Is George Lucas “the world’s greatest living artist”? Is the “spectacular volcano-planet climax of Lucas’s 'Revenge of the Sith' (2005)” the summa of western art? I ponder these questions and more in “Typhoon Camille,” my review of Camille Paglia’s Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars, now up at City Journal.
When Camille Paglia published Sexual Personae, her 1990 study of “Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson,” she became an unexpected combatant in the cultural wars. In a 1991 cover article that resembled a poster from the Wild West, The Village Voice plastered a picture of Paglia alongside mugshots of Roger Kimball, Dinesh D’Souza, Robert Brustein, Eugene Genovese, and Allan Bloom. The newspaper accused Paglia of being a “counterfeit feminist” who was “wanted for intellectual fraud.” The second-wave feminist Sandra M. Gilbert similarly wrote in The Kenyon Review that Paglia “loathes liberalism, egalitarianism, feminism, and Mother Nature.” Paglia was nothing if not primed for the fight. In her book, and in the interviews and articles that surrounded it, she attacked French post-structuralist theory and called out American feminist leaders as “drones,” “Stalinists,” and “sanctimonious . . . PC divas.” Like Susan Sontag, her one-time idol, Paglia became an intellectual sensation, and she made the most of it.