Susan Sontag 1966 Essay No

Susan Sontag 1966 Essay No-61
In our own era, Sontag maintains that what has become unacceptable is that anything should fail to be an object of intellectual interest and investigation.

In our own era, Sontag maintains that what has become unacceptable is that anything should fail to be an object of intellectual interest and investigation.

Interpretation need not necessarily be a bad way of engaging with literary texts and other artworks, especially in those circumstances in which literature and the arts have been co-opted into propaganda of one kind or another, such that a simple experiential engagement with them is actually a pernicious kind of manipulation.

But in the hyper-industrial, hyper-technological world of late 20 century America, the interpretive impulse is almost unequivocally bad, according to Sontag.

To take the work of art as simply something to be experienced, something to stimulate us, in various ways, is to render it unimportant and superficial, for it is to suggest that art operates on us at the least important levels of our nature.

But when we treat the work of art as the bearer of all sorts of hidden – and not so hidden – meanings, it becomes an object of literary or some other variety of interpretation, and this raises it up to the level of intellectual investigation.

Perhaps film criticism will be the occasion of a breakthrough here, since films are primarily a visual form, yet they are also a subdivision of literature.

10 sheer crowdedness-conjoin to dull our sensory faculties.

Brown), the criminal (Jean Genet) and the transgendered (Jack Smith), the minimal (Nathalie Sarraute) and the maximal (happenings, Marat/Sade), the films New York intellectuals were talking about (Godard, Resnais, Bresson) and the films French intellectuals were talking about (The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond).

The book ended with a declaration of a “new sensibility,” first proclaimed in the pages of Mademoiselle magazine, most of which sounded like the manifestos of a half-century before: Art today is a new kind of instrument, an instrument for modifying consciousness and organizing new modes of sensibility.

“Of course, I don’t mean interpretation in the broadest sense, the sense in which Nietzsche (rightly) says, ‘There are no facts, only interpretations’,” Sontag writes.

“By interpretation, I mean here a conscious act of the mind which illustrates a certain code, certain “rules” of interpretation.” Sontag maintains that interpretation in this vein historically has involved an effort to take something that is in some way unacceptable, yet too important to discard, and render it acceptable by turning it into something else.


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