Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Filling the Void

"The humanities are ruined, and the universities are full of crooks. Art in America is neglected, coddled, and buried under chatter. The right looks down on artists; the left looks down on everyone." --from an interview with Camille Paglia, located at


Blogger Arvin Hill said...

As usual, the wildly inconsistent Paglia hits every other nail on the head and miss the intervening ones by a country mile.

Her indictment of The Left is largely accurate, yet she confines her criticism of [neo]conservatism to its most obvious, undeniable manifestations, and she seems to completely miss the fact that it has been the dominant political philosophy of the last quarter century. But, then, professional contrarians like Paglia are far too dependent on the political middle to acknowledge its extinction.

For all practical purposes, she's about two steps removed from party hack - the kind that calls into radio programs and says "I used to be a Democrat, but liberals ran me out of the party." Or some familiar variation thereof. Fifteen years of listening to Rush Limbaugh can do that to a person.

It's an interesting dual niche she's carved for herself - academic purist and tireless champion of us Regular Folk. I'm not qualified to assess the former, lacking an academic pedigree and not being well-versed in the classics. But I find her proletariat shtick cringe-inducing. Based on her work at Salon, Paglia's idea of what constitutes working class is extremely narrow and anachronistic, fixated as it is on all things macho.

On the plus side, as a teacher, she at least understands the importance of teaching media crit (dissembling ads, etc.).

In the demerit column, it is unfortunate neither the interviewer, Robert Birnbaum, nor Paglia commented on the resurgence of poetry as a contemporary, living art form. Considering the book is about poetry, I found it a conspicuous absence.

Nonetheless, despite my dim view of Paglia, in general, I wouldn't rule out reading her new book since she wrote it with people like me in mind - that is, those of us with a rather pathetic knowledge of classical works. I suspect this is her only real area of expertise.

9:07 AM  

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