Camille Paglia's latest book is Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars.
From her Q & A at Powell's Book Blog:
Who are your favorite characters in history?--Marshal Zeringue
I was obsessed with Napoleon during my childhood in the suffocatingly chirpy Doris Day 1950s. I was entranced by Napoleon's fabulous form-fitting military uniforms, which I saw in paintings vividly reproduced in Courvoisier cognac ads in magazines. For Halloween when I was eight, I wore a splendid black, white, and red Napoleon costume and two-cornered hat made by my ingenious parents. (Transgender personae were definitely not the norm back then.) However, as the decades passed and I learned more about Napoleon, disillusion set in. Sometimes war is necessary, but not for vanity and imperialism.
An even bigger craze of mine was Amelia Earhart, whom I spent three years researching in high school in the early 1960s. It was through her that I discovered the thrilling first phase of feminism, when women strove to achieve at the high level of men and didn't get bogged down in resentment and self-pity. In the bowels of the Syracuse public library, I plowed through sooty newspapers and magazines from the 1920s and '30s (not yet on microfilm), wrote hundreds of letters of inquiry, and visited all sorts of Earhart-related places on side trips from family vacations — including the white frame house that was her birthplace in Atchison, Kansas. I briefly met her elderly sister near Boston and had a private appointment with a Smithsonian official to examine Earhart's medals, stored in a vault at the National Air Museum in Washington, D.C.
A record of my Earhart period is my letter to the editor of Newsweek (July 8, 1963) protesting the absence of women in the U.S. space program and demanding "equal opportunity for American women," as Earhart had fought for. Next to my letter (which was the lead item), the magazine published a strong photo of Earhart in her leather flying jacket. I was in high school at the time. It must be noted that this letter appeared the same year as...[read on]