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sontagsusan3.gif - 70015 BytesSUSAN SONTAG

Award-winning Author

NYS Writers Institute, April 5, 2001
8:00 p.m. Reading | 3303 Sage Building, RPI, Troy



SUSAN SONTAG is one of modern America's most influential, provocative and controversial critics. Her essay, "Against Interpretation," stood American criticism on its head, arguing that style is more valuable than content. As an unusually young and attractive intellectual in the 1960s, Sontag received enormous attention, praise and antipathy from various quarters for her indifference to morality in art, and for her equation of high and low culture. Many acknowledge her brilliance even as they disagree sharply with her opinions, and are dismayed by her combative style.

In AmericaThough best-known for her essays, Sontag is a distinguished writer of fiction. Her most recent novel, In America, received the 2000 National Book Award. In America reimagines the true story of Maryna Zalezowska, a leading 19th century Polish actress who came to this country to found a utopian commune in California. The epic follows Maryna's adventures as her commune disintegrates, and afterward, when she finds renewed success as an actress on the American stage.

"an epic riff of imagination on little-known historical events. . .The scope of the tale is vast, and there is largesse in the telling, the sheer happiness of art." - Richard Lourie in The Washington Post Book World

"A passionate and often radical novel of ideas that affords all the old-fashioned pleasures of a traditional historical novel." - Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times

Sontag's earlier novel, The Volcano Lover (1992), also received wide attention. Set in the 18th century, the novel recounts various seductions and scandals in the court of the Bourbon monarchy in Naples.

". . .Sontag adds such historical texture to her saga of sexual intrigue that it all comes to sordid life, full of passion and politics. Her warts-and-all version of history relies on a profound imagining of each character's point of view." - Kirkus Reviews

Sontag first established her reputation in the 1960s as a contributor of critical essays to such left-learning journals as Partisan Review, Harper's, and The Nation. She nearly died of cancer in the 1970s, but wrote two of her best-known works during her recovery: On Photography (1977), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Illness as Metaphor (1978, an exploration of the cultural significance of diseases.

"It is hard to imagine any photographer's agreeing point for point with Sontag's polemic, but it is a brilliant, irritating performance, and it opens window after window on one of the great faits accomplis of our culture. Not many photographers are worth a thousand of her words."- Richard Hughes, Time, on On Photography

Books by Susan Sontag:

Alice in BedThe BenefactorDeath KitOn Photography

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.