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The life and times of social critic Susan Sontag - Part 1

Susan Sontag
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Today we will take a look at Susan Sontag the once admired filmmaker, writer, social critic and feminist. We covered how Camille Paglia first took a liking to Susan Sontag for her strong opinions and then later dismissed her mellowing critical style.

Susan Sontag was known for her social criticism of the Vietnam War, the Siege of Sarajevo which she also filmed and visited. She also spoke about such social conditions as aids and human rights, communism and other ideologies.

Early life of Susan Sontag

She was born Susan Rosenblatt to a Jewish fur trading manager whose business was established in China. He died in China of tuberculosis and five years later her mother married Nathan Sontag an army captain. Though Susan and her sister were never adopted they carried his sir name.

Sontag wrote that her childhood was very unhappy as her mother was always. She was also a “cold fish.” Susan was not brought up in a religious home and discovered Judaism in her early twenties.

Susan Sontag studied several disciplines in the University of Chicago. Over and above her study curriculum she also took ancient history, philosophy, and literature.

Susan Sontag married her sociology professor, Philip Rieff at the University of Chicago at the tender age of 17. Their marriage lasted for eight years.

When she finished her degree at the University of Chicago she taught English at the University of Connecticut in 1952-1953.

Susan Sontag continued her graduate studies at Harvard University. She studied literature for her masters and for her doctorate she focused on Greek philosophy as well as ethics and metaphysics. She also worked on research for her husband’s book, Eros and Civilization and his 1959 study Freud: The Mind of the Moralist while they were still married. Later their son David Rieff became her editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. David became a writer as well.

Susan Sontag received a scholarship from American Association of University Women's fellowship where she continued her studies at Oxford in 1957. She returned to America in 1959 after transferring to do more studies in France.

She regained custody of her son at that time and moved in María Irene Fornés a feminist playwright. Sontag taught at universities during this period in her life and her literary accomplishments began to gain recognition.

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