Fiction/Nonfiction: Susan Sontag
W 2019


Susan Sontag was America’s leading Public Intellectual in the second half of the 20th Century.   She was known rightly for her many seminal essays, including Notes on Camp, On Photography, and Illness as a Metaphor. Yet, as important, as prescient, as praised, as were these essays, Sontag was an excellent writer of fiction for which she was less well known.


In this SDG, of course we discuss her essays, but we also have the pleasure of reading Sontag’s captivating fiction.  Among her short stories is the 1986 riveting The Way We Live Now, the first fiction about the AIDS crisis. Her novel In America won the National Book Award.   We read The Volcano Lover, an engaging account of the infamous Mrs. Hamilton and her affair with Lord Nelson during the time of the Napoleonic wars.  The early novel Death Kit is a tour de force, a fascinating experimental novel of ideas and drama.


Upon reading her fiction and nonfiction, we will enjoy the depth of knowledge, empathy and  artistry of Susan Sontag.

Weekly Topics

Week 1:  Introduction to Susan Sontag.  Readings from A Susan Sontag Reader, Vintage Books, 1983;  Notes On Camp, On Style


Weeks 2 and 3:  The Volcano Lover, A Romance, Farrar Strauss Giroux, 1992.


Week 4: Story selections from I, etcetera, Vintage Books, 1979: Project for a Trip to China, Debriefing.  From the New Yorker website, 1986, The Way We Live Now


Weeks 5 and 6:  On Photography, Farrar Strauss Giroux, 1977.

Weeks 7 and 8: In America, Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2000.


Week 9: Story selections from I, etcetera, Vintage Books, 1979: The Dummy, Old Complaints Revisited, Baby


Weeks 10 and 11:  Illness as Metaphor and Aids and its Metaphors, both essays in one book, Anchor Books, 1989.


Weeks 12 and 13:  Death Kit, New American Library, 1967.


Week 14: Story selections from I, etcetera, Vintage Books, 1979: Doctor Jekyll, Unguided Tour.   Overall assessment of Sontag’s work.