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"Professor In-Your- Face"....
am 30. März 2000
I don't agree with all she says, but what I really like about her is that she has more chutzpah and speed than a rampaging rhino. To me, that's what academia needs--chutzpah and speed and a kick in the pants or two. The prototypical professor has some kinda "Goodbye Mr. Chips" ivory tower affectation--"airs", they call it--that serves to lose many a bright and promising student. Paglia knows about that, of course, and she speaks about it, but she is a creation beyond mere academia...She kinda reminds me of some of those Professors I had like in Western/Non-Western Civilizations Courses and Comparative Religion Studies when I was a mere embryo in my liberal arts college. These professors made learning interesting because they weren't afraid to go into the trenches, so to speak, to bring home a lesson. I ended up with with professors who did missionary work in apartheid South Africa, who were NASA physical chemists, who were heirs to syrup and condiment dynasties...and they were all very successful in reaching me, a hardheaded, hardboiled kid from the heartlands.
Paglia is one of my favorite professor/writers/pop culture experts. She is usually dead-on those topics she explores and describes. Imagine my thrill, if you will, when I found she had an ongoing column in the netmagazine "Salon" and she is deliciously brazen, bold, informative and Italian about topics ranging from the Oscars--who won and what they were wearing and what she really thinks about, say, Gwenneth Paltrow--to the aforementioned ivory tower madness in most esteemed colleges and universities across the nation--to her ongoing calls for reform in many aspects of the feminist movement. I call her the neo-Renaissancer. Her seminal work, "Sexual Personae", put her on the map, but I have a feeling that even without that, she would have been front and center some cause she is so passionate about, and she would be just as famous.
About the book--they are actually gleanings from her first coupla 4-5 years after she published "Sexual Personae", including the rejected introduction from it. She is a huge Madonna fan so much so that she compares herself to her (and to Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and to snappy sassy thirties/forties film actresses like Rosalind Russell and Kate Hepburn), and in the article "Venus of The Airwaves" she unknowingly does a companion piece to Madonna's "Immaculate Collection: Videos". The Collection came out after the piece, but she critiques evvy video from "Lucky Star" to "Justify My Love"--one could only imagine what she thinks of Madonna's recent (art as life?) movie or her pop productions with electronica muse Bill Orbit...
Interesting to me in particular is her notes on the lectures she and Lily Yeh did at the Univerisity of the Arts in Philly: "East and West: An Experiment in Multiculturalism". Can you say, "Right down my alley", kiddies? Note: it truly is a ying/yang experience thru Professor P's eyes... She also writes about pagan goddess Liz Taylor, does a sweeping critique of sexuality and the "New Criticism" in "Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders", and transcribes the infamous M.I.T Lecture. And does each with a plunder and aplomb which is pure Paglia. You go, girl.
My opinion--love her, hate her. Utimately, that's up to the individual. To me she is one of the world's greatest teachers and thinkers. To ignore her would be pure heresy.