Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia
Camille Paglia, the art historian, provoked post-modernism and feminism in 1990 with the book “Sexual Personae. The book was somehow very controversial to many. The goal of the author was to depict the patterns of continuity allied to pagans in the western culture as well as to expose the ideals of feminism as misguided perspective or a dream. It is worth noting that the author exhibits a high sensitive intuition regarding the works of art. More so, she has a talent as psychoanalyst artist. The current paper responds to two questions derived from the first chapter of her book.
Question 1: The Term Apollonian and Dionysian
In the first chapter, Paglia asserts that there is a fundamental opposition between culture and nature in the western civilization. The aforementioned opposition is what the author describes as an opposition between the Apollonian and the Dionysian. According to the author, nature is violent and barbarous. However, individuals pretend that nature is benevolent because they do not want to succumb to their utter despair. The western aesthetics, according to the author, is Apollonian or, in other terms, god of sky. This implies that the men dominate the culture and that the culture is rationalized. Accordingly, the western culture has repressed and inhibited its Dionysian or in other terms, god of earth— in which women who have emotional polarity dominate.
Most significantly, art, science, and capitalism can be apollonian. Art can be Apollonian by camouflaging or hiding the dehumanizing brutality allied to nature or rather Dionysian. The latter is true if people accept and celebrate art. Capitalism and science, on the other hand, can be apollonian because striving for order when it comes to Apollonian is majorly centralized based on the traditions of the Judeo-Christian. This is responsible for the western achievements and personality.
Nonetheless, it is also worth noting that a Dionysian dimension is also inherent in the western culture. These are what the author refers to as the ‘‘chthonic.’’ The latter is what liberal humanists choose never to acknowledge. Accordingly, sexual symbolism in art represents the chthonic realities allied to nature. The sexual symbolism, according to Paglia, is normally compulsive and violent. For instance, the author argues that majority of academic critics gloss over or rather ignores sadism, amorality, voyeurism, pornography, and the aggression in great art.
While Paglia considers herself a feminist, a majority of female writers argue that her work is misogynistic. I think that her presentation for women in this case is not fair. Paglia fails to present a fair-minded rebuttal to the strident feminist criticisms associated with the western cultural traditions. Rather, she reinforces pernicious stereotypes regarding women in her writing. In my opinion, although what Paglia presented in the writing may sound stodgy, if not convectional, she heats various aspects allied to women considerably by drawing ostentatious and flashy assortments of thrilling and extreme conclusions, which are based on her ordinary premises. Apart from praising the spectacular glory inherent in male civilization, Paglia openly rejects the ”benign Romantic nature” envisioned by Rousseau and its offspring. It is worth noting that the author rejected the 19th century progressivist strain. The latter meant that social reform would acquire paradise on earth.
Accordingly, the author claims that feminism is Rousseau’s heir because she sees all hierarchies as a social fiction and repressive. Moreover, she perceives all the negatives facets associated to women as man’s deception created to keep the woman in her place. She adds that feminism has exceeded the proper vision and mission assigned to it of ensuring political impartiality and ended up rejecting contingency. According to Paglia, it can only be referred to as human limitation by fate or nature. Paglia also believes that if women were given the opportunity to handle civilization, people would still be living in grass huts.