Maggie Gallagher
Now that Madonna is boringly, happily married and middle-aged, guess who is emerging as the new darling, the pet subject, of the academic elite?

Monica Lewinsky, that's who. A new academic volume by New York University Press, "Our Monica, Ourselves," features essays by a variety of "progressive" scholars and thinkers on such topics as "Monica Dreyfus," "The President's Penis" and "The Culture Wars of the 1960s and the Assault on the Presidency: The Meaning of the Clinton Impeachment," by Eli Zaretsky, which proffers the kind of breathless prose once reserved for Harlequin romances: "At the same time, both his need for public life and his sometimes confused explanations for his actions drew attention to his vulnerability. Clinton's enemies sensed his weakness, and it aroused them."

Now, HBO is running around the country taping interviews between Monica and top professors and students. Elaine Showalter, a chi-chi professor of English at Princeton, recently brought 23 of her own students to the mountaintop to earnestly engage Miss Lewinsky in a cultural studies debate.

Monica is now a full-fledged cultural icon, but an icon of what? We won't get Monica's full, mature reflection on the meaning of her life's story until January, when the HBO special is expected to air. But, Professor Showalter coyly notes in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Monica may not share the professor's story. "Was the Lewinsky I saw at Cooper Union aware of this range of cultural nuance and allusive complexity? Without violating the terms of the confidentiality agreement, I think I can say that her intellectual journey has not included exposure to cultural studies."

Good thing. In a new book, "Her Way," feminist scholar and journalist Paula Kamen (like many younger feminists) defends Monica as the new sexual beau ideal. Monica, according to Kamen, is the new type of woman "shaped by the sexual revolution," who shares "more of men's power, sense of entitlement and social clout." Monica was "brazen, relentless and self-centered in her quest for sex and power; in other words, she acted like a man."

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.