Susan Sontag

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Susan Sontag, in "Against Interpretation," takes a very interesting critical standpoint on the idea of literary interpretation. Unlike most literary critics, Sontag believes that literary criticism is growing increasingly destructive towards the very works of art that they, supposedly, so greatly "appreciate" and "respect." Her standpoint could not be more accurate. Reading her work generates numerous questions, the most important of which is quite possibly, "How are we to take her final statement, ‘In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art.'" In the light of her previous statements, made throughout the work, one could only see this particular statement as an attempt to reach through the fog that blinds the majority of modern critics. According to Sontag, no work of art, especially literature, can escape the surgical eye of the modern critic; therefore, what is to stop her own work from coming under this blade of criticism? Sontag's preparation for this criticism shows in the inclusion of her final statement. She has, in effect, laid a trap for the modern critic (who just happens to be you, me, and practically every other reader) with her final statement as the bait. Once the critic picks apart that last sentence, he will see, with greater clarity, the veracity of her work. Throughout this work, Sontag makes many statements that invite interpretation. Critics may analyze her repeated references to Greek literature or possibly her use of sexual imagery, but none could ignore the simplicity, brevity, and word choice that characterize the concluding sentence. The brevity of the final section is what catches the critical eye and the lurid choice of words is what pulls the critic in. The first question that the interpreter finds him/herself asking is, "Why ‘hermeneutics' and why ‘erotics'? There must be some significance to these terms." Analysis of these terms reveals the two extremes which Sontag has been comparing...
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