Sontag, Susan

orig. Susan Rosenblatt

born Jan. 16, 1933, New York, N.Y., U.S.
died Dec. 28, 2004, New York

U.S. writer.

She studied at the University of Chicago and Harvard University and taught philosophy at several institutions. In the early 1960s she began contributing to such periodicals as the New York Review of Books, Commentary, and Partisan Review, her French-influenced essays being characterized by a serious philosophical approach to aspects of modern culture rarely taken seriously at the time, including films, popular music, and "camp" sensibility. Collections of her essays include the influential Against Interpretation, and Other Essays (1966) and Styles of Radical Will (1969). Her later critical works include On Photography (1977), Illness as Metaphor (1978), and AIDS and Its Metaphors (1989). She also wrote screenplays and novels, including The Volcano Lover (1992) and In America (2000).

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▪ 2005
Susan Rosenblatt 
      American essayist, critic, and novelist (b. Jan. 16, 1933, New York, N.Y.—d. Dec. 28, 2004, New York City), was a leading intellectual in the U.S., best known for her provocative essays on modern culture. Sontag, who graduated from high school at age 15, attended the University of Chicago (B.A., 1951) and Harvard University, where she studied English literature (M.A., 1954) and philosophy (M.A., 1955). Her reputation was established in 1964 with “Notes on ‘Camp,' ” a seminal essay that examined certain sensibilities toward popular culture, especially within the gay community. Philosophical discussions of film, music, art, and other facets of modern culture became a major focus of Sontag's essays, and her most notable works included Against Interpretation, and Other Essays (1966), On Photography (1977; winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award), Illness as Metaphor (1977), and AIDS and Its Metaphors (1988). She also wrote reviews, screenplays, and fictional works, including the historical novels The Volcano Lover (1992), which centred on the love affair between Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton, and In America (2000; winner of the National Book Award), based on the life of Polish American actress Helena Modjeska. Sontag, who described herself as a “zealot of seriousness,” was also active in politics and a champion of numerous human rights causes.

▪ 2002

      American essayist, cultural and literary critic, and novelist Susan Sontag had been honoured with numerous awards for her work, but when she was named the recipient of the Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society, there was an outcry among those who felt that she should not accept the prize. Sontag was reluctant to refuse, however, an action she deemed would be “boorish, unconvivial, pretentious.”

      At the award ceremony, she was disinclined to voice opinions on the situation in Israel, but she spoke against “the doctrine of collective responsibility as a rationale for collective punishment.” She decried “the use of disproportionate firepower” and other military actions against civilian Palestinians. She called for the dismantling of Jewish settlements. In the end, however, she gratefully accepted the prize “in the name of peace and the reconciliation of injured and fearful communities” and because it “honours, above all, the international republic of letters.”

      Sontag seemed destined for life as a public intellectual. She was born on Jan. 16, 1933, in New York City and reared there, until age five, by her grandparents. When her father, who was a fur trader working mostly in China, died, her mother returned home. The family ultimately settled in Los Angeles. Sontag started school at age six and was quickly advanced to the third grade. At 15 she entered the University of California, Berkeley, and a year later she transferred to the University of Chicago. She married intellectual Philip Rieff in her sophomore year (they divorced in the late 1950s) and graduated with a B.A. (philosophy) in 1951. She took master's degrees in English literature (1954) and philosophy (1955) at Harvard University and taught before publishing her first novel in 1963.

      Sontag first came to national attention in 1964 with an essay entitled “Notes on ‘Camp',” in which she discussed the attributes of taste in gay culture. This and other essays were some of the earliest to treat modern culture in a serious philosophical manner. She wrote on theatre and film, as well as on 20th-century cultural figures such as writer Nathalie Sarraute, director Robert Bresson, and painter Francis Bacon, among others. Many of the essays and reviews collected in early volumes were first published in The New York Review of Books, Commentary, and Partisan Review. Her later critical works included the award-winning On Photography (1977), Illness as Metaphor (1977), and AIDS and Its Metaphors (1988). Her most popular novel was The Volcano Lover (1992), a postmodern romance about the life of Sir William Hamilton. In America (2000), a work of fiction based on the life of actress Helena Modjeska, won a National Book Award in 2000.

Kathleen Kuiper

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▪ American writer
née  Susan Rosenblatt 
born January 16, 1933, New York, New York, U.S.
died December 28, 2004, New York

      American intellectual and writer best known for her essays on modern culture.

      Sontag (who adopted her stepfather's name) was reared in Tucson, Arizona, and in Los Angeles. She attended the University of California at Berkeley for one year and then transferred to the University of Chicago, from which she graduated in 1951. She studied English literature (M.A., 1954) and philosophy (M.A., 1955) at Harvard University and taught philosophy at several colleges and universities before the publication of her first novel, The Benefactor (1963). During the early 1960s she also wrote a number of essays and reviews, most of which were published in such periodicals as The New York Review of Books, Commentary, and Partisan Review. Some of these short pieces were collected in Against Interpretation, and Other Essays (1966). Her second novel, Death Kit (1967), was followed by another collection of essays, Styles of Radical Will (1969). Her later critical works included On Photography (1977), Illness as Metaphor (1978), Under the Sign of Saturn (1980), and AIDS and Its Metaphors (1989). She also wrote the historical novels The Volcano Lover: A Romance (1992) and In America (2000).

      Sontag's essays are characterized by a serious philosophical approach to various aspects and personalities of modern culture. She first came to national attention in 1964 with an essay entitled “Notes on ‘Camp,' ” in which she discussed the attributes of taste within the gay community. She also wrote on such subjects as theatre and film and such figures as writer Nathalie Sarraute (Sarraute, Nathalie), director Robert Bresson (Bresson, Robert), and painter Francis Bacon (Bacon, Francis). In addition to criticism and fiction, she wrote screenplays and edited selected writings of Roland Barthes (Barthes, Roland) and Antonin Artaud (Artaud, Antonin).

Additional Reading
Studies of Sontag's life and work include Sohnya Sayres, Susan Sontag: The Elegaic Modernist (1990); and Liam Kennedy, Susan Sontag: Mind as Passion (1995).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • SONTAG, SUSAN — (1933–2004), U.S. critic and author. Born in New York City, Susan Sontag taught philosophy and aesthetics at the City College of New York, Sarah Lawrence College, and from 1961 to 1965 at Columbia University. Her first novel, The Benefactor, was… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Sontag,Susan — Son·tag (sŏnʹtăg ), Susan. Born 1933. American writer noted for her essays on contemporary culture, especially those contained in Against Interpretation (1966). * * * …   Universalium

  • Sontag, Susan — ► (1933 2004) Escritora estadounidense y directora cinematográfica. Autora de El benefactor (1963) y En América (1996), etc. Premio Príncipe de Asturias de las Letras 2003. * * * orig. Susan Rosenblatt (16 ene. 1933, Nueva York, N.Y., EE.UU–28… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Sontag — Sontag, Susan …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Susan Rosenblatt — Susan Sontag (* 16. Januar 1933 in New York; † 28. Dezember 2004 ebenda) war eine US amerikanische Schriftstellerin, Essayistin, Publizistin und Regisseurin. Sie war bekannt für ihren Einsatz für Menschenrechte sowie als Kritikerin der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Susan Sontag — (Nueva York, Estados Unidos, 16 de enero de 1933 ibídem, 28 de diciembre de 2004) fue una novelista y ensayista estadounidense. Aunque se dedicó principalmente a su carrera literaria y ensayística, ejerció la docencia y dirigió películas y obras… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Susan Sontag — Infobox Writer name = Susan Sontag |thumb|right imagesize = 200px caption = pseudonym = birthdate = Birth date|1933|1|16|mf=y birthplace = New York City, New York deathdate = Death date and age|2004|12|28|1933|1|16|mf=y deathplace = New York City …   Wikipedia

  • Susan Sontag — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Sontag. Susan Sontag Nom de naissance Susan Rosenblatt Activités Essayiste, romancière Naissance 16 janvier 1933 New York …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Susan Sontag — noun United States writer (born in 1933) • Syn: ↑Sontag • Instance Hypernyms: ↑writer, ↑author * * * Susan Sontag [Susan Sontag] …   Useful english dictionary

  • Susan — /sooh zeuhn/, n. a female given name, form of Susanna or Susannah. * * * (as used in expressions) Anthony Susan Brownell Bell Burnell Susan Jocelyn Susan Jocelyn Bell black eyed Susan Byatt Antonia Susan Antonia Susan Drabble Sarandon Susan Susan …   Universalium

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