Against Interpretation  

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It would be hard to find any reputable literary critic today who would care to be caught defending as an idea the old antithesis of style versus content. On this issue a pious consensus prevails. Everyone is quick to avow that style and content are indissoluble, that the strongly individual style of each important writer is an organic aspect of his work and never something merely "decorative." --"On Style (1966) - Susan Sontag

"In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art" --"Against Interpretation"


"One important consequence of the new sensibility [is] that the distinction between "high" and "low" culture seems less and less meaningful." --"One Culture and the New Sensibility", Susan Sontag, 1965.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Against Interpretation and Other Essays is a collection of essays by Susan Sontag which was published in 1966. It includes some of Sontag's best-known works, including "On Style", "Notes on 'Camp'", and the title essay "Against Interpretation". In the latter, Sontag argued that the emphasis which had come to be placed on the intellect under modern social and cultural conditions had given way to a new critical approach to aesthetics that was increasingly usurping the spiritual importance of art. Rather than recognizing great creative works as possible sources of energy and defense against the brute rationality and empiricism that seemed to be seeping into every aspect of western life at the middle of the twentieth century, she argued, contemporary critics were all too often taking art's transcendental power for granted, and focusing instead on their own intellectually constructed abstractions like "form" and "content." In effect, she wrote, interpretation had become "the intellect's revenge upon art." The essay famously finished with the words, "in place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art".

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