Susan Sontag was a critical essayist, cultural analyst, novelist and filmmaker. She has written ‘On Photography’, ‘Illness as Metaphor’, ‘The Volcano Lover’ and ‘In America’, among many other works.
What is Susan Sontag famous for?
Susan Sontag was born on January 16, 1933 in New York. In 1964, she was recognized for her essay “Notes on Camp”. Sontag has become widely known for her non-fiction works, including Against interpretation and other tests (1966), On the photo (1976) and Illness as a metaphor (1978), as well as for novels like volcano lover (1992) and In America (2000), for which she won the National Book Award. Sontag died of cancer on December 28, 2004 in New York City.
Youth and education
Susan Sontag was born on January 16, 1933, in New York City, New York, to Mildred and Jack Rosenblatt, the couple later having a second daughter, Judith. Sontag’s father was a fur trader and his parents lived overseas for his business while Sontag lived with his grandparents in New York. Sontag’s father died when she was still a child. His mother moved the family to milder climes because of Sontag’s asthma and they eventually moved to California. In 1945, Mildred married Air Corps Captain Nathan Sontag, from whom a preteen Sontag would take her surname.
Sontag has become an avid reader and learner. She graduated from high school at age 15 and attended the University of California, Berkeley before transferring to the University of Chicago, where she met lecturer Philip Rieff. The two tied the knot less than two weeks after meeting and reportedly have a son, David. After earning his BA in Philosophy, Sontag went on to earn his MA in English and Philosophy at Harvard and did further postgraduate work abroad at Oxford and the Sorbonne.
‘Notes on Camp’
Sontag returned to the United States in the late 1950s and chose to end her marriage to Rieff, returning to New York with her son. She worked as a college teacher and began to make a name for herself as an essayist, writing for publications like The nation and The New York Book Review. A play she wrote for The Paris review, “Notes on the Camp”, earned him accolades. She was also working on her first novel, The benefactorpublished in 1963 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Sontag’s publisher for the duration of his career.
As an intellectual and a woman in what was still too often a boys’ club, Sontag challenged traditional notions of how art should be interpreted and consumed and what cultural tropes might be subject to of a thorough examination. She was a renaissance soul known for everything from collections of non-fiction prose like Against interpretation and other essays (1966) and On the photo (1977) to fiction as me etc. : Stories (1978) and volcano lover (1992). She has also written and directed films, including Duo for cannibals (1969) and Letter from Venice (nineteen eighty one).
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National Book Award
Sontag has been the source of much controversy throughout her career, with critics examining everything from her political statements (i.e. she once offered words of support to communist governments, changing her stance later) to the attention it received from the media in general.
Undeterred, Sontag continued to publish non-fiction works like where the stress falls (2001) and Regarding the pain of others (2003), as well as the play Alice in bed (1993) and the novel In America (2000), for which she won a National Book Award. (The writer/intellectual has received numerous accolades for her work.) Sontag has also directed theater productions such as Samuel Beckett. Waiting for Godot in 1993 in Sarajevo during the region’s armed conflict.
Relationships, illness and death
Although Sontag accepted cultural criticism based on sexuality, she was generally deprived of her affairs and had intimate relationships with women, including Eva Kollisch and photographer Annie Leibovitz, with whom she collaborated on the book. Women (1999).
Sontag was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 1975. She detailed how myths around the disease can derail effective treatment in the book. Illness as a metaphor (1978), followed later by another book on health and stigma, AIDS and its metaphors (1989).
Sontag died of a form of leukemia on December 28, 2004 in New York City. His son David, who later became an editor and writer, paid tribute to Sontag in the book Swimming in a Sea of Death: Memoirs of a Son (2008).