Susan Sontag to Speak April 12

Photograph courtesy of Annie Leibovitz

Susan Sontag, distinguished novelist, essayist, and critic will read from works in progress and her novel In America, winner of the 2000 National Book Award, Thursday, April 12, at 7:30 pm in the Art Building's Gamble Auditorium. A discussion and book signing will follow the talk, which is being sponsored by the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Office of the President. This event is part of the Mary Lyon Lecture Series. While on campus, Sontag will conduct a seminar for students and discuss her recent work with faculty members who are participating in the seminar Writing Beyond the Academy. Both events are sponsored by the Weissman Center for Leadership as part of its ongoing program to support collegewide engagement with leaders in the arts and public life. For more information, call x3066 or visit www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/programs/wcl.

About Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag's influence has been felt in many arenas of American culture and throughout the world A prolific writer, she has written essays on such diverse subjects as aesthetics, photography, illness, and human rights. She has published novels, short stories, and plays and has written and directed films. She even had a great impact on experimental art in the 1960s and 1970s.

Beginning in the 1960s, Sontag became a contributor to various periodicals, including the Partisan Review, New York Review of Books, Atlantic Monthly, Nation, and Harper's, and was an active part of the New York bohemian scene. She started her career as a novelist at the age of thirty with The Benefactor, a symbolic work about a wealthy man who attempts to make his daily life conform to his bizarre dreams. In 1968, a selection of her writings appeared in Against Interpretation and Other Essays, where she stated that the understanding of art starts from intuitive response and not from analysis or intellectual considerations, an argument she would repeat and expound upon in many other writings.

Sontag's other influential works include Styles of Radical Will (1969), which continued her explorations of contemporary culture and such phenomena as drugs, pornography, cinema, modern art, and music; On Photography (1976), a study of the force of photographic images; and Illness As Metaphor (1978), which was written after her cancer treatment. Sontag returned to the relation between illness and representation in AIDS and Its Metaphors (1988).

Her second novel, Death Kit (1967), a meditation on life, death, and the relationship between the two, was followed by a third, The Volcano Lover (1992), which became a best-seller. Sontag's novel In America (1999) centers around a Polish diva named Maryna Zalezowska. The year is 1876, and the actress has decided to abandon the stage and establish a utopian commune in California. The utopia fails, and the actress returns to the theater—but as an American who has embraced the culture of her adopted land.

In 1993, Sontag traveled to Sarajevo, the former capital of Yogoslavia, and staged Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot. She returned many times to the war-torn city. She has received numerous awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award (1977) and the Academy of Sciences and Literature Award (Germany, 1979). In 1990, she received a five-year fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation. Recently, Sontag became the second woman (the first was Simone de Beauvoir) to receive the coveted Jerusalem Award. The award honors writers whose work explores the freedom of the individual in society.

Karen Remmler and Chris Benfey, codirectors of the Weissman Center for Leadership, look forward to hosting Sontag April 12 and 13. "The Weissman Center for Leadership is dedicated to giving students opportunities to learn firsthand about how intellectual leadership can transform society and shape culture," they say. "Susan Sontag is one of those rare individuals who exemplifies the life of the mind and its connection to compassionate engagement with the world."


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