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Against Interpretation and Other Essays

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  5,477 ratings  ·  208 reviews
"Susan Sontag's essays are great interpretations, and even fulfillments, of what is really going on." --Carlos Fuentes

"She has come to symbolize the writer and thinker in many variations: as analyst, rhapsodist, and roving eye, as public scold and portable conscience." --Time

"A dazzling intellectual performance." --Vogue

Against Interpretation was Susan Sontag's first colle
Paperback, 312 pages
Published August 25th 2001 by Picador (first published 1966)
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Sep 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
دو کلمه راجعبه اسی
قبلا چندباری نوشتم که چقدر قالب اسی رو دوست دارم. دلایلش هر چی باشه مطمئنا مهمترینش به این برمیگرده که یه اسی خوب نیاز داره به یه اسینویس جالب. هیچ تضمینی وجود نداره که نویسندهی یه مقالهی آکادمیک درخشان یه آدم دوستداشتنی باشه. اما خاصیت اسی خوب اینه که نیاز داره نویسندهش بازیگوشتر و سر به هواتر و بانمکتر از یه مقالهنویس و باهوشتر و عمیقتر و تیزبینتر از یه ستوننویس باشه. طبیعتا توی اسی نباید دنبال افکار و آرای اصیل (به فرض اینکه آرای اصیلی وجود داشته باشن) گشت. اما بعید هست که ی
Feb 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
A note and some acknowledgments

--Against interpretation
--On style

--The artist as exemplary sufferer
--Simone Weil
--Camus' Notebooks
--Michel Leiris' Manhood
--The anthropologist as hero
--The literary criticism of Georg Lukács
--Sartre's Saint Genet
--Nathalie Sarraute and the novel

--Reflections on The Deputy
--The death of tragedy
--Going to theater, etc.
--Marat / Sade / Artaud

--Spiritual style in the films of Robert Bresson
--Godard's Vivre Sa Vie
--The imagination of disaster
--Jack Smi
Ahmad Sharabiani
Against Interpretation and Other Essays, Susan Sontag
Against Interpretation is a collection of essays by Susan Sontag published in 1966. It includes some of Sontag's best-known works, including "On Style," and the eponymous essay "Against Interpretation." In the last, Sontag argues that in the new approach to aesthetics the spiritual importance of art is being replaced by the emphasis on the intellect. Rather than recognizing great creative works as possible sources of energy, she argues, contem
Dec 10, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers
Shelves: philosophy
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
Oct 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
تحديث: إضافة القراءة الطويلة من عام2010
مع سوزان ضد التأويل! ه

كتاب "ضد التأويل و مقالات أخرى" عبارة عن مقالات نقدية في الأدب و المسرح و الأفلام و الفن، كتبتها سوزان سونتاغ في الستينيات من القرن الماضي... و هو من كتب الكلاسيكيات الحديثة. و لا غرابة أن يعتبر كذلك، إذ أن تحليلات سوزان العميقة و عباراتها النقدية الحادة و المباشرة و الواثقة تنم عن ذكاء حاد و تبصر عال... كثير من الجمل أذهلتني و كأنها قرأت ما في دماغي من أفكار لم أصرح بها يوما، و كثير منها علمتني، و كثير منها لم تعجبني، و كثير رابعة ل
Nov 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: partly-read
دو فصل اول کتاب را خواندم (تا ۷۰) و بعد دیگر اعصابش را نداشتم. شاید هم روزی بقیهی کتاب را جستهگریخته خواندم. فکر میکردم به بهانهی این کتاب با نقد هنر آشتی کنم، ولی خصومتم بیشتر هم شد. صحبت از عدم جدایی فرم و محتوا میکند خانم سانتاگ، آن هم سال ۶۲. فکر میکردم این مفهوم دیگر باید جاافتاده باشد، ولی هنوز حتا مدعیانی که فرم-فرم میکنند یک نقد درست - به این معنا - ننوشته اند. منتقدی اینقدر باهوش نداریم که یک نکتهی تکنیکی را بگیرد و بگوید این به چه دلیل و برای کدام حرف اینطور شده. این روزها که بحث فیلمه ...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"
Oct 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 05, 2008 rated it liked it

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


But what the hell does that mean?
Greg Brown
Dec 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Dec 07, 2016 marked it as auf-pause  ·  review of another edition

1. Gegen Interpretation
Das Primat des Inhalts über die Form führt zur Erklärbarkeit dessen, was das Kunstwerk uns "sagen will" (solchen Fragen hat sich Beckett entschieden widersetzt), dass es auf den Inhalt reduziert wird. Damit wird es interpretierbar; Interpretation ist die Rache des Intellekts an der Kunst, an der Welt. "Interpretation heißt, die Welt arm und leer machen", um eine Schattenwelt der Bedeutungen zu errichten; Eine philsterhafte Weigerung, die Finger von der Kunst zu lass
Dec 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
"It is time that the novel became what it is not ... a form of art which people with serious and sophisticated taste in the other arts can take seriously."


"in our own time, art is becoming increasingly the terrain of specialists. The most interesting and creative art of our time is not open to the generally educated; it demands special effort; it speaks a specialized language."

I'm such a sucker for smart people. If all the idiots were liberals and all the right-wingers were arty-types and bra
It's a still life water color,
Of a now late afternoon,
As the sun shines through the curtained lace
And shadows wash the room.
And we sit and drink our coffee
Couched in our indifference,
Like shells upon the shore
You can hear the ocean roar
In the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs,
The borders of our alliance.

And you read your Emily Dickinson,
And I my Robert Frost,
And we note our place with bookmarkers
That measure what we've lost.
Like a poem poorly written
We are verses out of rhythm,
Peter Landau
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
When I’m reading a writer who speaks to me I’ll often share quotes that jump out off the pages, and I did that a few times reading AGAINST INTERPRETATION AND OTHER ESSAYS by Susan Sontag. Usually, those quotes are well-received, but not Sontag’s. Friends dismissed her as “second-rate cribbing” off of better minds, where I saw a dialogue. But, whatever, this was the first of her works I’ve read, and her first published collection, and I really enjoyed being in her mind for 300 pages. She mostly d ...more
Sep 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
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.
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Callum McAllister
"Saint Genet is a cancer of a book, grotesquely verbose, its cargo of brilliant ideas borne aloft by a tone of viscous solemnity and by ghastly repetitiveness." - a great sentence, or The Greatest sentence.
Federico Sosa Machó
Una máquina de generar ideas, miradas inteligentes y sensibles sobre diversos temas. Un libro clave de una intelectual de primera línea.
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
Aug 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays, nonfiction
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
transparence is the highest, most liberating value in art—and in criticism—today. transparence means experiencing the luminousness of the thing in itself, of things being what they are.”

i'm so deeply conflicted about this collection, both as a reading experience & as a series of statements on sontag's critical and creative position.

i suppose, to start with, i am intimidated; in academic writing, in person, on every possible level i embrace my own hesitance, sensitivity, vulnerability, the
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Though It took me an abundance of time to peruse this, I felt as if I were swimming in a deep of written grandeur and intellectual greatness that one can still relate to and use in our current times as well.
I felt myself grow as I devoured those essays and I am elated that this is the first book I got to read by Sontag.
I was greatly astonished by her ideas, her writing and the way she wondrously and analytically wrote of literature, films, art and culture.
She introduced me to a new world of ide
Martin Hare Michno
Some of Sontag's essays have radically changed the way I think of art and culture. Her essays should be read across all university campuses.
David Bjelland
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It took about 15 pages to realize that highlighting every striking, provocative summary statement in here would be a waste of time and graphite.

Usually, a "dense" work in the world of criticism is one that's crammed with oblique, obscurantist academese and wide-spray shotgun blast name-dropping. When I say Susan Sontag's writing here is dense though, I mean it more in the sense of, say, beef jerky: every bite is tough but lean, savory, and just a little bit life-sustaining.
Samarth Bhaskar
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Susan Sontag has been on my radar for a while, whether through references in literature and journalism I've been reading, or because people like AO Scott refer to her frequently in their own criticism. Her political pedigree, and role in the feminism movement is also something I've come across a few times.

This was my first experience with her writing and I came away largely impressed. She was an adept cultural commentator, a sharp writer and a consummate critic. Sontag's ability to craft argumen
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Jewish American literary critic, theorist, novelist, and filmmaker.
“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. ”
“The ideal or the dream would be to arrive at a language that heals as much as it separates.” 16 likes
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