Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag (/ˈsɒntæɡ/; January 16, 1933 – December 28, 2004) was an American writer, filmmaker, philosopher, teacher, and political activist.[2] She mostly wrote essays, but also published novels; she published her first major work, the essay "Notes on 'Camp'", in 1964. Her best-known works include On Photography, Against Interpretation, Styles of Radical Will, The Way We Live Now, Illness as Metaphor, Regarding the Pain of Others, The Volcano Lover, and In America.

Sontag was active in writing and speaking about, or travelling to, areas of conflict, including during the Vietnam War and the Siege of Sarajevo. She wrote extensively about photography, culture and media, AIDS and illness, human rights, and communism and leftist ideology. Although her essays and speeches sometimes drew controversy,[3] she has been described as "one of the most influential critics of her generation."[4]

Susan Sontag
Susan Sontag 1979 ©Lynn Gilbert (headshot)
Sontag in 1979
Susan Rosenblatt

January 16, 1933
DiedDecember 28, 2004 (aged 71)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting placeMontparnasse Cemetery, Paris, France
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley
University of Chicago (BA)
Harvard University (MA)
Years active1959–2004
Known for
  • Fiction
  • essays
  • nonfiction
Philip Rieff
(m. 1950; div. 1959)
Partner(s)Annie Leibovitz (1989–2004)
ChildrenDavid Rieff

Early life and education

Sontag was born Susan Rosenblatt in New York City, the daughter of Mildred (née Jacobson) and Jack Rosenblatt, both Jews of Lithuanian[5] and Polish descent. Her father managed a fur trading business in China, where he died of tuberculosis in 1939, when Susan was five years old.[1] Seven years later, Sontag's mother married U.S. Army Captain Nathan Sontag. Susan and her sister, Judith, took their stepfather's surname, although he did not adopt them formally.[1] Sontag did not have a religious upbringing and claimed not to have entered a synagogue until her mid-20s.[6]

Remembering an unhappy childhood, with a cold, distant mother who was "always away", Sontag lived on Long Island, New York,[1] then in Tucson, Arizona, and later in the San Fernando Valley in southern California, where she took refuge in books and graduated from North Hollywood High School at the age of 15. She began her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley but transferred to the University of Chicago in admiration of its famed core curriculum. At Chicago, she undertook studies in philosophy, ancient history and literature alongside her other requirements. Leo Strauss, Joseph Schwab, Christian Mackauer, Richard McKeon, Peter von Blanckenhagen and Kenneth Burke were among her lecturers. She graduated at the age of 18 with an A.B. and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.[7] While at Chicago, she became best friends with fellow student Mike Nichols.[8] In 1951, her work appeared in print for the first time in the winter issue of the Chicago Review.[9]

At 17, Sontag married writer Philip Rieff, who was a sociology instructor at the University of Chicago, after a 10-day courtship; their marriage lasted eight years.[10] While studying at Chicago, Sontag attended a summer school taught by the Sociologist Hans Heinrich Gerth who became a friend and subsequently influenced her study of German thinkers.[11][12] Upon completing her Chicago degree, Sontag taught freshman English at the University of Connecticut for the 1952–53 academic year. She attended Harvard University for graduate school, initially studying literature with Perry Miller and Harry Levin before moving into philosophy and theology under Paul Tillich, Jacob Taubes, Raphael Demos and Morton White.[13] After completing her Master of Arts in philosophy, she began doctoral research into metaphysics, ethics, Greek philosophy and Continental philosophy and theology at Harvard.[14] The philosopher Herbert Marcuse lived with Sontag and Rieff for a year while working on his 1955 book Eros and Civilization.[15]:38 Sontag researched for Rieff's 1959 study Freud: The Mind of the Moralist prior to their divorce in 1958, and contributed to the book to such an extent that she has been considered an unofficial co-author.[16] The couple had a son, David Rieff, who went on to be his mother's editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, as well as a writer in his own right.

Sontag was awarded an American Association of University Women's fellowship for the 1957–1958 academic year to St Anne's College, Oxford, where she traveled without her husband and son.[17] There, she had classes with Iris Murdoch, Stuart Hampshire, A. J. Ayer and H. L. A. Hart while also attending the B. Phil seminars of J. L. Austin and the lectures of Isaiah Berlin. Oxford did not appeal to her, however, and she transferred after Michaelmas term of 1957 to the University of Paris.[18] In Paris, Sontag socialized with expatriate artists and academics including Allan Bloom, Jean Wahl, Alfred Chester, Harriet Sohmers and María Irene Fornés.[19] Sontag remarked that her time in Paris was, perhaps, the most important period of her life.[15]:51–52 It certainly provided the basis of her long intellectual and artistic association with the culture of France.[20] She moved to New York in 1959 to live with Fornés for the next seven years,[21] regaining custody of her son[17] and teaching at universities while her literary reputation grew.[15]:53–54


While working on her stories, Sontag taught philosophy at Sarah Lawrence College and City University of New York and the Philosophy of Religion with Jacob Taubes, Susan Taubes, Theodor Gaster, and Hans Jonas, in the Religion Department at Columbia University from 1960 to 1964. Sontag held a writing fellowship at Rutgers University for 1964 to 1965 before ending her relationship with academia in favor of full-time freelance writing.[15]:56–57

At age 30, she published an experimental novel called The Benefactor (1963), following it four years later with Death Kit (1967). Despite a relatively small output, Sontag thought of herself principally as a novelist and writer of fiction. Her short story "The Way We Live Now" was published to great acclaim on November 24, 1986 in The New Yorker. Written in an experimental narrative style, it remains a significant text on the AIDS epidemic. She achieved late popular success as a best-selling novelist with The Volcano Lover (1992). At age 67, Sontag published her final novel In America (2000). The last two novels were set in the past, which Sontag said gave her greater freedom to write in the polyphonic voice:

In a print shop near the British Museum, in London, I discovered the volcano prints from the book that Sir William Hamilton did. My very first thought—I don't think I have ever said this publicly—was that I would propose to FMR (a wonderful art magazine published in Italy which has beautiful art reproductions) that they reproduce the volcano prints and I write some text to accompany them. But then I started to adhere to the real story of Lord Hamilton and his wife, and I realized that if I would locate stories in the past, all sorts of inhibitions would drop away, and I could do epic, polyphonic things. I wouldn't just be inside somebody's head. So there was that novel, The Volcano Lover.

— Sontag, writing in The Atlantic (April 13, 2000)[22]

She wrote and directed four films and also wrote several plays, the most successful of which were Alice in Bed and Lady from the Sea.

Against Interpretation (Sontag book)
The cover of Against Interpretation (1966), which contains some of Sontag’s best-known essays.


It was through her essays that Sontag gained early fame and notoriety. Sontag wrote frequently about the intersection of high and low art and expanded the dichotomy concept of form and art in every medium. She elevated camp to the status of recognition with her widely read 1964 essay "Notes on 'Camp'", which accepted art as including common, absurd and burlesque themes.

In 1977, Sontag published the series of essays On Photography. These essays are an exploration of photographs as a collection of the world, mainly by travelers or tourists, and the way we experience it. In the essays, she outlined her theory of taking pictures as you travel:

The method especially appeals to people handicapped by a ruthless work ethic—Germans, Japanese and Americans. Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun. They have something to do that is like a friendly imitation of work: they can take pictures. (p. 10)

Sontag writes that the convenience of modern photography has created an overabundance of visual material, and "just about everything has been photographed".[23]:3 This has altered our expectations of what we have the right to view, want to view or should view. "In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notion of what is worth looking at and what we have the right to observe" and has changed our "viewing ethics".[23]:3 Photographs have increased our access to knowledge and experiences of history and faraway places, but the images may replace direct experience and limit reality.[23]:10–24 She also states that photography desensitizes its audience to horrific human experiences, and children are exposed to experiences before they are ready for them.[23]:20

Sontag continued to theorize about the role of photography in real life in her essay "Looking at War: Photography's View of Devastation and Death", which appeared in the December 9, 2002 issue of The New Yorker. There she concludes that the problem of our reliance on images and especially photographic images is not that "people remember through photographs but that they remember only the photographs ... that the photographic image eclipses other forms of understanding—and remembering. ... To remember is, more and more, not to recall a story but to be able to call up a picture" (p. 94).

She became a role-model for many feminists and aspiring female writers during the 1960s and 1970s.[15]


The former Sarajevo newspaper building during the Siege of Sarajevo, when Sontag lived in the city

During 1989 Sontag was the President of PEN American Center, the main U.S. branch of the International PEN writers' organization. After Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa death sentence against writer Salman Rushdie for blasphemy after the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses that year, Sontag's uncompromising support of Rushdie was crucial in rallying American writers to his cause.[24]

A few years later, during the Siege of Sarajevo, Sontag gained attention for directing a production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot in a candlelit theatre in the Bosnian city. In the Daily Telegraph, Kevin Myers called it "mesmerisingly precious and hideously self-indulgent." and wrote, "By my personal reckoning, the performance lasted as long as the siege itself."[25] However, many of Sarajevo's besieged residents disagreed:

To the people of Sarajevo, Ms. Sontag has become a symbol, interviewed frequently by the local newspapers and television, invited to speak at gatherings everywhere, asked for autographs on the street. After the opening performance of the play, the city's Mayor, Muhamed Kreševljaković, came onstage to declare her an honorary citizen, the only foreigner other than the recently departed United Nations commander, Lieut. Gen. Phillippe Morillon, to be so named. "It is for your bravery, in coming here, living here, and working with us," he said.[26]


White civilization as a cancer

Sontag drew criticism for writing in 1967 in the Partisan Review:

If America is the culmination of Western white civilization, as everyone from the Left to the Right declares, then there must be something terribly wrong with Western white civilization. This is a painful truth; few of us want to go that far.... The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al, don't redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone—its ideologies and inventions—which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.[2]

According to journalist Mark M. Goldblatt, Sontag later "recanted" the statement, saying that "it slandered cancer patients,"[27] but according to Eliot Weinberger, "She came to regret that last phrase, and wrote a whole book against the use of illness as metaphor."[28]

In a 1970 article titled "America as a Gun Culture", the noted historian Richard Hofstadter wrote:

Modern critics of our culture who, like Susan Sontag, seem to know nothing of American history, who regard the white race as a "cancer" and assert that the United States was "founded on a genocide", may fantasize that the Indians fought according to the rules of the Geneva Convention. But in the tragic conflict of which they were to be the chief victims, they were capable of striking terrible blows.[29]

From Camille Paglia

In "Sontag, Bloody Sontag", an essay in her 1994 book Vamps & Tramps, art and cultural critic Camille Paglia describes her initial admiration and subsequent disillusionment:[30]

Sontag's cool self-exile was a disaster for the American women's movement. Only a woman of her prestige could have performed the necessary critique and debunking of the first instant-canon feminist screeds, such as those by Kate Millett or Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, whose middlebrow mediocrity crippled women's studies from the start ... No patriarchal villains held Sontag back; her failures are her own.

— Camille Paglia

Paglia mentions several criticisms of Sontag, including Harold Bloom's comment of "Mere Sontagisme!" on Paglia's doctoral dissertation. Paglia states that Sontag "had become synonymous with a shallow kind of hip posturing".[31] Paglia also tells of a visit by Sontag to Bennington College, in which she arrived hours late and ignored the agreed-upon topic of the event.[32]

Allegations of plagiarism

Ellen Lee accused Sontag of plagiarism when Lee discovered at least twelve passages in In America (1999) that were similar to, or copied from, passages in four other books about Helena Modjeska without attribution.[33][34] Sontag said about using the passages, "All of us who deal with real characters in history transcribe and adopt original sources in the original domain. I've used these sources and I've completely transformed them. There's a larger argument to be made that all of literature is a series of references and allusions."[35]

On anti-Communism

At a New York pro-Solidarity rally in 1982, Sontag stated that "people on the left", like herself, "have willingly or unwillingly told a lot of lies".[36] She added that they:

believed in, or at least applied, a double standard to the angelic language of Communism ... Communism is Fascism—successful Fascism, if you will. What we have called Fascism is, rather, the form of tyranny that can be overthrown—that has, largely, failed. I repeat: not only is Fascism (and overt military rule) the probable destiny of all Communist societies—especially when their populations are moved to revolt—but Communism is in itself a variant, the most successful variant, of Fascism. Fascism with a human face... Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Reader's Digest between 1950 and 1970, and someone in the same period who read only The Nation or [t]he New Statesman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of Communism? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?[36]

Sontag's speech reportedly "drew boos and shouts from the audience". The Nation published her speech, excluding the passage comparing the magazine with Reader's Digest. Responses to her statement were varied. Some said that Sontag's current sentiments had been, in fact, held by many on the left for years, while others accused her of betraying "radical ideas".[36]

On the September 11 attacks

Sontag received angry criticism for her remarks in The New Yorker (September 24, 2001) about the immediate aftermath of 9/11.[37] In her commentary, she referred to the attacks as a "monstrous dose of reality" and criticized U.S. public officials and media commentators for trying to convince the American public that "everything is O.K." Specifically, she opposed the prevalent belief that the perpetrators were "cowards" and argued the country should see the terrorists' actions not as "a 'cowardly' attack on 'civilization' or 'liberty' or 'humanity' or 'the free world' but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions".[38]

Other criticisms

Tom Wolfe once dismissed Sontag as "just another scribbler who spent her life signing up for protest meetings and lumbering to the podium encumbered by her prose style, which had a handicapped parking sticker valid at Partisan Review."[39]



  • (1963) The Benefactor ISBN 0-385-26710-X
  • (1967) Death Kit ISBN 0-312-42011-0
  • (1977) I, etcetera (Collection of short stories) ISBN 0-374-17402-4
  • (1991) "The Way We Live Now" (short story) ISBN 0-374-52305-3
  • (1992) The Volcano Lover ISBN 1-55800-818-7
  • (1999) In America ISBN 1-56895-898-6 – winner of the 2000 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction[40]


  • The Way We Live Now (1990) about the AIDS epidemic
  • A Parsifal (1991), a deconstruction inspired by Robert Wilson's 1991 staging of the Wagner opera[41]
  • Alice in Bed (1993), about 19th century intellectual, Alice James, who was confined to bed by illness[42]
  • Lady from the Sea, an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's 1888 play of the same name, premiered in 1998 in Italy.[43] Sontag wrote an essay about it in 1999 in Theatre called "Rewriting Lady from the Sea".[44]


Collections of essays

Sontag also published nonfiction essays in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, The Nation, Granta, Partisan Review and the London Review of Books.



  • (1969) Duett för kannibaler (Duet for Cannibals)
  • (1971) Broder Carl (Brother Carl)
  • (1974) Promised Lands
  • (1983) Unguided Tour AKA Letter from Venice

Other works

  • (2002) Liner notes for the Patti Smith album Land
  • (2004) Contribution of phrases to Fischerspooner's third album Odyssey
  • (2008) Reborn: Journals and Notebooks 1947–1963
  • (2012) As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964–1980. ISBN 9780374100766

Awards and honors

Personal life

Sontag's mother died of lung cancer in Hawaii in 1986.[1]

Sontag had a close romantic relationship with photographer Annie Leibovitz. They met in 1989, when both had already established notability in their careers. Leibovitz has suggested that Sontag mentored her and constructively criticized her work. During Sontag's lifetime, neither woman publicly disclosed whether the relationship was a friendship or romantic in nature. Newsweek in 2006 made reference to Leibovitz's decade-plus relationship with Sontag, stating, "The two first met in the late '80s, when Leibovitz photographed her for a book jacket. They never lived together, though they each had an apartment within view of the other's."[48] Leibovitz, when interviewed for her 2006 book A Photographer's Life: 1990-2005, said the book told a number of stories, and that "with Susan, it was a love story."[49] While The New York Times in 2009 referred to Sontag as Leibovitz's "companion",[50] Leibovitz wrote in A Photographer's Life that, "Words like 'companion' and 'partner' were not in our vocabulary. We were two people who helped each other through our lives. The closest word is still 'friend.'"[51] That same year, Leibovitz said the descriptor "lover" was accurate.[52] She later reiterated, "Call us 'lovers'. I like 'lovers.' You know, 'lovers' sounds romantic. I mean, I want to be perfectly clear. I love Susan."[53]

Sontag died in New York City on 28 December 2004, aged 71, from complications of myelodysplastic syndrome which had evolved into acute myelogenous leukemia. She is buried in Paris at Cimetière du Montparnasse.[54] Her final illness has been chronicled by her son, David Rieff.[55]

Sexuality and relationships

Susan Sontag by Juan Bastos
Susan Sontag in 1994, painted by Bolivian artist Juan Fernando Bastos

Sontag became aware of her bisexuality during her early teens and at 15 wrote in her diary, "I feel I have lesbian tendencies (how reluctantly I write this)". At 16, she had a sexual encounter with a woman: "Perhaps I was drunk, after all, because it was so beautiful when H began making love to me...It had been 4:00 before we had gotten to bed...I became fully conscious that I desired her, she knew it, too".[56][57]

Sontag lived with 'H', the writer and model Harriet Sohmers Zwerling whom she first met at U. C. Berkeley from 1958 to 1959. Afterwards, Sontag was the partner of María Irene Fornés, a Cuban-American avant garde playwright and director. Upon splitting with Fornés, she was involved with an Italian aristocrat, Carlotta Del Pezzo, and the German academic Eva Kollisch.[58] Sontag was romantically involved with the American artists Jasper Johns and Paul Thek.[59][60] During the early 1970s, Sontag lived with Nicole Stéphane, a Rothschild banking heiress turned movie actress,[61] and, later, the choreographer Lucinda Childs.[62] She also had a relationship with the writer Joseph Brodsky.[63] With Annie Leibovitz, Sontag maintained a relationship stretching from the later 1980s until her final years.[64]

In an interview in The Guardian in 2000, Sontag was quite open about bisexuality:

'Shall I tell you about getting older?', she says, and she is laughing. 'When you get older, 45 plus, men stop fancying you. Or put it another way, the men I fancy don't fancy me. I want a young man. I love beauty. So what's new?' She says she has been in love seven times in her life. 'No, hang on,' she says. 'Actually, it's nine. Five women, four men.'[1]

Many of Sontag's obituaries failed to mention her significant same-sex relationships, most notably that with Annie Leibovitz. In response to this criticism, New York Times Public Editor, Daniel Okrent, defended the newspaper's obituary, stating that at the time of Sontag's death, a reporter could make no independent verification of her romantic relationship with Leibovitz (despite attempts to do so).[65] After Sontag's death, Newsweek published an article about Annie Leibovitz that made clear references to her decade-plus relationship with Sontag.[64]

Sontag was quoted by Editor-in-Chief Brendan Lemon of Out magazine as saying "I grew up in a time when the modus operandi was the 'open secret'. I'm used to that, and quite OK with it. Intellectually, I know why I haven't spoken more about my sexuality, but I do wonder if I haven't repressed something there to my detriment. Maybe I could have given comfort to some people if I had dealt with the subject of my private sexuality more, but it's never been my prime mission to give comfort, unless somebody's in drastic need. I'd rather give pleasure, or shake things up."[66]

Digital archive

A digital archive of 17,198 of Sontag's emails is kept by the UCLA Department of Special Collections at the Charles E. Young Research Library.[67] Her archive—and the efforts to make it publicly available while protecting it from bit rot—are the subject of the book On Excess: Susan Sontag’s Born-Digital Archive, by Jeremy Schmidt & Jacquelyn Ardam.[68]


A documentary about Sontag directed by Nancy Kates, titled Regarding Susan Sontag, was released in 2014.[69] It received the Special Jury Mention for Best Documentary Feature at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.[69][70]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Mackenzie, Suzie (2000-05-27). "Finding fact from fiction". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-12-14.
  2. ^ a b Sontag, Susan (1967). "What's Happening to America? (A Symposium)". Partisan Review. 34 (1): 57–8. Archived from the original on 2014-03-27.
  3. ^ "Hooking Up".
  4. ^ "Susan Sontag", The New York Review of Books, accessed December 19, 2012
  5. ^ "Susan Sontag Receives German Peace Prize, Criticizes U.S." DW.COM.
  6. ^ "Susan Sontag | Jewish Women's Archive". Retrieved 2012-06-13.
  7. ^ "A Gluttonous Reader", Interview with M. McQuade in Poague, pp. 271–278.
  8. ^ Turow, Scott (16 May 2013). "A Time When Things Started in Chicago". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  9. ^ Sontag, Susan (1951). "Review of The Plenipotentiaries". Chicago Review. 5 (1): 49–50. doi:10.2307/25292888. JSTOR 25292888.
  10. ^ Sontag, Susan. Reborn: Journals and Notebooks 1947–1963, ed. D. Rieff, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008, p. 144.
  11. ^ Susan Sontag: Public Intellectual, Polymath, Provocatrice. 7 July 2008 – via YouTube.
  12. ^ Vidich, Arthur J. (December 30, 2009). "First Years at The New School" (PDF). With a Critical Eye: An Intellectual and His Times (PDF). Knoxville, TN: Newfound Press. p. 370. ISBN 0979729246. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-25.
  13. ^ See Susan Sontag, 'Literature is Freedom' in At the Same Time, ed. P. Dilonardo and A. Jump, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007, p.206 and Morton White, A Philosopher's Story, Pennsylvania University Press, 1999, p. 148. See also Rollyson and Paddock, pp. 39–40 and Daniel Horowitz "Consuming Pleasures: Intellectuals and Popular Culture in the Postwar World", University of Pennsylvania, 2012, p. 314.
  14. ^ "Putting her body on the line: the critical acts ofSusan Sontag, Part I."
  15. ^ a b c d e Rollyson and Paddock.
  16. ^ Rollyson, Carl; Paddock, Lisa (2000). Susan Sontag: The Making of Icon. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 40–41. ISBN 0-393-04928-0.
  17. ^ a b Sante, Luc. "Sontag: The Precocious Years", Sunday Book Review, The New York Times, January 29, 2009, accessed December 19, 2012
  18. ^ See Morton White, A Philosopher's Story, Pennsylvania University Press, 1999, p.148; and Rollyson and Paddock, pp. 43–45
  19. ^ Field, Edward. The Man Who Would Marry Susan Sontag, Wisconsin, 2005, pp. 158–170; Rollyson and Paddock, pp. 45–50; and Reborn: Journals and Notebooks 1947–1963, ed. D. Rieff, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008, pp. 188–189.
  20. ^ "An Emigrant of Thought", interview with Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber, in Poague, pp. 143–164
  21. ^ Moore, Patrick. "Susan Sontag and a Case of Curious Silence", Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2005, accessed December 18, 2012
  22. ^ "Susan Sontag—whose new novel, In America, has just been published—doesn't feel at home in New York, or anywhere else. And that's the way she likes it". Atlantic Unbound, The Atlantic's online journal. The Atlantic. April 13, 2000. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  23. ^ a b c d Sontag, Susan, "On Photography", 1977
  24. ^ Hitchens, Christopher. "Assassins of the Mind", Vanity Fair, February 2009, accessed December 18, 2012
  25. ^ Personal View (January 2, 2005). "I wish I had kicked Susan Sontag". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-06-13.
  26. ^ John F. Burns (August 19, 1993). "To Sarajevo, Writer Brings Good Will and 'Godot'". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-02-25.
  27. ^ Goldblatt, Mark (January 3, 2005). "Susan Sontag: Remembering an intellectual heroine". The American Spectator. American Spectator Foundation. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
  28. ^ Weinberger, Eliot (2007). "Notes on Susan". The New York Review of Books. 54 (13): 27–29. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  29. ^ Hofstadter, Richard: America as a Gun Culture. American Heritage Magazine, October, 1970.
  30. ^ Paglia, Camille (1994). Vamps and Tramps: New Essays. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 347–348. ISBN 978-0-679-75120-5.
  31. ^ Paglia, Camille (1994). Vamps and Tramps: New Essays. New York: Vintage Books. p. 345. ISBN 978-0-679-75120-5.
  32. ^ Paglia, Camille (1994). Vamps and Tramps: New Essays. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 349–350. ISBN 978-0-679-75120-5.
  33. ^ Marsh B. (2007) Plagiarism: Alchemy and Remedy in Higher Education, SUNY Press.
  34. ^ Kort, Carol (2007). A to Z of American Women Writers. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 9781438107936.
  35. ^ Carvajal, Doreen. (May 27, 2002) "So Whose Words Are They? Susan Sontag Creates a Stir." New York Times Book Review.
  36. ^ a b c "Susan Sontag Provokes Debate on Communism". The New York Times. 1982-02-27. Retrieved 2010-09-13.
  37. ^ "Novelist, Radical Susan Sontag, 71, Dies in New York", The Washington Times, December 29, 2004, accessed December 19, 2012
  38. ^ Sontag, Susan (24 September 2001). "The Talk of the Town". The New Yorker. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  39. ^ "Hooking Up".
  40. ^ a b "National Book Awards – 2000", National Book Foundation, with essays by Jessica Hicks and Elizabeth Yale from the Awards' 60-year anniversary blog, accessed March 3, 2012
  41. ^ Sontag, Susan (1991). Halpern, Daniel, ed. "A Parsifal". Antaeus. New York: Ecco Press: 180–185.
  42. ^ Sontag, Susan (1993). Alice in Bed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9780374102739. OCLC 28566109.
  43. ^ Curty, Stefano. "Sontag and Wilson's Lady from the Sea World Premieres in Italy, May 5 Archived 2014-07-29 at the Wayback Machine, Playbill, May 5, 1998, accessed December 26, 2012
  44. ^ Sontag, Susan (Summer 1999). "Rewriting Lady from the Sea". Theater. Duke University Press. 29 (1): 89–91.
  45. ^ "Apps - Access My Library - Gale".
  46. ^ a b Sarajevo Theater Square officially renamed to Theater Square of Susan Sontag,
  47. ^ Carter, Imogen (5 April 2009). "Desperately thanking Susan". The Observer. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  48. ^ Cathleen McGuigan (October 2, 2006). "Through Her Lens". Newsweek. Archived from the original on August 29, 2007. Retrieved July 19, 2007.
  49. ^ Janny Scott (October 6, 2006). "From Annie Leibovitz: Life, and Death, Examined". The New York Times. Retrieved July 19, 2007.
  50. ^ Salkin, Allen (July 31, 2009). "For Annie Leibovitz, a Fuzzy Financial Picture". The New York Times. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  51. ^ Brockes, Emma. "My time with Susan". Retrieved 17 April 2013.
  52. ^ Tom Ashbrook (October 17, 2006). "On Point". Archived from the original on 10 July 2007. Retrieved July 19, 2007.
  53. ^ Guthmann, Edward (November 1, 2006). "Love, family, celebrity, grief -- Leibovitz puts her life on display in photo memoir". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 19, 2007.
  54. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Location 44249). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  55. ^ Katie Roiphe (2008-02-03). "Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son's Memoir – David Rieff – Book Review". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
  56. ^ Susan Sontag: 'It was so beautiful when H began making love to me', Paul Bignell, The Independent on Sunday, 16 November 2008
  57. ^ Reborn: Early Diaries, 1947–1964, Penguin, January 2009
  58. ^ See Susan Sontag, As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh, p.262, 269.
  59. ^ "The Passion of Susan Sontag".
  60. ^ Paul Thek Artist's Artist ed. H. Falckenberg.
  61. ^ Leo Lerman, "The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman", NY: Knopf, 2007, page 413
  62. ^ Susan Sontag (2006-09-10). "On Self". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
  63. ^ See Sigrid Nunez, Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag, p.31.
  64. ^ a b McGuigan, Cathleen. "Through Her Lens", Newsweek, 2 October 2006
  65. ^ Michelangelo Signorile. "Gay Abe, Sapphic Susan; On the difficulties of outing the dead". New York Press.
  66. ^ "Why Sontag Didn't Want to Come Out: Her Words". 2005-01-05. Retrieved 2018-02-02.
  67. ^ In the Sontag archives by Sontag's biographer Benjamin Moser in The New Yorker magazine, 30 January 2014
  68. ^ On Excess: Susan Sontag’s Born-Digital Archive, by Jeremy Schmidt & Jacquelyn Ardam, in the Los Angeles Review of Books, 26 October 2014
  69. ^ a b Los Angeles Times (8 December 2014). "'Regarding Susan Sontag' looks at a rock star of intellectuals".
  70. ^ "Here Are Your TFF 2014 Award Winners". April 24, 2014. Retrieved August 31, 2014.


  • Poague, Leland (ed.) Conversations with Susan Sontag, University of Mississippi Press, 1995 ISBN 0-87805-833-8
  • Rollyson, Carl and Lisa Paddock, Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon, W. W. Norton, 2000

Further reading

  • Susan Sontag: The Elegiac Modernist by Sohnya Sayres, ISBN 0-415-90031-X (1990)
  • Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon by Carl Rollyson and Lisa Paddock, ISBN 9781628462371 (2000)
  • Sontag and Kael by Craig Seligman, ISBN 9781582433127 (2004)
  • The Din in the Head by Cynthia Ozick, ISBN 9780618470501 (2006; Sontag is discussed in the foreword, "On Discord and Desire")
  • Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son's Memoir by David Rieff, ISBN 9780743299473 (2008)
  • Notes on Sontag by Phillip Lopate, ISBN 9781400829873 (2009)
  • Susan Sontag: A Biography by Daniel Schreiber (trans. David Dollenmayer), ISBN 9780810125834 (2014)
  • Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag by Sigrid Nunez, ISBN 9781594633348 (2014)
  • Tough Enough: Arbus, Arendt, Didion, McCarthy, Sontag, Weil by Deborah Nelson, ISBN 9780226457802 (2017)
  • Susan Sontag und Thomas Mann by Kai Sina, ISBN 9783835330214 (2017)

External links

AIDS and Its Metaphors

AIDS and Its Metaphors is a 1989 work of critical theory by Susan Sontag. In this companion book to her Illness as Metaphor (1978), Sontag extends her arguments about the metaphors attributed to cancer to the AIDS crisis. Sontag explores how attitudes to disease are formed in society, and attempts to deconstruct them.

Against Interpretation

Against Interpretation is a collection of essays by Susan Sontag published in 1966. It includes some of Sontag's best-known works, including "On Style," and the eponymous essay "Against Interpretation." In the latter, Sontag argues that in the new approach to aesthetics the spiritual importance of art is being replaced by the emphasis on the intellect. Rather than recognizing great creative works as possible sources of energy, she argues, contemporary critics were all too often taking art's transcendental power for granted, and focusing instead on their own intellectually constructed abstractions like "form" and "content." In effect, she wrote, interpretation had become "the intellect's revenge upon art." The essay famously finishes with the words, "in place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art". The book was a finalist for the Arts and Letters category of the National Book Award

Alice Kaplan

Alice Kaplan is the John M. Musser Professor of French and chair of the Department of French at Yale University. Before her arrival at Yale, she was the Gilbert, Louis and Edward Lehrman Professor of Romance Studies and Professor of Literature and History at Duke University and founding director of the Center for French and Francophone Studies there. She is the author of Reproductions of Banality: Fascism, Literature, and French Intellectual Life (1986); French Lessons: A Memoir (1993); The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach (2000); and The Interpreter (2005), about racial injustice in the American army witnessed by Louis Guilloux. In March 2012, Kaplan's book about the Paris years of Jacqueline Bouvier, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, Dreaming in French, was published by the University of Chicago Press. A French edition of Dreaming in French, entitled Trois Américaines à Paris: Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, Angela Davis, was published by Éditions Gallimard in October 2012, translated by Patrick Hersant.

Kaplan is also the translator into English of Louis Guilloux's novel OK, Joe, Evelyne Bloch-Dano's Madame Proust: A Biography, and three books by Roger Grenier: Piano Music for Four Hands, Another November, and The Difficulty of Being a Dog.

Kaplan's research interests include autobiography and memory, translation in theory and practice, literature and the law, twentieth-century French literature, French cultural studies, and post-war French culture. Her recent undergraduate courses include courses on Camus, Proust, and Céline; theories of the archive; French national identity; “The Experience of Being Foreign”; and “Literary Trials.” Upcoming courses include “The Modern French Novel” (with Maurice Samuels) and a film course on French cinema of the Occupation. She currently sits on the editorial board at South Atlantic Quarterly and on the usage panel for the American Heritage Dictionary, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is represented by the Marly Rusoff Literary Agency.

Harriet Sohmers Zwerling

Harriet Sohmers Zwerling (born 1928), is an American writer and artist's model. She attended Black Mountain College and lived in Paris in the 1950s as part of the bohemian expatriate scene centered on James Baldwin, with whom she shared space in a literary magazine called New Story.

She translated a novel by the Marquis de Sade for Maurice Girodias' Olympia Press and worked for the International Herald Tribune. In 1959 she moved to New York City and was a part of the literary scene there, publishing stories, (one in the anthology The Bold New Women issued by Fawcett), co-editing the Provincetown Review and working as an artist's model for some of New York's most important painters. She was bisexual and had a few love relationships with women, including María Irene Fornés from 1954 to 1957, and then Susan Sontag until 1958.In 1963, she married merchant sailor and bohemian Louis Zwerling and had a son, the musician Milo Z. She taught school in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for 28 years. In 2003 a collection of her writings, Notes of a Nude Model & Other Pieces was published. She appears in the documentary Still Doing It about the sex lives of older women.

Just out from Spuyten Duyvil publishers her new book, ABROAD, an expatriate's diaries, 1950-1959, is based on her actual diaries from that period when she lived in Paris. She also appears in the documentary "Regarding Susan Sontag", which was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2014.

I, etcetera

I, etcetera is a 1978 collection of short stories by Susan Sontag.

Illness as Metaphor

Illness as Metaphor is a 1978 work of critical theory by Susan Sontag, in which she challenges the victim-blaming in the language often used to describe diseases and those who suffer from them.

Teasing out the similarities between public perspectives on cancer (the paradigmatic disease of the 20th century before the appearance of AIDS), and tuberculosis (the symbolic illness of the 19th century), Sontag shows that both diseases were associated with personal psychological traits. In particular, she says that the metaphors and terms used to describe both syndromes lead to an association between repressed passion and the physical disease itself. She notes the peculiar reversal that "With the modern diseases (once TB, now cancer), the romantic idea that the disease expresses the character is invariably extended to assert that the character causes the disease–because it has not expressed itself. Passion moves inward, striking and blighting the deepest cellular recesses."

Sontag says that the clearest and most truthful way of thinking about diseases is without recourse to metaphor. She believed that wrapping disease in metaphors discouraged, silenced, and shamed patients. Other writers have disagreed with her, saying that metaphors and other symbolic language help affected people form meaning out of their experiences.

In America (novel)

In America is a 1999 novel by Susan Sontag. It won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction. It is based on the true story of Polish actress Helena Modjeska (called Maryna Zalewska in the book), her arrival in California in 1876, and her ascendancy to American stardom.

Notes on "Camp"

"Notes on 'Camp'" is an essay by Susan Sontag first published in 1964. It was her first contribution to the Partisan Review. The essay created a literary sensation and brought Sontag intellectual notoriety. It was republished in 1966 in Sontag's debut collection of essays, Against Interpretation.The essay codified and mainstreamed the cultural connotations of the word "camp" and identified camp's evolution as a distinct aesthetic phenomenon.William Bayer's essay "Juniors and Heavies", originally published in his 1971 book Breaking Through, Selling Out, Dropping Dead And Other Notes On Filmmaking, was patterned after "Notes On Camp". (Bayer referred to Sontag's essay in the new material he contributed to the book's 1989 revised edition.)

On Photography

On Photography is a 1977 collection of essays by Susan Sontag. It originally appeared as a series of essays in the New York Review of Books between 1973 and 1977.

Regarding Susan Sontag

Regarding Susan Sontag is an award-winning documentary film about the American intellectual Susan Sontag, directed by Nancy Kates. It premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in April 2014 and on HBO in December 2014. Interviewees include Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer, writers Terry Castle, Wayne Koestenbaum and Stephen Koch, and Sontag’s sister Judith Sontag Cohen. Actress Patricia Clarkson voices Sontag’s journals and writings.

Regarding the Pain of Others

Regarding the Pain of Others is a 2003 book-length essay by Susan Sontag, which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. It was her last published book before her death in 2004. It is regarded by many to be a follow-up or addendum to On Photography, despite the fact that the two essay collections convey Sontag's radically different opinions about photography. The essay is especially interested in war photography. Using photography as evidence for her opinions, Sontag sets out to answer one of the three questions posed in Virginia Woolf's book Three Guineas, "How in your opinion are we to prevent war?"

While debunking a certain number of common misconceptions (including some to which she contributed) concerning images of pain, horror, and atrocity, Regarding the Pain of Others both underscores their importance and undercuts hopes that they can communicate very much. On the one hand, narrative and framing confer upon images most of their meaning, and on the other, Sontag says, those who have not lived through such things "can't understand, can't imagine" the experiences such images represent.

Salmagundi (magazine)

Salmagundi is a quarterly periodical, featuring cultural criticism, fiction, and poetry, along with transcripts of symposia and interviews with prominent writers and intellectuals. Susan Sontag, a longtime friend of the publication, referred to it as "simply my favorite little magazine." In The Book Wars, James Atlas writes that Salmagundi is "perhaps the country's leading journal of intellectual opinion."

Styles of Radical Will

Styles of Radical Will is a collection of essays by Susan Sontag published in 1969. Among the subjects discussed are film, literature, politics, and pornography. It is Sontag's second collection of non-fiction. Her first nonfiction book is Against Interpretation and Other Personal Essays, which was published in 1966.

The Last of the Nuba

The Last of the Nuba is the English-language title of German film director Leni Riefenstahl's 1973 Die Nuba, an illustrations book published a year later in the United States. The book was an international bestseller and was followed-up by the 1976 book Die Nuba von Kau. It was the subject of a famous critique by Susan Sontag in claiming that it adhered to a fascist aesthetic.

The Volcano Lover

The Volcano Lover is an historical novel by Susan Sontag, published in 1992. Set largely in Naples, it focuses upon Emma Hamilton, her marriage to Sir William Hamilton, the scandal relating to her affair with Lord Nelson, her abandonment, and her descent into poverty. The title comes from William Hamilton's interest in volcanos, and his investigations of Mount Vesuvius.

The Way We Live Now (short story)

"The Way We Live Now" is a short story by Susan Sontag which was published to great acclaim on November 24, 1986 in The New Yorker. The story describes the beginnings of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s, as the disease began to claim members of the New York cultural elite.

The story is told entirely in the form of fragments of conversation, mentioned and whispered by numerous friends of an unnamed man who lies sick in a hospital bed. Although AIDS was new to many who read the story when it first appeared, "The Way We Live Now" remains a signature work in the literature of the epidemic.Sontag borrowed her title from an 1875 novel by British writer Anthony Trollope called The Way We Live Now.

Under the Sign of Saturn

Under the Sign of Saturn is Susan Sontag's third collection of criticism, comprising seven essays. The collection was originally published in 1980. All of the essays were originally published in The New York Review of Books except for "Approaching Artaud," which was originally published in The New Yorker.

Where the Stress Falls

Where the Stress Falls, published in 2001, is the last collection of essays published by Susan Sontag before her death in 2004. The essays vary between her experiences in the theater ("Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo") to book reviews.


Zelig is a 1983 American mockumentary film written and directed by Woody Allen and starring Allen and Mia Farrow. Allen plays Leonard Zelig, a nondescript enigma, who, out of his desire to fit in and be liked, takes on the characteristics of strong personalities around him. The film, presented as a documentary, recounts his intense period of celebrity in the 1920s and includes analyses from contemporary intellectuals.

Zelig was photographed and narrated in the style of 1920s black-and-white newsreels, which are interwoven with archival footage from the era and re-enactments of real historical events. Color segments from the present day include interviews of real and fictional personages, including Saul Bellow and Susan Sontag. Zelig has been favorably received by critics.

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