Camille Anna Paglia is an American author, social critic, and academic. This biography profiles her childhood, life, career, works, achievements and timeline.
Camille Anna Paglia is an American author, social critic, and academic. She is a self-labeled dissident feminist and is well-known for her scathing outlook on modern culture, especially concerning its portrayal in music, film and the arts. Bursting onto the scene in the 1970s, she is well-known as an academic who loves to challenge the cultural stigmas and public reactions to controversial subjects. Her idols during her formative years were strong women who made no apologies for the way they lived their lives such as Katherine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. Her fierce and uncompromising personality enabled her to live her life as an open lesbian during a time when it was considered a taboo. She has been described as a “feminist who hates affirmative action” and “an atheist who respects religion.” When it comes to her writings, she often takes an unanticipated and original stand to her topics. She cannot be put into a specific mold, as even those who share her opinions are not off-limits to her judgments
Childhood & Early Life
She was born on April 2, 1947 in Endicott, New York, to Italian immigrants Pasquale and Lydia Anne Paglia.
Her parents were poor, but raised her to appreciate the art and culture of their new country. At the age of 3 she was introduced to the opera ‘Carmen’ which left a profound impression on her.
She attended Edward Smith Elementary School in Oxford, New York. While she was studying here, her family lived in a working farmhouse.
In 1956, at the age of 9, Camille attempted a production of ‘Hamlet’ at her school. The experience left her disappointed and hostile after some of the classmates failed to learn their lines.
In 1957, the Paglia family moved to Syracuse, New York, as her father had to attend graduate school. He later became an educator in Romance languages at Le Moyne College.
In 1964, she enrolled in Harpur College at Binghamton University. Four years later, she graduated as valedictorian of her class.
She went on to earn her Master’s and Doctoral degrees from Yale Graduate School. During this period, she began to dissect the roles of culture and feminism in Western culture.
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Upon graduating, she took to teaching at Bennington College in Vermont. This job lasted from 1972 until 1978 when she assaulted a student she caught flirting with her girlfriend. The college offered a settlement and allowed her to resign.
In 1979, she published a paper ‘The Apollonian Androgyne and the Faerie Queen’ in ‘English Literary Renaissance.’
During the 1980s, when she faced rejection after rejection for her first book, ‘Sexual Personae’, Paglia supported herself with part-time teaching jobs at various colleges.
In 1984, she was hired as a professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She still holds this position today.
As well as her teaching career, Camille also contributes to ‘Interview’ magazine and the website Salon.com
Her 1990 book ‘Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson’ went on to become a bestseller after suffering half a dozen rejections. It discusses the aspect of the male force in civilization as compared to the female force.
In 1992, she published ‘Sex, Art, and American Culture.’ The book was a compilation of editorials and reviews covering varying aspects of pop culture.
‘Vamps and Tramps: New Essays’ was released in 1994. The book assembled a wide array of short articles, a long essay and cartoons relating to Camille from assorted newspapers.
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In honor of the 35th anniversary of Hitcock’s movie ‘The Birds’, Paglia released her own book of the same title. In it she used a psychoanalytic approach to decipher the movie’s themes.
In 2005, she came up with ‘Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-three of the World’s Best Poems.’ Geared toward readers unfamiliar with poetry, she included personal essays to accompany the works explaining the purpose of each.
Her latest book, ‘Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars’ came out in 2012. This series of essays explored renowned works from the ancient times to the modern.
Awards & Achievements
In 2005, the journals ‘Foreign Policy’ and ‘Prospect’ named her as one of the top 100 public intellectuals.
Personal Life & Legacy
Paglia was in a decade-long romance with artist Alison Maddex, eventually adopting Alison’s son. The coupled broke apart in 2007.
Though she is a registered Democrat, she voted third party in the last few elections. With a unique opinion on cultural values, she is against laws that oppose taboo subjects such as prostitution, drugs, abortion and pornography.
She considers the sentence “God is man’s greatest idea” to be her best. She believes in it so much that she is willing to have her entire career judged on it.
She was placed on probation in college after perpetrating 39 separate pranks.
While attending Spruce Ridge Camp as an adolescent, Paglia blew up an outhouse after pouring too much lime into the toilet.