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Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (Yale Nota Bene) [Paperback]

Camille Paglia
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Sep 2001 Yale Nota Bene
Is Emily Dickinson "the female Sade"? Is Donatello's David a bit of paedophile pornography? What is the secret kinship between Byron and Elvis Presley, between the Medusa and Madonna? How do liberals and feminists - as well as conservatives - fatally misread human nature? This audacious and omnivorously learned work of guerilla scholarship offers nothing less than a unified-field theory of Western culture, high and low, since the Egyptians invented beauty - making a persuasive case for all art as a pagan battleground between male and female, form and chaos, civilisation and demonic nature.


Product details

  • Paperback: 733 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; New edition edition (3 Sep 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300091273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300091274
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 200,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Sexual Personae is an enormous sensation of a book, in all the better senses of 'sensation'. -- Harold Bloom

"A fine, disturbing book. It seeks to attack the reader's emotions as well as his/her prejudices..." -- Anthony Burgess

"It relentlessly pursues its ambition to assault the emotions, batter the brain and aim a kick at the groin." -- Alan Bold, The Times

"Provocative ... a radical reappraisal of the human condition. Her style is marked by angry exhiliration, brittle epigrams and acid paradoxes." -- Times Literary Supplement

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comulsive reading 8 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Camille Paglia's massive study of Western culture and the dynamic of Apollo and Dionysus - heaven striving and earthbound - is difficult to put down. It is a real challenge both to conventional feminism, and also to politically correct notions. er style is dazzling and formidably learned, her insights into arte and culture both challenging and brilliant. Her approach is as she states indeebted to Freud, Nietzsche, de Sade, and Jung and Neumann. It is a most valuable and deeply challenging to many current notions and is not aafraid to look at the deeper shadow side of Western culture, Christianity, and sexual dynamics.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Glittering Eyes of Camille Paglia 2 Feb 2006
By JC
Format:Paperback
Taken carefully, like high quality chocolate, this gigantic, opiate den of a book induces in the reader a welcome yearning to find or revisit the veiled, dark side of some wonderful writing.
Each chapter dwells, in chronological order, on a selection of writers Paglia identifies as key to her uncovering of sexual archetypes - some old, some newly found – across the classic canon of art & literature.
A timeline is the first & last stable element of the book, as she barely touches the rudder to drift the reader through a protean, delicious, swamp-realm of sexual drives, longings & fervent consummations emerging from the misty shadows of the artists` work.
At any turn the journey can move from a moment of searing clarity & insight (e.g. the idea that men created the “beauty in nature” aesthetic to drown out despairing truth – that nature is an uncontrollable, sadistic force which will always prevail somehow) or slide miles away for an extended, purely aesthetic exaltation of a poem`s beauty & style, allowing Paglia`s boundless critical language to, at times, out-shimmer its subject.
As it delineates & parades varieties of sexual personae – beautiful boys, nurturing males, vampiric lesbians, femme fatales, alien androgynes & hieratic hermaphrodite, their literary habitats, their guises & displays - this book`s overall effect is akin to swooning; a too-muchness of information & graphic analysis – one long orgy of impulses, connections & echoes across art, social politics and sexual expression.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
It isn't very often that a book can create such seizmic shiftsin a person's consciousness and perspective on, oh, just abouteverything. I sense what it must have been like at the turn of the century when the works of Nietszche and Freud- her intellectual precursors and patron saints- had their works argued and denounced and quickly lauded simultaneously. The beauty of this book, beyond her shining, acrobatic, intellect, is that it leaves you changed. This is not a dime-store novel- type intellectual polemic, that leaves you as if you just read the Harvard English professor's version of the National Enquirer. This is the kind of work that, when you put down, you become a renter in the apartment building of the author's mind- regardless of how much of your own furniture of opinions you choose to bring with you. To say I agree with her findings is almost irrelevant- in fact, that may be the central beauty of the whole thing. It is impossible to agree or diagree without seeing the world through her frame of reference while trying to prove your point- just as Freud and Nietzsche amde you do- and still do- before her.
If there are any faults that would render it unworthy of a perfect five star rating, I wouldn't go with the feeling of being exhausted by her erudition or polemic style. Even the cultural narcissism- obviously coming out of her Rolling Stones/Woodstock days of youth, which bleeds through her education- is forgiveable. Her only major fault I would say is what could best be called "Afro-phobia", and her avoidance of the African influence on Western culture, and its many sophisticated artistic and sexual/religious mores made manifest through the ages in not just 20th Century America.
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