Camille Paglia and Her Problems

A few days ago Neo-Neocon pondered the enigma that is Camille Paglia.

Paglia is a curious amalgam. She prides herself on being unique and iconoclastic, and she certainly defies categorization. She seems to ally with the right on Obamacare, global warming, and the foolishness of denying the differences between men and women, and she doesn’t pull her punches discussing any of them. But she voted for Obama in 2008.

Camille Paglia is a better art and culture critic than she is a political commentator. If you have a good chunk of time, here’s a great video of Paglia pimping her book Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars at the Chicago Humanities Festival.

The larger context of Paglia’s career is her crusade to drive the now fossilized dinosaurs of postmodernism, poststructuralism and Cultural Studies from the ’80s out of university Humanities departments. The fact  that she doesn’t like the Political Correctness, bad scholarship, awful prose, and narrow thinking that these schools produce makes her an ally to conservatives on a handful of issues. She also sympathizes with conservative opinions, which makes her likeable to conservatives.

All that aside, Camille Paglia should not be mistaken as a potential convert to conservatism. She’s just more popular on the Right than she is on the Left because she wants to reform some of the Left’s excesses, many of which are most glaring on college campuses and within feminism and the gay community. This is why it’s easy for her to find an audience on conservative talk shows and editorial pages. In the video above, though, it’s clear that she understands the Left much better than she understands the Right and that her critique is coming from the Left.

Paglia’s art criticism is fun to read, and her lectures verge on performance art. She’s also correct that poststructuralist gobbledygook has created a ghetto of boring and cynical scholarship with a piss-poor understanding of anything other than a handful of French and German theorists. The problem is that when she shows up in the news, it’s usually due to comments she made about something regarding a political issue.

But hey, go read Sex, Art and American Culture. It’s a blast and you’ll feel smarter afterward.

Update: Linked by Wombat-socho at The Other McCain.

Update II: Linked at American Power.



  1. Pingback: In The Mailbox, 01.01.14 : The Other McCain
    • Chandler's Ghost

      When it comes to politics, yes. When it comes to art and pop culture criticism, she’s one of the best out there. She’s certainly more intelligent than the dogmatic fools being churned out by the universities, and conservatives could learn something from her. Blowing Paglia off completely is a mistake.

  2. edge of the sandbox

    I like Paglia. When I discovered her after my college graduation in the 90s, she made my workweek when her new Salon column came out. I was never able to figure her out. Is she just a contrarian? I don’t think so. She’s better on some issues, like sex, and at times she sounds nuts. Still, what I appreciate is that she doesn’t walk in lockstep.

  3. EBL

    I like Camille, always have, but she is addled and leftist. I wish she could think clearly and truly break away but she can’t. Sort of like the Jesus parable of the rich man getting into heaven…the leftist has extreme difficulty trying to be left and then getting to the truth.

    • Chandler's Ghost

      Paglia’a political views are quite similar to those of my fifteen year old self: People should be able to do whatever they want (with a few obvious restrictions) without consequence, and society has enough to pay for everything.

      When I received my first paycheck at sixteen I realized that this was a bunch of crap.