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February 15, 2007

Is Anybody Out There Eagerly Waiting for Volume Two of "Sexual Personae"? No, I Didn't Think So....

Perhaps you had the same response I did to hearing that Camile Paglia is returning to Salon: "Oh, is Paglia still around?"

Evidently, yes.

Molly Ivins is not, unfortunately. But back when Paglia was a hot topic, Ivins took her on brilliantly, as Faux Real reminds us.

Her essay from Mother Jones in 1991 really nails it:

Never one to dodge a simple dichotomy when she can set one up, Ms. Paglia holds that the entire error of western civilization stems from denying that nature is a kind of nasty, funky, violent, wet dream, and that Judeo-Christianity has been one long effort to ignore this. She pegs poor old Rousseau, that fathead, as the initiator of the silly notion that nature is benign and glorious and that only civilization corrupts.

Right away, I got a problem. Happens I have spent a lot of my life in the wilderness, and also a lot of my life in bars. When I want sex and violence, I go to a Texas honky-tonk. When I want peace and quiet, I head for the woods. Just as a minor historical correction to Ms. Paglia, Rousseau did not invent the concept of benign Nature. Among the first writers to hold that nature was a more salubrious environment for man than the corruptions of civilization were the Roman Stoics -- rather a clear-eyed lot, I always thought.

Now why, you naturally ask, would anyone care about whether a reviewer has ever done any serious camping? Ah, but you do not yet know the Camille Paglia school of I-am-the-cosmos argument. Ms. Paglia believes that all her personal experiences are Seminal. Indeed, Definitive. She credits a large part of her supposed wisdom to having been born post-World War II and thus having been raised on television. Damn me, so was I.

In addition to the intrinsic cultural superiority Ms. Paglia attributes to herself from having grown up watching television ("It's Howdy-Doody Time'' obviously made us all smarter), she also considers her own taste in music to be of enormous significance.....

Paglia is a living reminder that the perfect fit between narcissistic personality disorder and mass media did not begin with cyberculture. The rest of Ivins's article is available here.

Posted by smclemee at February 15, 2007 3:50 PM