Quotes from book
Against Interpretation

Against Interpretation

Against Interpretation is a collection of essays by Susan Sontag published in 1966. It includes some of Sontag's best-known works, including "On Style," and the eponymous essay "Against Interpretation." In the latter, Sontag argues that in the new approach to aesthetics the spiritual importance of art is being replaced by the emphasis on the intellect. Rather than recognizing great creative works as possible sources of energy, she argues, 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 finishes with the words, "in place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art". The book was a finalist for the Arts and Letters category of the National Book Award


Susan Sontag photo
Susan Sontag photo
Susan Sontag photo

„In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art.“

—  Susan Sontag, book Against Interpretation

"Against Interpretation" (1964), p. 14
Against Interpretation and Other Essays (1966)

Susan Sontag photo

„From now to the end of consciousness, we are stuck with the task of defending art.“

—  Susan Sontag, book Against Interpretation

"Against Interpretation" (1964), p. 5
Against Interpretation and Other Essays (1966)
Context: None of us can ever retrieve that innocence before all theory when art knew no need to justify itself, when one did not ask of a work of art what it said because one knew (or thought one knew) what it did. From now to the end of consciousness, we are stuck with the task of defending art. We can only quarrel with one or another means of defense. Indeed, we have an obligation to overthrow any means of defending and justifying art which becomes particularly obtuse or onerous or insensitive to contemporary needs and practices.
This is the case, today, with the very idea of content itself. Whatever it may have been in the past, the idea of content is today mainly a hindrance, a nuisance, a subtle or not so subtle philistinism.

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