Against Interpretation: And Other Essays
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Against Interpretation was Susan Sontag's first collection of essays and is a modern classic. Originally published in 1966, it has never gone out of print and has influenced generations of readers all over the world. It includes the famous essays "Notes on Camp" and "Against Interpretation," as well as her impassioned discussions of Sartre, Camus, Simone Weil, Godard, Beckett, Levi-Strauss, sceince-fiction movies, psychoanalysis, and contemporary religious thought.
This edition has a new afterword, "Thirty Years Later," in which Sontag restates the terms of her battle against philistinism and against ethical shallowness and indifference.
memory of themselves before material signs (writing) are invented; hence everything that an archaic culture wishes to commit to memory is put in poetic form. “The form of a work,” as Valéry puts it, “is the sum of its perceptible characteristics, whose physical action compels recognition and tends to resist all those varying causes of dissolution which threaten the expressions of thought, whether it be inattention, forgetfulness, or even the objections that may arise against it in the mind.”
the author’s experience in the “field.” Anthropologists are fond of likening field research to the puberty ordeal which confers status upon members of certain primitive societies. Lévi-Strauss’ ordeal was in Brazil, before the Second World War. Born in 1908 and of the intellectual generation and circle which included Sartre, Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, and Paul Nizan, he studied philosophy in the late twenties, and, like them, taught for a while in a provincial lycée. Dissatisfied with philosophy he
like many conservative European rulers of the time, did approve of Hitler’s war against Russia and for that reason hesitated to oppose the German government actively. For the scene that depicts this fact, Hochhuth’s play has been slandered by many Catholics as an anti-Catholic tract. But either what Hochhuth reports is true or it is not. And, assuming that Hochhuth has his facts (and his notion of Christian courage) right, a good Catholic is no more bound to defend all the actions of Pius XII
For, again, there is a historically specifiable twist which intensifies the anxiety. I mean, the trauma suffered by everyone in the middle of the 20th century when it became clear that, from now on to the end of human history, every person would spend his individual life under the threat not only of individual death, which is certain, but of something almost insupportable psychologically—collective incineration and extinction which could come at any time, virtually without warning. From a
complicity in a barbarous war. But Muriel is designed so that, at any given moment of it, it’s not about anything at all. At any given moment it is a formal composition; and it is to this end that individual scenes are shaped so obliquely, the time sequence scrambled, and dialogue kept to a minimum of informativeness. This is exactly the point of many new novels coming out of France today—to suppress the story, in its traditional psychological or social meaning, in favor of a formal exploration