is the second thread that you keep persisting in your efforts to introduce and discuss Camille Paglia even after most of the Babblers express a negative opinion and/or 'leave the building'.
You and the kingofbabblon are the only ones interested in defending her , for what purpose is still a mystery to me ,but a little mystery in life is good.

From: vancouver | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged
Brett Mann
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posted 13 April 2005 01:14 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Excellent and informative riposte, Skdadl. But I think we have to examine more closely what Paglia is saying here (and her quote does not come from Sexual Personae, which I've argued is the work she should be finally judged by, and in context). Paglia notes the rarity of surpassing literary genius in women, not its complete absence. For my money, Doris Lessing is the greatest writer in any language I've encountered, for example - no male writer can touch her. But the question is, where are the great, indespensable women philosphers, mathematitians, classical music composers? It seems to me that Paglia is arguing not that women are incapable of world-changing, abstract and revolutionary thought, but that psychologically they do not have the same need for such accomplishments as men. This view is in turn founded on a close examination in art and culture of the roles and psychology of masculine and feminine - which are not synonymous with men and women. There are androgynous women and feminine men.

It is important to note that Paglia does not view men's accomplishments in art, music and so on as purely benevolent and uncomplicated. I wonder what you make of this comment for example -

"Serial or sex murder, like fetishism, is a perversion of male intelligence. It is a criminal abstraction, masculine in its deranged egotism and orderliness. It is the asocial equivalent of philosophy, mathematics, and music. There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper."

Faith, I can only repeat - only someone who has read "Sexual Personae" is in a position to offer an informed opinion on Paglia. I welcome debating her work with you, but if you really want to know what's going on, take a look at Sexual Personae. You might even like it.


From: Prince Edward County ON | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
jeff house
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posted 13 April 2005 01:39 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
whenever I go to a demonstration where 10,000 people call for peace, there will be two people who claim to be part of the demo, but want war.

They get the same coverage as the demo does, including pictures in the paper.

That's Paglia.


From: toronto | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
bittersweet
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posted 13 April 2005 02:37 PM      Profile for bittersweet     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Even if one accepts Paglia's terms regarding the nature of creative action--which seem frankly absurd, though that may be due to the lack of context here--still, to describe a gender as lacking the "self-mutilating derangement of social relationship which, in its alternate forms of crime and ideation, is the disgrace and glory of the human species," is to call that gender a mediocrity.

I mean, come on.


From: land of the midnight lotus | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 13 April 2005 02:54 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
looney, through the literary history of every culture I know, there are a great many "androgynous" men who have never had a lick of trouble getting published.

Androgyny is not the issue. The issue always has been the "men" part plus the "getting published" part.

You and Paglia may like to put that down to some hesitation in female psychology. I've worked in publishing. I have other explanations.

[ 13 April 2005: Message edited by: skdadl ]


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
kingofbabblon
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posted 13 April 2005 04:46 PM      Profile for kingofbabblon   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
faith wrote:

quote:
this is the second thread that you keep persisting in your efforts to introduce and discuss Camille Paglia even after most of the Babblers express a negative opinion and/or 'leave the building'.

i'm outta here. i was clearly mistaken. thanks looney.

"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." - George Orwell


From: toronto | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged
Coyote
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posted 13 April 2005 04:50 PM      Profile for Coyote   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by jeff house:
whenever I go to a demonstration where 10,000 people call for peace, there will be two people who claim to be part of the demo, but want war.

They get the same coverage as the demo does, including pictures in the paper.

That's Paglia.


Yeah. At the provincial NDP Convention in Sask. last year, there was a motion to commend the Sask. Surpreme Court for its ruling on SSM (in favour). The media decided it was a "bitter division in the Party." I was there. One person spoke against. Four voted with her. The other over 200 people in the room were pretty unanimous.

From: O’ for a good life, we just might have to weaken. | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged
Brett Mann
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posted 13 April 2005 07:55 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Skdadl, I accept your argument about male domination in publishing - sort of. That is, I guess this male domination probably is exactly what you infer, and I certainly defer to your experience in publishing and in literature generally. My central area of training has been in psychology, and I'm somewhat flattered and honoured that you would take the time to debate with me in an field where I am a relative rookie. My reservation is this - in an era when publishing seems to have opened the gates to thousands of talented (and of course, some not-so-talented) women writers, is this male domination still an obstacle? I have no trouble believing it would have easily been an insurrmountable one in the times of Descartes and Pascal, but if women writers of tremendous ability at that time were ignored, surely some of them must have been re-discovered in this modern age?

I know, there is a lengthy history of more good women writers than I will be able to read in this lifetime, but how many truly great ones? The female authors' pantheon looks a little thin to me, but this a: may or may not be true and b: may or may not be attributable to the reasons Paglia argues.

This discussion is in danger of becoming diffused into nothingness by the broad range of ideas and beliefs under examination. It would probably be more productive to focus on one (or a few) issues at a time. How helpful/original is Paglia's use of Dionysian and Appollonian categories in her cultural analysis? To what degree are differences between the sexes completely independent of social conditioning? What are the implications of Paglia's understanding of "chthonian nature" to current cultural beliefs about nature and environmentalism? Are Oscar Wilde and the Marquis de Sade really as seminally important as Paglia says? These kind of questions are more interesting to me than sweeping applause or denunciations.

Bittersweet, your point is right on. This is the central issue we are grappling with, I think. Paglia's chasm-like division of masculine and feminine into two different psychologies, with different purposes, values, means and perspectives on life. I think this is only threatening to those who seek a spurious and impossible "equality" between the sexes. (And not to be too minute, but I think the term is "sex", not "gender". Gender refers to a grammatical category. The persistent misuse of this term, now so widespread as to be unquestioned, reflects the bedrock aversion of feminism to any meaningful discussion of sexual realities). To simplify to the point of parody, Paglia is saying men are crazy, and you're complaining that this makes women seem "mediocre". Anyway, I'll bet we both know or have known a few wonderful "crazy" women. But here is a deeper question here. I admire Paglia precisely because I think she speaks the truth in an age of lies. Unlike many others, I firmly do believe in objective truth and our moral responsibility to face it head on. If there are the kinds of differences between the sexes Paglia proposes, completely refractory to any attempt at social re-engineering, I think we have an obligation to deal with this reality whether it appears flattering to one sex or the other.


From: Prince Edward County ON | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
Cueball
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posted 13 April 2005 09:01 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Sex not gender? Oh I see, you just wanted to flirt. Better tie yourself to the mast there buddy this is gonna get rough!

quote:
"Serial or sex murder, like fetishism, is a perversion of male intelligence. It is a criminal abstraction, masculine in its deranged egotism and orderliness. It is the asocial equivalent of philosophy, mathematics, and music. There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper."

There was no female Mozart because of Jack the Ripper. Jack is not only the symbolic, but also the very real embodiement of male oppression directed at women by men.

Here, you profess and interest in psychology.

Jack's choice of victim is very interesting: Prostitutes -- women who (in the Sadian framework) had enlisted the value of thier sex as a means to aquire wealth and therefore independence from Christian patriarchy and its attendant morality.

I will argue that if Paglia had correctly read De Sade, she would note immediatly that Jack chose Juliettes not Justines as his victims, as he was offended by Juliette's affront to Christian morality that is contained in Juliette's attempt to free herself from economic opression, not only of her class but also her sex by using her sex for her own financial benefit.

Paglia is Jack's handmaiden, by manner of wiping the knife clean of any ideological stains to rid it of the evidence against him. She insists that she will be the only Juliette, and that all other women must play the role of Justine.

Does it look like I am saying here that Paglia is an ideological prostitute. Why! It does seem to be so, such is the logic of the metaphor.

[ 13 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


From: Out from under the bridge and out for a stroll | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
bittersweet
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posted 13 April 2005 10:05 PM      Profile for bittersweet     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Gender is the colloquial term for a person's sex, according to Oxford. Colloquial terms, also according to Oxford, are words that aren't formal or literary. I don't like to put on airs, y'see, so I never say "sex." It's always gender with me. No slight on you, by the way; of course one has to be true to oneself. It's just that I was taught by nuns in a colloquial school, and it's hard to break the habit.
From: land of the midnight lotus | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 14 April 2005 09:05 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
How helpful/original is Paglia's use of Dionysian and Appollonian categories in her cultural analysis? To what degree are differences between the sexes completely independent of social conditioning? What are the implications of Paglia's understanding of "chthonian nature" to current cultural beliefs about nature and environmentalism? Are Oscar Wilde and the Marquis de Sade really as seminally important as Paglia says? These kind of questions are more interesting to me than sweeping applause or denunciations.

looney, of course all those questions are interesting, but Paglia is hardly the first person to raise them. I know that she talks about herself as some great discoverer of these issues, but that's why so many of us laugh at her. The tension between the Apollonian and the Dionysian as original with Paglia? Give. Me. A. Break. Where in the history of poetics does one NOT encounter that discussion?

And discussions of the chthonian and readings of de Sade are a dime a dozen now, having been super-trendy for at least the last thirty years. (de Sade, btw, can't hold a literary candle to his contemporary Choderlos de Laclos, who mastered the same psychology but could also write well: see Les Liaisons dangereuses. de Sade: you really have to be a masochist to subject yourself to the sheer boredom of him as narrator.)

And yes, a great many more women are being published now than ever before. That is, ah, the point, I believe. The groundwork for a culture is being laid.


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Cueball
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posted 14 April 2005 12:37 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I think De Sade is important in the development of ideas. I think he is also important historically. I don't think he is as boring as all that. His attack is upon the hypocrisy of the church. His writing is thick and thin partly because it is not only narrative but also polemic.

An interesting derivation from him is a play called Madame De Sade by Yukio Mashima. Not a simple inversion or anything like that. Mashima is know world wide Japan's for committing Sepuku after trying to initiate an abortive coup in Japan in 1970. Its an interesting cultrual collision as Japan's most infamous facist monarchist writer tries to come to terms with the real life wife of the 18th century European libertine.

But Looney if you are looking for good S&M porn, you are better off reading Mary Gaitskill. Try Bad Behavior. One of her shorts was turned into a bad movie called Secretary, which I won't go into.

What is most interesting about Gaitskill is her ambivalence toward the topic, and usually centers around the dynamics of people trying unite in reality their darker sexual fantasies, and the absurd, funny, sometimes erotic and often tragic results.

Picture someone into submission fantasies instructing giving their supposedly dominant partner specic instructions on how to do it. Or imagine: Please can I put these handcuffs on you, I'm begging you." "Ok. But you have to be more assertive."

Strange things happen when people try to make the leap from fantasy to reality, and the inner world of two people rarely conicide the way wither imagines they will.

Mary Gaitskill

[ 14 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


From: Out from under the bridge and out for a stroll | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Brett Mann
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posted 14 April 2005 06:16 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
My goodness, Cueball! "If you're still looking for some good SM porn" - Good Lord, man, we've hardly met!

But strangely, this comment strikes very close to one of Paglia's central tenets - that there is an element of sadism and masochism inherent in all sex, that domination and submission are essential elements of sex, even straight missionary style Protestant sex. Paglia is interested in restoring to sex its primal, unsocialized nature. We romaticize sex as a culture, but it remains an untrammeled river of wildness and excess throughout history. In this over-controlled, over-protected, over-observed civilization we inhabit, sex may be the last genuine contact we have in our lives as humans with the wild, with real nature. And Paglia is merciless in pointing out how merciless nature can be.

Regarding de Sade, I'm on Skdadl's side. Painful reading. But Paglia looks at western literature through a very elemental lens - sex. I don't know which is more astounding - that this works like a charm and Paglia has discovered (pace Skdadl) an intellectual framework that successfully encompasses 5000 years of art history; or that apparently no one has done this before. Certainly many critics have pored over the sexual lives of authors, but has anyone before ever used this simple and obvious perspective to attempt what Paglia is trying to do?


From: Prince Edward County ON | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
Cueball
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posted 14 April 2005 06:52 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I think you should get out more.
From: Out from under the bridge and out for a stroll | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Brett Mann
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posted 15 April 2005 08:42 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Sorry if I ruffled your feathers, Cueball, that SM porn reference was an attempt at a joke . I probably should have used a smilie.

Well, that's about all I've got to say about Paglia for a while. People either get her or don't, I guess. I'll leave with a quotation from her address at MIT (Sex, Art and American Culture, 1992) -

"... what I represent is independent thought. What I represent is the essence of the sixties, which is free thought and free speech. And a lot of people don't like it. A lot of people who are well-meaning on both sides of the political spectrum want to shut down free speech. And my mission is to be absolutely as painful as possible in every situation."

Brett


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Cueball
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posted 16 April 2005 12:29 AM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Actually, I was trying to encourage you to explore other interpretations of S&M role playing.

[ 16 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


From: Out from under the bridge and out for a stroll | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Brett Mann
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posted 16 April 2005 10:59 AM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Cueball, I'm a retrosexual, and my interest in S&M, etc. is pretty hypothetical and abstract. But I have seen the film Secretary, and thought it a good and original depiction of the psychology of sexual domination/submission. I also had a woman friend who I eventually learned, enjoyed flirting with S and M type stuff - she liked Japanese bondage pornography, she said. She explained that the sexual turn-on for her lay in submitting helplessly to the domination of her partner, all the while aware that he was even more in bondage to his desire for her. That is, although she was the "bottom", she ultimately held all the cards, and this was the source of her sexual arousal. I think this is a simple and accurate model of S&M dynamics, and I would guess that in most if not all actual cases, reflects an inability of the individuals drawn to this type of sex to connect authentically as equal humans, through sex. I therefor find S&M ultimately empty and sad.

One interesting Paglia theme (mea culpa, I know I said I was going to leave this alone) is connectiing sexual behaviours and styles with the stage of the society/civilization in which they occur. So more adventurous or perverse sex is found in later, decadent stages of culture. Now what I'm not clear on is whether Paglia would argue that these more "decadent" sexual tastes were as widespread, but invisible in the earlier stages of a culture, or whether they are in fact produced in the individual during decadent stages by the cultural milieu or mindset itself. Any thoughts?

Addendum: Post coitus, total animalia tristes sunt.

[ 16 April 2005: Message edited by: looney ]


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Cueball
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posted 16 April 2005 12:28 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by looney:
Cueball, I'm a retrosexual, and my interest in S&M, etc. is pretty hypothetical and abstract. But I have seen the film Secretary, and thought it a good and original depiction of the psychology of sexual domination/submission. I also had a woman friend who I eventually learned, enjoyed flirting with S and M type stuff - she liked Japanese bondage pornography, she said. She explained that the sexual turn-on for her lay in submitting helplessly to the domination of her partner, all the while aware that he was even more in bondage to his desire for her. That is, although she was the "bottom", she ultimately held all the cards, and this was the source of her sexual arousal. I think this is a simple and accurate model of S&M dynamics, and I would guess that in most if not all actual cases, reflects an inability of the individuals drawn to this type of sex to connect authentically as equal humans, through sex. I therefor find S&M ultimately empty and sad.

[ 16 April 2005: Message edited by: looney ]


Sure fine, empty and sad. Where does all this 'equal' humans stuff come in now that you have been positting inequalities, such as the kind Paglia is fond of fomenting.


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jeff house
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posted 16 April 2005 02:15 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Of course Paglia didn't invent the Apollonian/Dionysian trope. Nietszche did, at least as it is used in cultural theory today.

But Paglia is not alone in her appeciation of DeSade; I was surpised to see an encomium in "Dialectic of Enlightenment" by Horkheimer and Adorno, leaders of the Frankfurt School.

But they don't claim he was a feminist, they claim he was an anticapitalist before his time.
According to them, reducing everything one's own desires or wants, and then using others to satisfy them, is the essence of capitalism.

De Sade was, they say, taking the logic of capitalism to its rational conclusion.


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Cueball
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posted 16 April 2005 09:23 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Now we are getting somewhere.

And it occurred to me to ask, where does Paglia stand on Petronius, as in the Satyricon? How does two gay lovers drinking and whoring their way around the mediteranean fit in to all this? Satyricon, is considered the first western porno novel, so I'd be curious to know.


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Brett Mann
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posted 17 April 2005 10:52 AM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Cueball, I don't want to sound overly-judgemental on S&M. I note that in the film Secretary, the protagonists used their exploration of dominance and submission to develop an authentic emotional connection between them. I'm sorry if I suggested that real emotional contact is not possible in S&M or other types of more adventurous or exploratory sexuality. It's just not my cup of tea, but I don't mean to offer some kind of blanket condemnation.

Regarding male homosexuality, Paglia is tremendously gay-friendly, is herself a lesbian, I believe, and has written some fascinating analysis of homeosexual sex and love. I don't remember what she had to say about Satyricon, but I seem to remember she mentions it. At least I would be surprised if she didn't.

Looking for economic and political subtexts in de Sade may be interesting, but risks missing Paglia's central point about sexuality in general - that it is a power far more significant in its effects on individuals that any abstract philosophical or economic construct.


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skdadl
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posted 17 April 2005 12:21 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Paglia ... de Sade ... Nietzsche ... a dime a dozen, a dime a dozen ... *yawn*
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jeff house
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posted 17 April 2005 01:31 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
this comment strikes very close to one of Paglia's central tenets - that there is an element of sadism and masochism inherent in all sex, that domination and submission are essential elements of sex, even straight missionary style Protestant sex. Paglia is interested in restoring to sex its primal, unsocialized nature. We romaticize sex as a culture, but it remains an untrammeled river of wildness and excess throughout history. In this over-controlled, over-protected, over-observed civilization we inhabit, sex may be the last genuine contact we have in our lives as humans with the wild, with real nature.

To me, what is striking about this paragraph is the extent to which it tracks Nietzsche. The need to dominate others is said to be "primal", and our civilization overcontrolled and overprotected.

Nietzsche also thought effete society needed smashing by dominant leaders, with a return to the bestial, or the animal being what was needed to return us to the real.

The consequences were not all favourable.

Paglia directs this analysis more directly than Nietzsche ever did. But she is nonetheless doing nothing new here. Nearly-identical analyses can be found in the writings of Otto Gross or many others of the Ancona society, left-Nietzcheans all. Supposedly Isadora Duncan, one of the Anconans, used to say to her lovers: "Let's make love like tigers."


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Brett Mann
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posted 17 April 2005 05:33 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Jeff, Paglia's emphasis on nature may parallel Nietzsche, but she is far from advocating a complete surrender to the natural order of things. Just spent an afternoon looking through the first chapter of Vamps and Tramps. The direction of her thinking may be evident in this excerpt from a discussion of rape :

" In Sexual Personae, I critiqued the sunny Rousseauism running through the last two hundred years of liberal thinking and offered the dark tradition of Sade, Darwin, Nietzsche and Freud as more truthful about human perversity. It is more accurate to see primitive egotism and animality ever-simmering behind social controls - than to predicate purity and innocence ravaged by a corrupt society."

and

"Women are not in control of their bodies; nature is."

and

"Women must accept their own abivalence in order to wield their birthright of dominion over men."

Although she often focuses her attacks on traditional feminism ("Betty Crocker feminism") Palia is really criticising the increasingly abstract and dis-embodied nature of our culture generally, and examining the possible consequences for our civilization of disregarding nature and its powers. But in the end she says, "merely because nature is supreme does not mean that we must yield to it. I take the Late Romantic view that everything great in human history has been achieved in defiance of nature."

PS: thanks for the reference to Otto Gross and the Anconan group. Interesting.

[ 17 April 2005: Message edited by: looney ]


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Boom Boom
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posted 17 April 2005 05:37 PM      Profile for Boom Boom     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I brought and read 'Vamps and Tramps' the year it came out, but haven't had any interest in opening it again, since. Paglia was more interesting when she wrote for one of the magazines, I forget which one it was.
From: Make the rich pay! | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
Cueball
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posted 17 April 2005 06:51 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
The consequences were not all favourable.


Its this kind of drole line that pays the bills around here.


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bittersweet
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posted 25 April 2005 12:46 PM      Profile for bittersweet     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Another review of the book:
New Criterion

From: land of the midnight lotus | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
Brett Mann
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posted 25 April 2005 04:22 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Thanks Bittersweet, that is a fair and thoughtful and perceptive review. In reference to Skdadl's wondering about Paglia's take on John Donne, I append this snippet from the New Criterion review -

Her title, Break, Blow, Burn, comes from Donne’s Holy Sonnet XIV, but of her three selections from Donne, the best—with the most intriguing (not to mention creepy) exegesis—is “The Flea”:

"The hapless flea will actually end up as a holy martyr to love. Its transformation begins with its theft of human blood—first the poet’s and then the lady’s, which are “mingled” like potion in a beaker (3-4).

As it magically “swells with one blood made of two,” the flea becomes their weird child (8). The couple have somehow vaulted to procreation without sexual intercourse, for which a virgin always pays a blood price."

The sexual element is often at the forefront of Paglia’s readings; yet here and elsewhere, though it may disturb, it is never banal or prurient. The same cannot always be said of her interest in the Dionysian or “erotic” in rock music or cinema. Still, her lower influences enliven her writing and criticism, even when not dealt with explicitly. She is influenced by high and low, but governed by neither. Most who attempt what she does are, in fact, influenced primarily by low, but shrewd enough to add a patina of credibility-enhancing high.


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Cueball
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posted 25 April 2005 04:24 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Sorry, no one here has her home phone number.
From: Out from under the bridge and out for a stroll | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Brett Mann
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posted 25 April 2005 05:32 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Not too many people have got her number, period.
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jrootham
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posted 25 April 2005 06:02 PM      Profile for jrootham     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Seriously procrstinated thread drift.

quote:
Mme du Chatelet, translator of Newton.

This seriously understates Mme du Chatelet's contributions to physics. Voltaire financed a lab for her and she made very good use of it. She is the physicist who determined that energy is proportional to the square of the velocity rather than proportional to the velocity. This was a major underpinning to a lot of other work.

It's a little annoying that even feminists understate the contributions of women (although I suspect it has to do with unfamiliarity with the subject matter).


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Cueball
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posted 25 April 2005 06:50 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by looney:
Not too many people have got her number, period.

So, perhaps someone here might be able to. Any takers?

Your love for Paglia is about equal, and somehow similar, to MasterDeabator's love for Andrea Dworkin.

[ 25 April 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


From: Out from under the bridge and out for a stroll | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Brett Mann
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posted 25 April 2005 07:07 PM      Profile for Brett Mann        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
jrootham, no drift it all. Your comments are completely apropos to the theme of this thread as I construe it, and informative and interesting to boot. Women's contribution to mathematics, physics,art and literature and every other endeavour are absolutely germane to this discussion, since Paglia is making some sweeping generalizations, and they deserve a sincere challenge, or at least examination.

Cueball, you got me. As I've been following some of the discussion about Dworkin's death and legacy, I've come to see that she shared a committment to the search for truth with Paglia, and consequently I have the highest regard for both of them. In the end, however, I think Dworkin would have been Paglia's student.


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Cueball
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posted 25 April 2005 07:10 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Assassin more likely.
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