Through her work as a literary and cultural critic, Susan Sontag called long-held assumptions and taboos into question. After her divorce in 1959, Sontag pursued her dream of becoming a writer, publishing twenty-six essays and a novel in a three-year period while teaching philosophy at various universities and editing for Commentary magazine. While she wrote novels, short stories, films, and plays, she was best known for her critical essays exploring a broad range of topics. In her first book, Against Interpretation, she argued that criticism should investigate a subject deeply, but without interpreting or judging it. Her award-winning On Photography explored the potential of the medium to awaken the conscience of the viewer and the danger of exploiting and violating its subjects. And in 1978, Illness as Metaphor examined the ways in which diseases are used as metaphors for social problems and vice versa, and the implications that has for how we treat both illness and social problems. In 1989, as president of the PEN American Center, Sontag rallied support for Salman Rushdie, and after the 9/11 attacks, she criticized the Iraq War and the American mistreatment of prisoners.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Susan Sontag." (Viewed on May 5, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/sontag-susan>.