Re: Camille Paglia: Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders

>Harrison Brace wrote:
>>How, and why would anyone respond to her (Paglia's)
>>"critical" statements such as "only women have vaginas" from that essay,
>>hum-drum remarks that she imagines to be witherning?
>I'm not spoiling for a fight here, but isn't the point she's trying to make
>about the very _hum-drumness_ of sexual differentiation? (And if anything's
>going to get withered, it's penises, not vaginas. :-) )

I think you're making her seem more interesting than she is (it's such a
simple point, it *must* be profound!). I agree, however, that there does
at times seem to be a stultifying consensus in "critical thought" in the
academy, having to do with the goals of criticism. As is all too obvious,
the telos of most academic/critical articles is the diagnoses of the
potential "subversiveness" of a particular cultural formation. (Ironically
perhaps, D.A. Miller, one of the targets of Paglia's piece, is one of the
best critics of this problem).

I don't think, however, that this problems arises just because the academy
has taken a "wrong turn." We (the humanities, "we") are living in a crisis
of self-justification. Paglia seems too offer some people the palliative
of a promise to a return to business as usual, but in this case her promise
is all the more alluring because of her biographical position (i.e. she is
not an old white male; she may be a lesbian; she has "gay friends"). But
behind all of her self-proclamations of brilliance -- of being the *only*
female intellectual in history besides de Beauvoir -- her work is nothing
but a conglomeration of the worst sort of inanities -- inanities that play
well because we are desperately waiting for something new. But you don't
get out of a cultural/intellectual crisis that way.

BTW, I was pointing to her comment, "only women have vaginas," not so much
to talk about her proclivity for inanity but rather to point out her
concerted attack on gay men (yes, I know, she has gay friends); her attack
on ACT UP; on people with AIDS, and particularly on academics who have died
of AIDS (see my previous post). More than anything else, perhaps, I find
her supposition of epistemology privilege over gay men intolerable (she
said in an interview something to the effect of "I'm the only one who knows
why gay men become gay")

>Paglia is a polemicist, so her points are sloppy, but isn't there a
>difficulty here for gender-definitions that begin and end in discourse

I don't think that follows. Nietzsche is a polemicist, but he is not
sloppy. Irresponsible, perhaps, but not sloppy. Althusser, I think,
defined the joy of ideology as the pleasure, the non-critical tautology, in
saying "yes, the way I see the world *is* the world." That, I think, is
the attraction of Paglia.

>Not that I believe that what Foucault says is as simple as all that.

Harrison Brace
Grad Student
Stanford, Department of Comparative Literature

Department of Comparative Literature
Encina Hall
Stanford, CA 94305-2031

Sanity is the lot of those who are most obtuse, for lucidity destroys one's
equilibrium: it is unhealthy to honestly endure the labors of the mind
which incessantly contradict what they have just established.

Georges Bataille

email me for PGP key


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