Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag (sŏn´täg), 1933–2004, American writer and critic, b. New York City. She grew up in Arizona and California, studied philosophy at the Univ. of Chicago, Harvard, and Oxford, absorbed Gallic culture in Paris, and settled (1959) in New York City. Regarded as a brilliant and original thinker and highly visible as one of the most prominent public intellectuals of the second half of the 20th cent., Sontag became known for her vividly written critical essays on avant-garde culture in the 1960s. Most of these were collected in Against Interpretation (1966), in which she popularized the word camp, referring to exaggerated reproductions of the style and emotions of pop culture.

Sontag's essays on radical politics are collected in Styles of Radical Will (1969). She meditated on the nature of photography in On Photography (1977), explored the ways in which disease is demonized in Illness as Metaphor (1978) and AIDS and Its Metaphors (1989), analyzed various modernist writers and filmmakers in Under the Sign of Saturn (1980), and reassessed her ideas on photography's relationship to human suffering in her last book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003). Many of her short nonfiction pieces from the 1980s and 90s were collected in Where the Stress Falls (2001). The late essays and speeches in the posthumous collection At the Same Time (2007) reflect her often less than sanguine views of post-9/11 political life and culture.

Her other works include short stories and such novels as The Benefactor (1963), Death Kit (1967), and the best-selling historical fictions The Volcano Lover (1992) and In America (2000). Sontag also wrote and directed four motion pictures, including the chamber drama Duet for Cannibals (1969) and the documentary Promised Lands (1974), directed theatrical productions, and was the author of a play, Alice in Bed (1992).

See her Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947–1963 (2008) and As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964–1980, ed. by D. Rieff, her son; Conversations with Susan Sontag (1995), ed. by L. Poague; memoirs by D. Rieff (2008) and S. Nunez (2011); biography by C. E. Rollyson and L. Paddock (2000); studies by S. Sayres (1990), L. Kennedy (1995), C. E. Rollyson (2001), C. Seligman (2004), and B. Ching and J. A. Wagner-Lawlor, ed. (2009).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Notes on Sontag
Phillip Lopate.
Princeton University Press, 2009
Susan Sontag on Courage and Resistance. (Articles)
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The Nation, Vol. 276, No. 17, May 5, 2003
A Lament for Bosnia
Sontag, Susan.
The Nation, Vol. 261, No. 22, December 25, 1995
How Grief Turned into Humbug: Real War Has a Beginning and an End. Bush's Endless "War on Terrorism" Stops Thought and Releases the US from All Bounds on Its Conduct. (Features)
Sontag, Susan.
New Statesman (1996), Vol. 131, No. 4605, September 16, 2002
Against Photography: Susan Sontag and the Violent Image
Sorensen, Sue.
Afterimage, Vol. 31, No. 6, May-June 2004
The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America
Roger Kimball.
Encounter Books, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Susan Sontag & the New Sensibility"
Popular Culture and the Expanding Consciousness
Ray B. Browne.
John Wiley & Sons, 1973
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "One Culture and the New Sensibility"
Sontag's Reception
Starenko, Michael.
Afterimage, Vol. 25, No. 5, March-April 1998
Regarding Sontag, Again
Jacobs, David L.
Afterimage, Vol. 25, No. 5, March-April 1998
They Must Be Represented: The Politics of Documentary
Paula Rabinowitz.
Verso, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Writing the Wrong: The Politics and Poetics of Women's Vietnam War Reportage"
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