Against Interpretation and Other Essays Essay - Masterplots II: Women’s Literature Series Against Interpretation and Other Essays Analysis

Susan Sontag

Masterpieces of Women's Literature Against Interpretation and Other Essays Analysis

The early 1960’s were certainly a time of great changes in society, but even in that context, Susan Sontag must be considered as an unusual rebel. At a time when many writers and other artists were trying to use art as a means of political statement, Sontag insisted that art should be taken as it is, and not for what it supposedly represents.

The title essay of Against Interpretation, and Other Essays is a major case in point. Sontag clearly does not believe that the message is more essential than the medium which transmits that message. She cites psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, who tried to interpret everything in sexual terms, and political theorist Karl Marx, who tried to cite everything in economic terms, as prime examples of critics who were missing the real point of artistic works. A work of art, according to Sontag, is an object worth considering on its own merits, rather than as a symbol of some deeper construct.

Much emphasis is placed on the importance of style and form of a work of art. Most critics of the 1960’s had a tendency to consider the actual work as a sort of background to the “real meaning” intended. Sontag vehemently disagrees with this point of view. To her, style is the major importance of art. Probably the best example of this opinion is an essay entitled “Notes on ‘Camp’” (1964), deliberately written as a series of numbered notes rather than as a sequential essay, on the grounds that camp is not something that is reasonably discussed in narrative terms.

“Camp” is a term that was...

(The entire section is 642 words.)