Paglia is an intellectual of many apparent contradictions: a classicist who champions art both high and low, with a Hobbesian view that human nature is inherently dangerous, and yet who also celebrates dionysian revelry in the wilder, darker sides of human sexuality.
Paglia reached the height of her fame in 1992 with the publication of Sex, Art and American Culture. Much read on college campuses, she became a minor media icon and published short pieces in a number of mainstream magazines. Her next book, Vamps and Tramps (late 1994), was a collection of those short pieces along with other ephemera. Much of this material was dated by the time it appeared in book form, and thus the book represented something of a falling-off. Strangely, Paglia has not produced another book in the decade since, apart from a short volume in the BFI Film Classics series.
Her significance in the 1990s intellectual world was two-fold:
- The seventies had seen the rise of a particularly rigid, doctrinaire "feminism" that many were finding stifling but only a few were challenging (e.g., the "sex positive" S&M lesbians, perhaps typified by Susie Bright).
- The left was pushing for a change in the traditional focus of western universities on western culture (sometimes derided as the study of "dead white males"). For example, Stanford University was dropping its well-regarded undergraduate requirement of a year-long course in "Western Culture" in favor of a more broadly-focused study of "Cultures Ideas and Values" or CIV.
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SUNY Binghamton, BA, 1964-1968 Yale University, MPhil, 1971 Yale University, PhD (English), 1974. Dissertation supervised by Harold Bloom.
Bennington, VT, fac. Lit and Lang. 72-80 Wesleyan, Middletown, CT. vis. lec. Eng, 80 Yale, fellow of Ezra Stiles College, 81 Yale, vis. lec. Comparitive Lit., 81, 84 Yale, vis. lec. English, 1981-83 Yale, fellow of Silliman College, 1984 University of the Arts, PA., asst. prof. 84-86 University of the Arts, PA., associate prof. 87-91 University of the Arts, PA., professor of Humanities, 1991--