Against Interpretation and Other Essays, a book review.
Taking Advanced Placement courses has often allowed me to discover new literature that I normally would not have read for pleasure Against Interpretation and Other Essays by Susan Sontag definitely falls under that umbrella. The collection was first published in 1961 and has been highly recommended since for Sontag’s view of artistic criticism. This collection of essays is easy to recommend to someone who has an appreciation for the many art forms and is open to discovering new ways of analyzing and criticizing artwork. However, for the average reader looking for an enjoyable, superficial read, this may not be the book for you.
Sontag’s overall theme for the collection is criticism of art. She argues relatively persuasively, using many references to outside sources that are credible, although I believe her own voice is overpowered by the quotations from others, limiting how effective she is in her arguments. One of Sontag’s main arguments in the title essay, Against Interpretation, is that our society is becoming one of excess, especially with the rise of a generation growing up on media. Sontag argues we are losing the quality of art, for a larger quantity of art. Susan Sontag also argues that, “We are stuck with the task of defending art.” It cannot be argued that Sontag isn’t a persuasive writer, with clear exigence. Her reason for writing the essays was is that our society is becoming more and more superficial with its appreciation of art. Sontag also argues against the modern interpretation of works, as anyone and everyone is attempting to find the proper, “meaning” in artwork, and people are often coming away with an overly simplistic interpretation of the works. As a high school senior, however, Sontag’s writing is incredibly uninteresting.Sontag often quotes obscure persons in defense of her arguments, people that, as a teenager, I’ve not heard of, much less have any idea of their credibility, and Sontag does little to rectify this type of situation, as she doesn’t provide any context for the person’s credibility. Further, being less well-read than the adults that usually consume this type of non-fiction, Sontag’s style seems dry and uninteresting, as my demographic does not tend to be overly concerned with analyzing and critiquing the art we come into contact with. Sontag’s style reveals how well read and eloquent she is, and it is easy to see why her works are so well regarded by critics from the last fifty years.--Kelsi Pulczinski