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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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
on 2 February 2006
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.
Some might find the scintillating richness of forensic scholarship & erotic allusion draining & saturating; others (like this reader) will willingly plunge into this perfumed mud bath & roil in it all.
At the end, the rewards are an appreciation of Paglia`s ability to reach the parts most other critics won`t reach, an opened-up list of further reading that should sustain any liberated appetite for years & an ability to see through anything in trousers.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 17 April 1998
It is unlikely most readers will get through this book without being somewhat overwelmed by its sparkle, and god/desslike overview of Western literature. It is in the connections that Pagalia really bewilders, uncovering tropes that testify to her originality, showing the marks of a real poetess in prose. There are two chapters on Oscar Wilde and one might recall while reading them a conversation that took place between Wilde and Whistler. Whistler had said something clever, to which Wilde responded. "I wish I had said that." "You will Oscar," answered Whistler, "you will." For all Pagalia's creative, poetic tinkering with concepts, some of those concepts are those of other authors who get far too little recognition here. When she uses the metaphor of a wedge in talking about sexuality why doesn't Pagalia credit Susan Sontag's work on pornography, and really, in a book constructed around the antagonism of Apollo and Dionysus, what about citing Norman Brown's ground breaking work "Life Against Death." Unless you have a taste for sado-masochistic imagery and the determination to try to figure why it so fascinates this author don't attempt this book. That apart, the work will do little but stimulate the poet/ess in you, or if you are a critic, cause you a great deal of anxiety.
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on 31 March 2015
Not only was the condition poor but it appears to have been stolen from Preston library
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 12 November 2002
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.
Nonetheless, if you are even remotely fascinated by the subject matter- or any one of the God knows how many subjects, from sex to politics, it touches on while she proves her central thesis, you will immensely enjoy this book.
If your interest goes beyond that, you may find yourself as I have, ready to change the shape and the direction of your career.
Either way, you cannot look at the soul of art, artists and writers the same afterwards.
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on 12 January 2015
Al well!
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