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Sontag, Susan.

Against Interpretation.


Inscribed to Sonia Orwell
Sontag, Susan. Against interpretation and other essays. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, (1967).
8vo.; brown cloth; stamped in gilt; white dust-jacket printed in teal and black. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
First English edition; originally published in New York a year earlier. A presentation copy, inscribed to Sonia Orwell: for Sonia/with much love - (in London & New York)/Susan. Orwell was the widow of George Orwell; she married him two months before his death, from tuberculosis, in 1949. She worked as an editor, with Cyril Connolly, of the magazine Horizon, and later edited a four-volume collection of her husband's writings, The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell (1968). Sontag and Orwell probably became acquainted through their mutual connections to Horizon and the Partisan Review.
In five chapters containing twenty-six essays, including her groundbreaking "Notes on Camp," as well as "The artist as exemplary sufferer," "Nathalie Serraute and the novel," "The imagination of disaster," "The death of tragedy," and "Going to the theater, etc." Nothing here is printed for the first time; these essays appeared in publications like Book Week, Commentary, Mademoiselle, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, and the Partisan Review.
In her Preface for this edition, Sontag wrote that this collection of essays reflects criticism she wrote between 1962 and 1965. This time frame, which bookends the publication of her first novel, The Benefactor (1962), and the beginning of her second, she described as a "period of search, reflection, and discovery." She explains that "[w]riting criticism has proved to be an act of intellectual disburdenment as much as of intellectual self-expression" and writes,
[a]lthough, in these essays, I do talk about particular works of art and, implicitly, about the tasks of the critic, I am aware that little of what is assembled in the book counts as criticism proper. Leaving aside a few pieces of journalism, most of it could perhaps be called meta-criticism - if that is not too grand a name. I was writing, with passionate partiality, about problems raised for me by works of art, mainly contemporary, in different genres: I wanted to expose and clarify the theoretical assumptions underlying specific judgments and tastes.
Collected, these essays provide a valuable window to art and theatre criticism; "throughout, her style is as incisive as her ideas are stimulating: Miss Sontag is an exciting, penetrating and individual critic" (dust-jacket).

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