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AIDS and Its Metaphors

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  220 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews

In 1978 Susan Sontag wrote Illness as Metaphor, a classic work described by Newsweek as "one of the most liberating books of its time." A cancer patient herself when she was writing the book, Sontag shows how the metaphors and myths surrounding certain illnesses, especially cancer, add greatly to the suffering of patients and often inhibit them from seeking proper treatmen

Hardcover, 95 pages
Published January 1st 1989 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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In AIDS and Its Metaphors, Sontag clarifies and defends the position she took ten years earlier in Illness as Metaphor, and extends some of her thoughts on disease metaphors to what is now – in 1988 – the new, stigmatized, apocalyptic disease: AIDS. Compared to her previous work, this was, to me, less coherent and incisive, although it still offer much to consider.

The story of AIDS, which was highly relevant, of course, when Sontag was writing, is now more distant as AIDS has become – at least
Dec 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm becoming obsessed with Sontag at the moment, she's so smart and well read and such a good writer. She wrote this over ten years after Illness as Metaphor and it's pretty amazing to read her reflections and extensions on that. I love reading things like this when people return to their work after a long break. This is IMO even better than Illness as metaphor, which was about TB's metaphors for overconsumption and giving too much license to the "passions", and cancer's association with repress ...more
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
While I love the premise of this (trying to show how public perception of diseases morphed from the cancer scare of the 60-70's into the AIDS crisis of the 80's), I found the first part of this to be fairly dated. Obviously this was published at a time when even managing HIV was essentially a non-possibility. Our understanding of and ability to manage HIV has grown exponentially in the subsequent decades (thank you, medical science), even if many of the attitudes of shame and ignorance around it ...more
Ned Rifle
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Always nice to hear someone taking words seriously for a good length of time, will have to reread after having read Illness and its Metaphors.
Aug 31, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
returned home to los angeles this summer, ignored (and continue to ignore) my obligations, and watched (the far too white, male [and also i guess biomedically focused but that at least felt like a deserved choice re: presenting one of many worthy AIDS narratives in the world, as long as it's consciously among a worthy plurality]) how to survive a plague one night. the next night, watched united in anger: a history of ACT UP. read through some transcripts of ACT UP oral histories. the next night, ...more
Michael Palkowski
Give it back to the war marker.

A brilliant essay unhinging the metaphoric language which constitutes our understanding of not only AIDS but diseases in general. Her work is fantastic at showcasing the power of language and how ideas despite their non valid, tenuous associations and dis proven quality retain for generations stigmatizing people and thus their willingness sometimes to get effective treatment due to potential "social" deaths which precede the literal physical one. Analyzing the mil
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: critical-theory
This is the first book I've read of Sontag's. She's a very good writer, even if, like the rest of much critical theory, plays fast and loose with the proofs—there's a reason Lakoff's Metaphors We Live By is not a touchstone of modern linguistics—the arguments remain, just the same, compelling. She attempts a kind of genealogy (though an overwhelmingly linguistic and discursive one) of the ways in which the language of illness has been mobilized to determine its treatment and reception. It is a w ...more
Jul 08, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably this deserves more credit, but I'm so tired of the illness as metaphor concept, I'm willing to low-ball the messenger.
This essay is a good addition to works I read earlier this year in medical sociology on the construction of illness, stigma, and the role of metaphor in assigning 'blame' and/or 'foreignness' to specific maladies. Sontag argues that AIDS really brings up some atavistic attitudes in our culture, specifically those surrounding plagues of the past. Key quote:

"The age-old, seemingly inexorable process whereby diseases acquire meanings (by coming to stand for the deepest fears) and inflict stigma is
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
Pretty dated elaboration on AIDS and how it has been used metaphorically during its short time in the limelight back when Sontag wrote this book. By now, it is more of a historical document of a time when AIDS was tantamount to nuclear bombs and, god forgive, viruses installed on floppy disks. It's a bit of a mess, really, this short book, and lacks clear focus throughout. At times, it is kind of interesting though, hence the two star rating.
Ann Pastor EVHS
The book was full of information. I dont really suggest reading it unless you know someone going through with it this kind of sickness. but after reading the book im surprised on how many assumptions we make and from that we need to learn more about it.
Matthew Dix
Jan 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have little to offer regarding Sontag's essay, except that I advise you read it in the best of health.
Mar 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Effectively addresses how AIDS has been moralized. Those who are not understood are blamed for what is not understood.
Aug 19, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
its very curios
Jacqueline Bocian
Jul 18, 2016 marked it as to-read
Sontag is so brilliant, even a book about such a grim topic is fascinating. A mind-exerciser, and an eye opener
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500 Great Books B...: AIDS and Its Metaphors - Susan Sontag 2 17 Apr 23, 2015 02:04PM  
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Jewish American literary critic, theorist, novelist, and filmmaker.
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