Understanding Susan Sontag
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98 pages

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A comprehensive account of the author's entire career through the lens of her recently published diaries

With the publication of Susan Sontag's diaries, the development of her career can now be evaluated in a more genetic sense, so that the origins of her ideas and plans for publication are made plain in the context of her role as a public intellectual, who is increasingly aware of her impact on her culture. In Understanding Susan Sontag, Carl Rollyson not only provides an introduction to her essays, novels, plays, films, diaries, and uncollected work published in various periodicals, he now has a lens through which to reevaluate classic texts such as Against Interpretation and On Photography, providing both students and advanced scholars a renewed sense of her importance and impact.

Rollyson devotes separate chapters to Sontag's biography; her early novels; her landmark essay collections Against Interpretation and Styles of Radical Will; her films; her major mid-career books, On Photography and its sequel, Regarding the Pain of Others; and Illness as Metaphor and its sequel, AIDS and Its Metaphors, together with her groundbreaking short story, "The Way We Live Now." Sontag's later essay collections and biographical profiles, collected in Under the Sign of Saturn, Where the Stress Falls, and At The Same Time: Essays and Speeches, also receive a fresh assessment, as does her later work in short fiction, the novel, and drama, with a chapter discussing I, etcetera; two historical novels, The Volcano Lover and In America; and her plays, A Parsifal, Alice in Bed, and her adaptation of Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea. Chapters on her diaries and uncollected prose, along with a primary and secondary bibliography, complete this comprehensive study.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 octobre 2016
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781611176810
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1000€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Matthew J. Bruccoli, Founding Editor
Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor
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The University of South Carolina Press
2016 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press Columbia, South Carolina 29208
24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at http://catalog.loc.gov/
ISBN 978-1-61117-680-3 (cloth)
ISBN 978-1-61117-681-0 (ebook)
Front cover photograph: 2016 Nancy Crampton
Series Editor s Preface
Chapter 1 Understanding Susan Sontag
Chapter 2 Writer: Early Novels and Essays
Chapter 3 Photography and Film
Chapter 4 Illness and Its Metaphors
Chapter 5 The Voices of Fiction: Stories and Later Novels
Chapter 6 Experiments in Theater
Chapter 7 Impresario of Modern Literature
Chapter 8 The Diaries
Chapter 9 The Legacy
Appendix: The Uncollected Susan Sontag
The Understanding Contemporary American Literature series was founded by the estimable Matthew J. Bruccoli (1931-2008), who envisioned these volumes as guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers, a legacy that will continue as new volumes are developed to fill in gaps among the nearly one hundred series volumes published to date and to embrace a host of new writers only now making their marks on our literature.
As Professor Bruccoli explained in his preface to the volumes he edited, because much influential contemporary literature makes special demands, the word understanding in the titles was chosen deliberately. Many willing readers lack an adequate understanding of how contemporary literature works; that is, of what the author is attempting to express and the means by which it is conveyed. Aimed at fostering this understanding of good literature and good writers, the criticism and analysis in the series provide instruction in how to read certain contemporary writers-explicating their material, language, structures, themes, and perspectives-and facilitate a more profitable experience of the works under discussion.
In the twenty-first century Professor Bruccoli s prescience gives us an avenue to publish expert critiques of significant contemporary American writing. The series continues to map the literary landscape and to provide both instruction and enjoyment. Future volumes will seek to introduce new voices alongside canonized favorites, to chronicle the changing literature of our times, and to remain, as Professor Bruccoli conceived, contemporary in the best sense of the word.
Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor
Understanding Susan Sontag
Susan Sontag (1933-2004) was born in New York City and grew up in Tucson and Los Angeles, the daughter of Jack Rosenblatt, who owned a trading company in China. She thought of him as a departed merchant prince who died in China when she was only five years old. Mildred Jacobson Rosenblatt, Sontag s mother, then married a highly decorated Air Force officer, Nathan Sontag. Susan took her stepfather s name, as did her younger sister, Judith. With family connections to both Asia and Europe, even as she acclimated to the wide-open spaces of the West, Sontag, a precocious child, spent time in her Tucson backyard digging a hole to China. 1 While her father was still alive, the family based itself in a New York hotel-just one of many temporary abodes that seemed to forecast the fate of a peripatetic writer who saw herself as belonging less to any country than to the world itself, where she would go questing just like Richard Halliburton, her favorite author-adventurer. 2 That such a life and career would bring much unhappiness as well as fulfillment occurred to Sontag while she was quite young and already noting her joys and disaffections in her diaries.
Sontag grew up reading the biography of Marie Curie, a Pole who sought her life s work and acquired fame in France-exactly where Sontag arrived in her formative years as a writer after earning an undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago and a master s degree at Harvard University. Like Curie, who bound herself to a mate, her fellow scientist Pierre Curie, Sontag at the age of seventeen married the sociologist Philip Rieff, with whom she collaborated on a book about Freud s contribution to western civilization. But both the traditional boundaries of academic life, and the conventional obligations of marriage, chafed an ambitious woman who was also aware, at quite a young age, that a so-called normal, heterosexual, and university-driven existence was not for her-even though into her thirties she still contemplated completing her Ph.D.
At nineteen, Sontag gave birth to a son, David Rieff, over whom she would lavish not a maternal care so much as the attachment of a sibling, like that of a sister for her younger brother. This unorthodox parenting was of a piece with her ambition to create a body of work that would challenge the pieties of American culture, the canons of literary study, and the traditional role of the public intellectual. Although she immersed herself in the bohemianism of Greenwich Village, she very quickly sought public platforms that overturned the alienated artist s scorn for mainstream fame. Even as Sontag professed to abjure the very notion of careerism and popularity, she cultivated an appearance and personal style accentuated in photographs with a dramatic Holly wood gloss calculated to invite mass media attention, which began when Time magazine featured an account of her groundbreaking essay Notes on Camp, published in the Partisan Review (whose circulation was no more than ten thousand). Her appeal to both the literary elite and to a much broader literate audience in the 1960s broke new ground in the way so-called high and low culture were beginning to converge.
Sontag embodied the contradictions of her time-at once a serious and sometimes abstruse thinker and yet a highly quotable writer whose words made good newspaper copy. She distilled her insights into epigrams and epithets that popular publications could build stories around. The titles of her first books, such as Against Interpretation and Styles of Radical Will , were provocative and prescriptive. What Sontag described in essays-such as the spontaneous events called Happenings -she also made into required reading for anyone wanting to keep abreast of what was current and urgent in American culture. At the same time, she evaded the label of critic and functioned as a kind of impresario of the avant-garde and a practitioner, producing two experimental novels, The Benefactor and Death Kit , which established her credentials as a modernist akin to the European authors such as Alain Robbe-Grillet and Nathalie Sarraute, whom she wrote about in essays that extolled their efforts to subvert traditional narratives and novelistic conventions. Her early films Duet for Cannibals and Brother Carl , which she wrote and directed in Sweden, were inspired by the work of Ingmar Bergman, especially Persona , the topic of one of Sontag s signature essays touting the superior European probing of modern identity. Her later play Alice in Bed completed her highly self-conscious effort to conflate feminism and modernism in scenes that explored the lives of Alice James and Emily Dickinson.
In the economy of publishing, Sontag was the total package-essayist, novelist, playwright and filmmaker-kept in print and aggressively marketed abroad by her publishe

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