Against Interpretation
Susan Sontag
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Against Interpretation

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  3,223 ratings  ·  86 reviews

First published in 1966, this celebrated book—Sontag's first collection of essays—quickly became a modern classic, and has had an enormous influence in America and abroad on thinking about the arts and contemporary culture. As well as the title essay and the famous "Notes on Camp," Against Interpretation includes original and provocative discussions of Sartre, Simone Weil,

Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 21st 1981 by Dell Publishing (first published 1961)
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There was a time, long ago and in another age, when anyone at university who wanted to be well-read or conversant with things intellectual read this book. I'm one of them. I sat in Cross Campus at New Haven and devoured "Against Interpretation" one autumn afternoon. Needless to say, I had a deep intellectual crush on Susan Sontag--- ah, I thought, if only I'd been able to court her in some alternate New York where we were both eighteen or nineteen! I still love this book, all these years later....more
Jul 23, 2014 Zanna rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers
None of us can ever retrieve that innocence before all theory when art knew no need to justify itself, when one did not ask of a work of art what it said because one knew what it did. From now to the end of consciousness, we are stuck with the task of defending art.

I ended up finding 'Against Interpretation' useful. Its central claim is that there is a kind of interpretation that is anti-art in that it diminishes the possibilities for appreciating/enjoying/experiencing the art rather than increa...more
The famous essay on camp is in this edition as well as wonderful essays on Godard and Beckett. Sontag was an amazing essayist, a really great cultural critic. A walking and breathing treasure of knowledge and clear thinking. One would think she would have loved Goodreads -- but then maybe not. For sure she would be arguing with everyone on this site. What fun!

But seriously even if one disagrees with her work, she is important just for her taste in literature among other things.
Greg Brown
There don't seem to be as many public intellectuals around as there used to be. Sure, there are more commentators than ever—look at the many, many bloggers out there, as well as other individuated voices carving out their own identity, even within larger publications. But the public intellectual in the middle of the 20th century seemed to comprise something different, something a bit larger in scope. These days, criticism tends to be done piecewise, either commenting or reacting incrementally on...more
تحديث: إضافة رابط
كتاب عبارة عن مقالات نقدية لبعض الأدب و الأفلام و المسرحيات و الظواهر الفنية
حقيقة أن المؤلفة سوزان سونتاغ ذكية جدا، و تملك تبصرا عاليا
و رغم أنه صادر في الستينيات و أنه لا خلفية لي كثيرا عن معظم من تحدثت عنهم، و لكن الكتاب لم يفقد أهميته بالنسبة لي
أحسبه سيعجب جدا المهتمين بهذا المجال

و هنا رابط لمقال أطول عنه من 2010

مع سوزان ضد التأويل

"Instead of hermeneutics we need an erotics of art."


But what the hell does that mean?
The strange thing about this criticism is that it has already become outmoded. Not that Sontag's critiques are themselves inadequate, but that the ground beneath them has shifted in very predictable (given her own theses) ways. And in some way, these (I hesitate to call them essays, as the great majority of this book is given over to reviews) critiques lead the reader to the conclusion that Sontag's reviews are ephemeral where they should have been permanent. But perhaps that is the nature of th...more
Here is where I discovered my model, my ideal: I too aspire to be able to discuss and analyze so deftly literature, cinema, music, theater, philosophy, theory and society, and their countless and inevitable intersections. The celebrated "Notes on Camp" and the title essay are the standouts, but everything--even the comparatively weak theater reviews--are worth reading.

"My idea of a writer: someone who is interested in 'everything.'"

-from "Afterward: 30 Years Later"
Sontag is right about practically everything. She predicts post-structuralism and post-modernism and warns against them. She was a skeptic about Freud and Marx when it was not fashionable. She was one of the first to see Ozu and Bela Tarr as greater filmmakers than their peers, and last but not least, she defends the aesthetic against the predations of moralists and politicians.
Ця книжка, здається, має амбівалентну назву. Адже інтерпретувати - означає витлумачувати, надавати словесної форми тому, що було сприйняте. Отже, будь-які судження критичного характеру так чи інакше можна сховати під парасолю інтерпретації. І важко повірити, що упродовж наступних сторінок сама Авторка не робитиме того, проти чого, власне проповідує з амвона титульної сторінки. Втім, С'юзен Зонтаґ виступає проти інтерпретації мистецтва як такого, проти розчленування жару чуттєвості кригою інтелек...more
I enjoyed this better then On Photography, which I do like a lot. She's all the more impressive as a critic when she doesn't restrict herself to writing a prolonged analysis of one subject. The different sections here tend to be organized along mediums of expression rather than themes. She touches on everything from the relationship to style and form, the role that suffering supposedly plays in the creation of art, corny science fiction films, book reviews, denouncements of pretty much the entir...more
A pop fart from an amoralist of the 60s. Amoral in that Susie would say or write or bed anything to promote herself in the marketplace. A collection, which includes her musings on Camp, that seeks to achieve lit'ry orgasm.
I wanted to like this, I thought I would like this, and I did like parts of it, but ultimately it fell flatter than a sad pancake at some alternative to IHOP (I don't know where people get their sad pancakes these days).

Sontag has this whole "war on philistinism" thing, and I get that, and I think it's vaguely a worthy cause, but you can't help the philistines see the light if you keep using references to artists/writers/movies/anything no one's heard of, and making judgmental remarks in passing...more
I highly recommend this book (Sontag's first published and perhaps best-known collection of essays) to anybody who considers the arts and humanities important. Unlike some other generalist authors, Sontag has got to be one of the most well-versed writers of the century, and her explorations of general aesthetics, cultural movements, and specific books/plays/films are very grounded and commanding. Her style is very concise (though ruminatory) and no page is worth skipping in my opinion. Even if y...more
Patrick McCoy
Susan Sontag recently died and I have heard a lot about her referenced as a critic over the years and saw her seminal book of criticism, Against Interpretation, at a used bookshop and picked it up. It was a visionary book, published in 1966; many of the essays and subjects are among the intellectual obsessions of the later half of the 20th century. She writes about existentialism, psychoanalysis, anthological theorists, film, avante garde writers, painters and playwrights. These include people l...more
Scott Smith
I was interested in a couple of the larger essays in this collection (like "Against Interpretation" and "On Style") but I couldn't enjoy most of the essays simply because they were about movies or books or authors of which/whom I knew nothing...

Sontag's writing in this book is very serious, very intellectual. This sometimes leads to awkward, polysyllabic, obtuse sentences such as, "In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art." (This sounds very important, indeed, but I'm not sure what s...more
OK. I picked this up because I really wanted to read "Notes on 'Camp.'" Because I love camp. Duh. And I loved "Notes on 'Camp'" and I loved a few other essays, the ones I understood. A lot of these essays are reviews and/or critiques of French films and philosophical treatises that I had not even heard of, let alone read. Sontag is brilliant obviously and I'm sure all the essays were good--they were readable and I felt like I got something out of them, even if I literally didn't know what she wa...more
late one night when i was tucking myself into bed, feeling quite tired, i didn't want to sleep so i picked up this book which was the closest one to my bed and read the first essay, then the second, and over a whole month, these essays became a kind of dessert that i would treat myself to after a boring day at work, and it has been very refreshing to be able to comprehend susan sontag in comparison to the boring dense as hell texts i thought i would try at home but gave up on. like other comment...more
A menudo sospecho que la única persona en condiciones de refutar las tesis y razonamientos de Susan Sontag era Susan Sontag. Incluso dudando de sus juicios acerca de la crítica literaria marxista o del positivismo en Freud, así como de valoraciones de las que ella misma se desdijo, cada artículo aquí es escandaloso en su erudición, su profundidad y esa seguridad de quien sabe que, en líneas generales, tiene la puñetera razón constantemente. Además, el conjunto presume de una coherencia estilísti...more
alyssa carver
Sep 02, 2008 alyssa carver rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: thinkers of any persuasion
this book made me wish Susan Sontag was still alive, or that i had read it before she died at least, or that i was born sooner or something because i would have wanted this woman to be my mentor. i've never felt so intellectually gratified. is there anyone else out there, anyone alive right now, so vigorously engaged with the cultural currents of the time we live in? i think not.
This book is a good reminder of why Sontag is still revered in literary criticism/women's studies/film studies/feminist circles. Even when some of her essays feel a little dated, her rigor and her thought process is amazing. "Against Interpretation" (the essay) is a must-read, as is "Notes on Camp" - for those of us who struggle to define why we like campiness so much.
I enjoyed the essays on film, but All About Eve is not would be camp just because people have taken some of the world's greatest dialogue out of context.

Just because it's about the theater, Sue...

And yes, there is implicit social commentary in 50s SF. That's about all I feel remotely qualified to comment on.

Thomas Baughman
I read this book when I was 16. I have no doubt that Sontag was one of the most important influences on my aesthetic sensibilties. I also credit her for introducing me to a world of modern european writers and filmmakers and even a few philosophers.
Malcolm Alexander
Anyone with any interest in critical reading and aesthetics absolutely must read the first two essays in this book. the rest of it is equally good. I just reread it after 12 years and had forgotten how insightful these essays are.
Foster Itter
Mar 02, 2010 Trish marked it as put-aside  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The essay "Notes on Camp" is worth the price of the book.
Sontag, a grand interpreter, cautions in "On Style" against interpretation that "in effect treats the work of art as a statement being made in the form of a work of art." Instead, she proposes that "a work of art encountered as a work of art is an experience, not a statement or the answer to a question. Art is not only about something; it is something. A work of art is a thing in the world, not just a text or commentary on the world." (21)

Too much interpretation "amounts to the philistine refu...more
Alexandra Loobeensky
Widzieć, słyszeć, odczuwać

„Nie potrzebujemy hermeneutyki, a erotyki sztuki” – podsumowuje Piękna Susan w tekście "Przeciw interpretacji", otwierającym jej klasyczny już zbiór esejów o literaturze, teatrze i zjawiskach kultury. Reszta tomu zachowuje podobny ton nie znoszącej sprzeciwu stanowczości; sprawi on, w zależności od poglądów czytelnika, że wnioski autorki będą wyglądać albo na czyste i błyskotliwe, albo apodyktyczne i bzdurne. Ścieżka, którą podążają myśli Sontag, świeżość jej obserwacji...more
Sep 08, 2009 Keith marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
So far i've read Against Interpretation (essay) and Notes On Camp from this collection. AI poses that so-called art works--film, paintings, music, writing, performance--are interpreted in a destructive process that has stepped away from formal criticism and towards a subjectively modern approach to analysis that "presupposes a discrepency between the clear meaning of a text [work:] and the demands of later readers." Sontag argues form and content have wrongly become thought of as separate since...more
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Jewish American literary theorist, novelist, filmmaker, and feminist activist.
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“Today is such a time, when the project of interpretation is largely reactionary, stifling. Like the fumes of the automobile and of heavy industry which befoul the urban atmosphere, the effusion of interpretations of art today poisons our sensibilities. In a culture whose already classical dilemma is the hypertrophy of the intellect at the expense of energy and sensual capability, interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art.

Even more. It is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world - in order to set up a shadow world of 'meanings.' It is to turn the world into this world. ('This world'! As if there were any other.)

The world, our world, is depleted, impoverished enough. Away with all duplicates of it, until we again experience more immediately what we have. ”
“It was from a weekly visit to the cinema that you learned (or tried to learn) how to strut, to smoke, to kiss, to fight, to grieve. Movies gave you tips about how to be attractive (...). But whatever you took home from the movies was only part of the larger experience of losing yourself in faces, in lives that were not yours - which is the more inclusive form of desire embodied in the movie experience. The strongest experience was simply to surrender to, to be transported by, what was on the screen” 3 likes
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