Susan Sontag
Lecture Date: 4-24-1989
Click the link below to listen ot his celebrity's lecture:
Interview: Author and cultural theorist Susan Sontage is introduced by John Eadie and Marcelette Williams who summarizes Sontag's writing career by giving a history of her works and awards. Williams briefly meditates on what is to be the topic of Sontag's lecture, "Illness as Metaphor," commenting on the "danger" of metaphorical usage in our society. Sontag begins her lecture with an explanation of how illness and metaphor are related. Metaphor, although essential to both thinking and writing, cannot truthfully describe an event, object, person, etc. Sontag discusses the commonly used metaphor of "the body" for society. Metaphors and labels, she asserts, artificially divide society into groups and create a potentially dangerous hierarchy. Viewing the body as metaphor naturally leads to the interpretation of illness as metaphor as well. Sontag describes how this usage creates the risk of patients being held partially responsible for their illness. Sontag discusses the predominant attitude in our society concerning AIDS. There are many contradictions inherent in this attitude and many misconceptions from which it stem. Sontag concludes her lecture by advising that we be as "unmetaphoric" as possible in regards to illness. She takes questions from the audience regarding world events and present day issues. Some of the topics discussed are the condemnation of Salman Rushdie, the use of the American flag as art, and metaphor in relation to abortion. Sontag expresses her standpoint on alternative medicine. She also addresses the issue of the role of media in our society. In her closing, Sontag stresses the counter productivity of using metaphors.
Biography: Writer and critic Susan Sontag was born in New York and grew up in Arizona and California. Sontag entered University of California Berkeley when she was fifteen, and subsequently studied at University of Chicago, Harvard, and the University of Paris. Sontag’s work reflects her reputation gained in the 1960s as a radical-liberal American woman, her writing highly critical of modern society in defense of humanity and ethics. Sontag’s addressed topics range from visual arts, politics, ethics, disease, and modern culture. Besides her famous critical essays, Sontag’s repertoire includes the novels The Benefactor (1963), Death Kit (1967), and The Volcano Lover (1992).