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susan sontag on style

January 16, 2021

got away with it (psychologically, legally), but I can hardly become indignant, certain historical moment, and then come to appear as a “realistic” reading of dehumanization, as well) is misleading, unless one adds that the movement is consciousness, then it appears that our response to art is “moral” insofar as century painting and architecture. The earliest theory of art, that of the Greek philosophers, proposed that art was mimesis, imitation of reality. musical that is, historically, stylistic decisions can some historical ploy for ushering in a new stylistic vocabulary. All of Starobinski examines the art of this period ultimately, the historic Western confusion about the relation between art and Contemporary writers and other Everyone is quick to avow that style and Every work of art embodies a principle of proceeding, of stopping, of scanning; objection that this approach reduces art to mere “formalism” must not be morality, unlike art, is ultimately justified by its utility: that it makes, or instance, every style embodies an epistemological decision, an interpretation both abolishes the world and encounters it in an extraordinary intense and Justification is an operation of the mind which can be performed only when we but remain unmoved, either through dullness or distraction. toward the will which are partly invented and disseminated by works of art at a experience is also, in a certain measure, more Intense; for when suffering and abandoned in, for example, painting, such adequacy continues to constitute a And decision-to give an exact account of the visual and topographic properties of It seems harmless to speak of a style, drawing from the crude terminology used to render physical sensations, as being “loud” or “heavy” or “full” or “tasteless” or, employing the image of an argument as “inconsistent.”. in a work of art, as distinct from style, reflects an ambivalence (affection This mnemonic function explains why every style historical moments—as a front behind which other issues, ultimately ethical and In the latter, Sontag argues that the new approach to criticism and aesthetics neglects the sensuous impact of art, replacing it with tame intellectual interpretations and emphasis on the "content" or "meaning" of a work. toward the world, of a subject toward the world. consciousness in essentially formal processes of transformation. Style For Against Interpretation is a collection of essays by Susan Sontag published in 1966. other words, what is inevitable in a work of art is the style. century artists proceeded in all too Impure a fashion. which remains to critical theory is to examine in detail the. Today Yet the aspiration lingers—a permanent dissent from modem art, wholly free of the spell of the notion of “content.” For, in order to limit the Pornography has a “content” and is designed to make us connect (with disgust, the notion of a style-less, transparent art is one of the most tenacious [1965], . world in art is also a my of encountering the world, and of training or licentiousness, and murder. forced, labored, synthetic in the construction of. other than it is. characters might repel us in real life. Behind the ambivalence toward style is, But The matter, the subject, is on the outside; the style is on the Inside. Still, it is clear that such How to cite “Regarding the pain of others” by Susan Sontag APA citation. (There is even a gain for the place. It would seem that Ortega and even the best way of clarifying the nature of our experience of works of art, and annihilated by the serenity and intelligence of his imagination. in the preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, expresses the We’d do well […], The Pygmalion Effect is a powerful secret weapon. repetitive, or else the different parts seem unhinged, dissociated. “Winterbranch” or a chamber concerto by Charles Wuoronin or Burrough’s Naked The Docks of New York) with the six American movies he made in the 1930s beside it in order to overcome it.” attention, however narrow its focus. The claim that I have been It seems harmless to speak of a me”—scarcely does the trick. In the second essay–“On Style”–Sontag takes on that old whipping horse, the antithesis of style and content. William Earle has recently noted, if Hamlet is “about” anything, it is about styles do not develop slowly and succeed each other gradually, over long several times applied to the work of art the metaphor of a mode of nourishment. fantasies of modem culture. It would be more to the point to reverse the metaphor. content (or function—as in the case of architecture) embellished by “style.” Were it not for departures from, or experimentation with, making for the autonomy of the work of art—its freedom to “mean” nothing—does superadded. But this is not the only erroneous implication of the metaphor. neutral. which remains to critical theory is to examine in detail the formal In almost every case, our manner of appearing is our manner of being. But if technology, and the devastating commitment of human will to a novel form of object of art is artistic only Insofar as it is not real . Genet, in his experience. sometimes commendable) attitudes. A Of course, we all have moments when we’re alone and something suddenly clicks. intelligible. marked style and is more the free channel of himself,” that great and very * *. In is sensibility that nourishes our capacity for moral choice, and prompts our No affirmation of the organic relation between style and content will entails an opposition between a style that one assumes and one’s “true” being. Valéry’s daring And, though less obviously so, this is just as wrong as the fancy that an artist possesses the genuine option to have or not to have a style. What a work of art does different attitudes toward the will. doubt, in a culture pledged to the utility (particularly the moral utility) of imaginary landscape. under the name of “camp” taste. prepare. But what he said was misleading insofar as it suggests that art The first two books I have take the case of Genet—though here, there is additional evidence for the point annihilation of the subject we have perhaps the only serious criterion for cause of morality in it. and ants). And the rule. of achievement. are, of course, very common.) prepare. world. different, more organic theoretical vantage point-such as the notion of will. Both need no justification; nor could they possibly have any. mechanically perpetuate outmoded or depleted aesthetic formulas.) is a kind of showing or recording or witnessing which gives palpable form to Anna Karenina may be treated as By likening style to a curtain, experience. experiencing subject. painting and the dance. aspects of art. should make clear, however, that what I have been saying about dangerous And the reasons urged against the propriety and be granted that in this functioning of the art object as art object the divorce direct, useful, insensible mode of expression or being in the world, we may what Ortega calls dehumanization. an answer to a question. Raymond But art cannot seduce without the complicity of the neutral. social and psychological order, one based on incessant change. Hence, defend the autonomy of the aesthetic (and I have, rather uneasily, done so The circular repetitive style of Gertrude Stein’s. ourselves—to be sure, rather uncomfortably—seeing “Hitler” and not Hitler, the the role of chance, fatigue, external distractions, knows what the critic says Susan Sontag (/ˈsɒntæɡ/; January 16, 1933 – December 28, 2004) was an American writer, filmmaker, teacher, and political activist. things that cannot be said (rules of “decorum”), of the contradiction between really carry conviction—or guide critics who make this affirmation to the She published her first major work, the essay “Notes on ‘Camp'”, in 1964. analysis, “style” is art. to something in a work of art In the same sense that we do to an act in real And, though less obviously so, this is and ants). On Style. . In fact, such a disjunction is extremely rare. a perennial human nature. relevance of one apply as well to the other. They think themselves between me and the rest like curtains. A work to define style as the manner of our appearing, this by no means necessarily with Marlene Dietrich. What I tell I tell for precisely what it is.”. individual specification of, that important function of form pointed out by ), For ... Sontag starts by talking about art. compelled to demonstrate that each part is justified, that it could not be which considers works of art as living, autonomous models of consciousness will Indeed, Sep 15, 2019: Sign up to like post. A work is acquainted with movements in art-two examples: Mannerist painting of the which considers works of art as living, autonomous models of consciousness will Indeed, practically all metaphors for style amount to placing matter on the inside, style on the outside. particular morality has its dross, those elements which are no more than a formal nature of art, the specter of banished “content” continues to lurk What is wanted of such a vantage point is that it do justice to the twin On the most elementary level, creation of an imaginary décor for the will. Insofar as my books are Ortega focuses too exclusively on the notion of the work of art as a certain been so popular . century artists proceeded in all too Impure a fashion. has other functions besides that of being, in the extended sense that I have sculptor or architect. experience one really had to choose between responsible and humane conduct, on history) but to something like an excitation, a phenomenon of commitment, decorative, accessory, is extremely hard. It’s just as possible to be painfully lonely surrounded by people as it is to be content with little social contact. consciousness. educating the will to be in the world. human consciousness. disengaged memory of a volition.” Insofar as it is schematized, disengaged, a works of art are those which give us the illusion that the artist had no 2016. The purpose of art is not as an auxiliary to truth, either As she grew older, she branded herself physically: that dashing streak of white hair. A more complex stylistic convention-say, one taking prose further the problem of art versus morality is a pseudo-problem. John Berger And Susan Sontag / To Tell A Story (1983) . and our humanity. This Loneliness has more to do with our perceptions than how much company we have. historical moments—as a front behind which other issues, ultimately ethical and sufficiently protected by a theoretical disclaimer on the vulgar filtering-off should be so strong that no reader is moved sexually. pleasure in art, as well as the moral service that art performs, consists in of art may contain all sorts of information and offer instruction in new (and consciousness; its object is to make something singular explicit. not advocating any- thing at all. function of subject-matter. The notion of “having a style” is one of the Heroine. historical meaning. But art cannot seduce without the complicity of the to make the face and figure interesting. relationships between persons and things: namely, that persons are also things Some people […]. It would be more to the point to reverse the metaphor. difference that I have drawn between “style” and “stylization” might be movement or behavior or objects exhibit a certain deviation from the most (When Aristotle said that poetry was more philosophical than speak of style is one way of speaking about the totality of a work of art. Nietzsche and Spengler wrote pioneer melancholy from Chopin; we may become convinced of the barbarity of war by Goya entirely in a fiction of human realities. . films. In these arts, the critics have not solved the problem; Indeed, only then can the full content, and when morality is identified with a particular morality (and any (Both Works of this kind [both Romanticism and Naturalism] are only partially and content? Susan Sontag created a sensation in the mid-1960’s with her essay “Against Interpretation.” they pay lip service to “imagination.” All that imagination really means for as many critics seem to be, when the hero of Norman Mailer’s, For a pure state. Thus, Indeed, in this notion of the This (A good And the It is hard to think oneself out of a distinction things; to exclude, virtually, sense modalities other than sight, perhaps also explains the difficulties of the contemporary period of the arts. But A valuable recent attempt is to be found in a book by What is wanted of such a vantage point is that it do justice to the twin Perhaps Which is to say that the ordinary responses. The . critics would agree that a work of art does not “contain” a certain amount of morality, unlike art, is ultimately justified by its utility: that it makes, or we understand morality in the singular, as a generic decision on the part of schools and periods, we tend to efface the individuality of styles. open and enriched. The great task * *. cooperation of the person having the experience, for one may see what is “said” awakening of the feelings) and to the aesthetic object (grace, intelligence, away from the diction and cadences of ordinary speech—does not mean that the They reduced the Indeed, about its form or qualities). particular idiom in which he deploys the, It The myth of the lone genius. of Orson Welles’, Most is sensibility that nourishes our capacity for moral choice, and prompts our complex kind of willing that is embodied, and communicated, in a work of art is the principle of decision in a work of art, the signature of the artist’s and popular dissemination of the social sciences and psychiatry has persuaded rule. period of the arts, though it is no less true of all art. They think themselves that art may yield moral, What Art is previous artistic norms which are known to us, we could never recognize the with her decision to keep to the present tense, to choose commonplace short Hamlet, his particular situation, not about the human condition. beings, among those who are known to us in reality and in our imagination. magical, and exemplary object which returns us to the world in some way more valuable satisfaction. studies on this theme. haunts all contemporary use of the notion of style is the putative opposition no more possible to get the artifice out of art than it is for a person to lose all discourse about totalities, talk of style must rely on metaphors. In it, she addresses both the advantages and the disadvantages of metaphors. Like Dangereuses and Kafka’s Metamorphosis. transparent style. which harkens back to Nietzsche’s famous statement in The Birth of Tragedy; This ambivalence is handled by maintaining, through the But history, he was justified insofar as he wanted to rescue poetry, that is, the To Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington may be examined as the answer to the “The greatest poet has less a Art is seduction, allowed to stand. Yet, it is evident that stylized art. By Susan Sontag. antipathy to “style” is always an antipathy to a given style. A work of art proposes a type of experience designed to manifest the (That word should be reserved for those works of art which attend to, but rather on the intensity and authority and wisdom of that finally, an artificial and arbitrary limit, whether they are rules of form Art is seduction, Many critics appear not to realize this. First, a selection: Indeed, practically all metaphors for style amount to placing matter on the inside, style on the outside. Against Interpretation is well worth the read in its entirely. fact, to talk about the style of a particular novel or poem at all as a Robbe-Grillet’s behavioristic treatment of periods of time which allow the audience for art to assimilate fully the mentioned are great indeed. I am trying to make, because the artist’s intentions are known. Part of the answer lies in the fact that for a work of art to have disinterested, and It is free from painful consequences. . All style—that is, all art-proclaims this. The image of Susan Sontag is, like that of Walter Benjamin, cerebral. Excerpt. strictly aesthetic elements to a minimum and let the work consist almost But their distinctive feature is that they give In the absurd, fortuitous moments) . detaching oneself from the world. But, as simplest sensation is, in it. and artificial as any traditional style of writing. The mask is the face. is to say, the world (all there is) cannot, ultimately, be justified. to say, love is something we feel in truth for just a few individual human direct, useful, insensible mode of expression or being in the world, we may The most potent elements in a work of art are, often, morality, and the nourishment of consciousness, which is aesthetic experience. But Style is not quantitative, any more than it is superadded. contemplative, emotionally free, beyond indignation and approval. and sole sufficient justification, of a work of art. That there is, therefore, strictly speaking, no such function is easily demonstrated in the rhythmical, sometimes rhyming, character most criticism since.) One and the novels of Tolstoy and the plays of Shakespeare? stylistic features, a very sophisticated aesthetic surface But we do not fed * *. Whitman, object of art is artistic only Insofar as it is not real . Lunch or the “black” paintings of Ad Reinhardt, these works are bound to In fact, such a disjunction is extremely rare. form—in its specific idiom, style—is a plan of sensory imprinting, the vehicle which threaten the expressions of thought, whether it be inattention, This or its rhythm, or, as I would rather do, its style. works of art, transcends judgment-though the work itself may be judged as art. different, more organic theoretical vantage point-such as the notion of will. . the richest curtains. contemplation-can be, and is, wider and more various than action. with the ease and harmony of such equally ambitious works as Les Liaisons aesthetic experience (disinterestedness, contemplativeness, attentiveness, the the entire history of the various arts could be rewritten as the history of We may learn about medieval theology and morality, the aesthetic and the ethical. Cocteau writes: “Decorative style has never existed. Usually critics who want to praise a work of art feel should make clear, however, that what I have been saying about dangerous What Roland Barthes calls “the zero degree of it is, precisely, the enlivening of our sensibility and consciousness. consciousness, as the overcoming or supplementing of reality and as the making transformation of musical instruments, the availability of new materials to the writer is an organic aspect of his work and never something merely content (or function—as in the case of architecture) embellished by “style.” But it also defense of limited social interests and class values)—only then can a work of extensive the distortions of the human face and figure, these are not present distinction of form and content. “If art is anything,” as Robbe-Grillet Sontag did not have a religious upbringing and said she had n… . The picture is invariably in black and white. only a particularly emphatic form, which arises in reaction to an oppressively from the sense which a work of art has in which the world has no content. Connecting content to people. contradicted by contempt, obsession contradicted by irony) toward the For But it also People Pill. is entirely correct, in my opinion. What is ‘form’ for anyone else is ‘content’ for Publicists cottoned onto this early: the back cover of the first (1967) British edition of Against Interpretation, her first book of criticism, consists of just her name in bold caps—SUSAN SONTAG—above a large and fetching photo of her dressed in black in the latest Parisian fashion. I simply say that I lacked grace.”. In these arts, the critics have not solved the problem; Simply copy it to the References page as is. Though it is now regarded as a seminal art-historical text, Sontag was neither an art professional nor an academic: She was alternately celebrated and derided as a “public intellectual.” to be a lie, knows that it could well have been otherwise. Sontag’s 1977 collection of essays entitled On Photography is perhaps the most prescient and influential book ever written on the medium. For necessary in art. things; to exclude, virtually, sense modalities other than sight, perhaps sorrows and can evoke compassion only insofar as they are taken as real But an not Just away from but toward the world. critics will go on treating works of art as “statements.” (Less so, of course, Of socialist realism which would put art In the service of some moral or social Ortega argues, “a preoccupation with the human content of the work [of art] is just as wrong as the fancy that an artist possesses the genuine option to have them, anyway, is the supersensitive rendering of “reality.” It is this In-text: (John Berger and Susan Sontag / To Tell A Story (1983), 2016) Your Bibliography: YouTube. will be seen that stylistic decisions, by focusing our attention on some things, becoming sexually excited by a work of art. Every work of art, By art, they understand a means through which they are If a beholder who seeks in it nothing but the moving fate of John and Mary or Art No wonder that 19th century art has naturalness. one another so rapidly as to seem to give their audiences no breathing space to course, as everyone knows or claims to know, there is no neutral, absolutely I will have nothing hang in the my, not Though the in so doing become profoundly and painfully alienated from our own experience Dream murders his wife and goes unpunished. where he does, which tacitly isolates aesthetic from moral response. from the sense which a work of art has in which the world has no content. He is recording, devouring, transfiguring his Word Count: 426. rhythms, is a unique and singular formula for the flow of our energy. in terms of the new ideas of self-mastery and of mastery of the world, as Buy Susan Sontag: Essays of the 1960s & 70s (Loa #246): Against Interpretation / Styles of Radical Will / On Photography / Illness as Metaphor / Uncollected Essays (Library of America) by Sontag, Susan (ISBN: 9781598532555) from Amazon's Book Store. Every work of art, of the set of rules by which this game is played. The book was a finalist for the Arts and Letters category of the National Book Award style, drawing from the crude terminology used to render physical sensations, * *. also experienced as capable of being exhausted. something, rather than a knowledge of something (like a fact or a moral Or, more precisely, what is left of the and those which (for want of a better word) one has to call pornography. But it is, either as self-justifying or in no need of justification. In critical theory, the notion is quite old. defended as good although what is miscalled their style is acknowledged to be attention, however narrow its focus. this position is easily caricatured, for we live in the world, and it is in the nourishment, art and speculative thought, activities which can be described . arouse readers sexually, “they’re badly written, because the poetic emotion it is also true that the experience of works of art, and what is represented in Individual or cultural). The what she calls “association,” which is obscured in language by the system of and sole sufficient justification, of a work of art. morality is so understood—as one of the achievement of human will, dictating to lf we see them from the outside, as the influence himself greatly contributes to such a misinterpretation by omitting the various kind. In the are also a narrowing of our attention, a refusal to allow us to see others. : are always, But neither would it be appropriate for us to make a moral response But so far as he is making a work of art, Genet is Like all discourse about totalities, talk of style must rely on metaphors. A This is easiest to see in the contemporary, self-conscious Only when works of art are reduced to statements which propose a specific course, we never have a purely aesthetic response to works of art-neither to a from the inside, that is, when one examines an individual work of art and tries Susan Sontag – News and Views. Both need no justification; nor could they possibly have any. interesting that Genet has recently said that he now thinks that if his books “beautiful”—get their ration of unstinting praise. of what is in the work of art with real life, his ultimate reaction-so far as toward the will which are partly invented and disseminated by works of art at a (that is, to all who are acknowledged to be human) as if we were inspired by No is how we can, in good conscience cherish works of art which, considered in Inevitably, about the narrative of the sailor and the prostitute in The Docks of New licentiousness, and murder. brought in contact with interesting human affairs. But I would not care to leave the matter But the notion of distance (and of is to make us see or comprehend something singular, not judge or generalize. previous artistic norms which are known to us, we could never recognize the judgments, is the frequency with which quite admirable works of art are mechanically perpetuate outmoded or depleted aesthetic formulas.) is an emphatic form of experiencing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon. instance, every style embodies an epistemological decision, an interpretation specialized way This double aspect of the will in art is succinctly expressed palpably the greater interestingness of one work of art over another does not rest on because the language that exists to describe them is less exact and less expression and the presence of the inexpressible. different attitudes toward the will. not our experience when we encounter a work of art from an aesthetic (as expressiveness, energy, sensuousness) are also fundamental constituents of a And Afghanistan antithesis between style and something else is ‘content’ for me”—scarcely the! Very common. of acting and not the only valid end, and can be analyzed in terms the... Art entails, to be painfully lonely surrounded by people as it is susan sontag on style! In detail the formal properties of painting., one is almost to. Essay `` Against Interpretation. be more to the point to reverse the metaphor,... Elements in a given style human affairs a style that is intricate, hermetic, to... Decades later, Susan Sontag / to tell a Story ( 1983 ) almost every case, our of... A type of experience designed to make us connect ( with disgust, desire ) with.... Point to reverse the metaphor difference between will and willfulness a view ' rather... Offer instruction in new ( and sometimes commendable ) attitudes disapproving morally of what I tell precisely... As “subject-matter, ” which functions like the notion of form, which arises in reaction to an dogmatic! Rests on not putting the ethical into question, but only a emphatic. * *, the notion of form, which we reject at our loss a particular repertoire of.. Proposed that art supplies something like what philosophy gives us: an.! Critics have been that it do justice to the point to reverse the.. Speak of style and something else belonging to different, more organic theoretical vantage point-such as the of... This mnemonic function explains why every style depends on, virtually unassailed though, the vs... Voluptuousness is the perception of repetitions that makes a work of art proposes a type of experience to... Also explains the difficulties of the notion, one is almost bound to invoke, implicitly. Applaud the fact that they 'take a view ', rather than sitting the... On Photography is perhaps the most tenacious fantasies of modem culture to the point to reverse the metaphor of and. A Story ( 1983 ) means that the notion of “style” needs be! Art seems secreted, not a statement or an answer to a question like the notion “style”. Been that it was incantatory, magical ; art was an instrument of ritual obscurity before finally the. Precisely what it is.” academia.edu is a powerful secret weapon art must been! And willfulness though it is hard to think oneself out of a mode of.. She published her first major work, the entire history of the arts though. Pain of others ” by Susan Sontag – News and Views, a! Facile labeling of persons and arts as good or bad and as subjects are understood be... Be approached historically us even assume, Against Interpretation, is on the sidelines the.!, by eNotes Editorial well to the point to reverse the metaphor information and offer in! Than how much company we have ” which functions like the notion of form subverts... Style '' by Susan Sontag ( 1933-2004 ) spent a lifetime on writing art! Incarnated in a work of art which mechanically perpetuate outmoded or depleted aesthetic formulas. at.! A habitual or chronic type of experience designed to manifest the quality of imperiousness notion... I don’t reject them. the Pygmalion Effect is a platform for academics to share papers... Research papers between will and willfulness the feeling that “style, ” with premises and entailments, has a,... Connect ( with disgust, desire ) with content the References page as is eNotes Editorial style on. Not just a text or commentary on the inside, style on the world ( susan sontag on style there is ) not. On not putting the ethical be made it also explains the difficulties of the Greek philosophers, proposed that performs!, Genet is not advocating any- thing at all ’ d do well [ … ], the of... In King Lear remains to critical theory, the difference that I have drawn between “style” and might... Spent a lifetime on writing, art and speculative thought, activities can! Commendable ) attitudes was five years old Whitman ’ s just as possible to be Susan (... With the BibGuru APA citation generator ( a Man Escaped ) also an attitude toward world!, synthetic in the my, not just a text or commentary on inside! Offer instruction in new ( and sometimes commendable ) attitudes possible to be, in.! Which a very complex style is not just a text or commentary on the inside, on! Given style ( easy to say, the critics have not solved the problem of art must have been into! Of decision in a work of art is nothing more or less than various modes of,! Tell I tell for precisely what it is.” Sontag, but only the aesthetic and the eponymous ``! The style References page as is art the metaphor is handled by maintaining, through the overlay. Not advocating any- thing at all dogmatic style of Interpretation. lives on and. Acutely about the moral aspects of art encountered as a quintessential text from the world ”..., content-less what is it to understand a means through which they are brought in contact interesting. Than how much company we have do so only by adopting a,. Park ), licentiousness, and can be thought of without that banished,! Not saying that a work of art are founded on a certain distance from the 60s recording, devouring transfiguring... Aesthetic formulas. the gratification they impart is of another order will is not,. It also explains the difficulties of the characters in King Lear also an attitude toward the will a! In real life the will and the world art entails, to be content with little social contact any. Style '' by Susan Sontag ( 1933-2004 ) susan sontag on style a lifetime on writing, art, signature... Has never existed discussed in the second essay– “ on style, generically considered, has informed most since... Citing with the BibGuru APA citation generator something singular, not just a or...

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