Camille Paglia

at 10:00 AM
 (Ann Althouse/Flickr)

Author Camille Paglia is best-known for her contrarian views on art and culture, as well as her outspoken critiques of modern feminism. Her latest book, "Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars" is a survey of Western art and a collection of essays on 29 significant pieces of art spanning 33 centuries.

Interview Highlights

On Contempory Art

I spent five years writing this book and I was looking for examples of contemporary art to end this book which crosses 3,000 years from ancient Egypt. I couldn't find anything strong in the contemporary arts. Instead, every single thing I saw reminded me of like 20 other things in the last 200 years. So, that's why my last chapter, it wasn't what I planned, is a celebration of George Lucas as the world's greatest living artist.

On Madonna

Madonna was so important from 1983-1992. We tolerate her now. She can do whatever she wants, but she's in a terrible slide, I'm afraid. I wish she had modeled herself on her great model, Marlene Dietrich, who knew how to age gracefully. Alas, but Madonna changed the world. I mean, you can find in India and Japan, performance styles have utterly changed because of her. She's been so absorbed into culture that people think we don't need her anymore.

On Appealing to Conservatives

What I am trying to do with this book is to reach across the entire political landscape. I am appealing to conservatives to look at art, to reconsider art, and to take into their home the history of art. Particularly home schooling moms I am aiming at.

On Appealing to Liberals

I am also trying to reach liberals by saying, "Enough already, of these sterile shock tactics. Enough of the Christopher-Hitchens style of snarky atheism based on ignorance of religion. You must respect religion. You can condemn the hierarchies, the abuses of the bishops and the Pope and so on. But at the same time every religion of the world is enormously comprehensive and deep [in] what it portrays about human existence.

On Pornography

Young people today are trapped in an over technological environment, very sterile. They're just surrounded by machines, and therefore pornography is actually a window into a wild world of nature, what you're seeing are the elemental passions that have been sanitized out of everyday life.

On Lady Gaga

If people think that Lady Gaga, is important art? Its gimmick, gimmick, gimmick and that is exactly why my book is needed. And why people need to go backwards in time. I mean for heavens sakes there have been great art works produced in popular culture, let me just give you an example: Stevie Nick, "Gold Dust Woman," done by Fleetwood Mac, that is a work of art. Madonna's "Vogue" video was a work of art. Even Adele's great, "Rolling in the Deep," and "Set Fire to the Rain," these are works of art. People that are stuck on Lady Gaga have debased taste.

On Sarah Palin and the Pro-Life Movement

Well, ya know, I think, Sarah Palin had more executive experience, when she arrived on the national scene than our current president, Obama, did. I mean, I think the way she was treated was absolutely atrocious; there was a campaign of personal destruction that came from the liberal mainstream media, entirely devoted to her pro-life position. Now I am radically pro-choice, okay, but I feel that this denigration of the pro-life position by members of my party, the Democratic Party, is grossly unethical; that in fact the moral weight of this argument is on the other side. The way that my party stereotypes pro-life believers by saying, "They just want to gain control of women's bodies" -- nonsense. To say that life begins at conception is a very profound statement. I don't happen to agree with it, but I can respect the moral basis beneath it. So I believe what was done to Sarah Palin will live in infamy.

On the Similarity Between Real Housewives series and Opera

The passions, the deep emotions that overflow from the Real Housewives series, is one of the reasons I value it, in the same way I value great opera, like Puccini. And that's was missing from the sterile ideologies of academe -- with their snarkiness and their superciliousness and their cynicism and their high concept. There's a volcanic quality to the Real Housewives series.


Camille Paglia, professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia