American History II : Reform Minded Publications (Susan Sontag)

Intellectual Grandiosity

In the 60’s and 70’s, Susan Sontag’s ideas that were representative of fearless curiosity attracted so many debates. Sontag, at the time was an American intellectual who wrote provocative essays and articles on terrorism, war, illness, and photography(Sontag, 1983). As a cultural critic, she more often than not held a dissenting opinion to the notions of culture that the American society clung onto at the time and she would continually thrive in the spotlight her fierce criticism would shine upon her. Although her work was characteristic of high-minded pretension, it had an aura of notoriety that gave her an edge and set her aside from her peers, promoting her to the status of an influential intellectual icon. To be considered intellectually smart and curious at the time one had to know and had to have read essays by Sontag.

The Role Susan Sontag played in America’s Cultural Revolution

Sontag‘s contributions were responsible for changes experienced in the climate of intellectual debates at the time. Her ideas especially on a “new sensibility” found their way into academia at a time when the Cultural Revolution was characterized by a students’ uprising in many university campuses and colleges in the U.S.She is credited with helping to set a new tone and a new atmosphere that was consistent with the cultural changes taking place at the time. For instance in her book “Against Interpretation” Sontag clarifies, that “to interpret is to impoverish” as it slaps meanings onto art and does not allow for a heightened experience of the art(Sontag, 1983). According to Sontag, art should not be viewed as an answer to a question and should not only be viewed as to be about something but art as something in and of itself. She felt that the selling of art was deeply rooted in commercialism. She heavily criticized the tastes and standards of the American culture and its need to interpret, analyze and moralize.By assertions that America needed a “new sensibility,” an “erotics of art,” and “to dethrone the serious,” Sontag hailed the “exhilarating freedom from moralism” and by this, she gave lowbrow tastes a highbrow endorsement(Jucan, 2012).

The Outcome of Sontag’s Contributions

Unlike political revolution whose goal is to overthrow a government, the goal of counterculture’s political activism is to transform morals.The American Cultural Revolution had enormous consequences for both intellectual and artistic life.Sontag’s counterculture stance called for and resulted in some ways to a diminishing gap between high and low society: by insisting on a fusion rather than a separation of what was considered high and what was considered low. Her radical artistic and intellectual gestures of the counterculture helped the cultural shift towards the embracing of mass culture and pop art from the reverence of high modernism(Jucan, 2012).

How Susan Sontag is viewed today

Although Sontag’s work may have lost its power thrill in today’s world, her reasons for advancing the arguments she advanced hold strong. Her early career and later career reveal two conflicting sides to Sontag, while in the beginning, she was a revolutionary seeking to close gaps butin the end, she came across as questioning her initial arguments that made her so popular among the intellects(Jucan, 2012). As a fearless intellectual and a woman at that, that she helped to break gender barriers by asserting her ideas in a field that was largely male-dominated and thus became an intellectual role model for thousands of younger women.

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