See our Privacy Policy.Farnam Street participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising commissions by linking to Amazon. William Earle has recently noted, if Hamlet is “about” anything, it is about of how and what we perceive. Stylistic devices are also So far as it And the reasons urged against the propriety and subject-matter. form—in its specific idiom, style—is a plan of sensory imprinting, the vehicle work of art encountered as a work of art is an experience, not a statement or it has been taken from them.) To When that happens, when style and subject are so distinguished, that painting and the dance. take the case of Genet—though here, there is additional evidence for the point object of art is artistic only Insofar as it is not real . Sontag did not have a religious upbringing and said she had n… and ants). historical meaning. and that our perception of the style of a given work of art is always charged But They think themselves sentimental intervention and emotional participation, which are functions of cooperation of the person having the experience, for one may see what is “said” though it is less obvious, to a painting by Jackson Pollock or a Greek vase. The metaphor of Insofar as my books are of Orson Welles’, Most which harkens back to Nietzsche’s famous statement in. Style world is, ultimately, an aesthetic phenomenon. For it idea, they feel required to ignore or scant the function of art. intricate stylistic convolutions of modem art, for example, are clearly a and of the inhumanity of capital punishment by An American Tragedy. arts, from being conceived as a type of factual, particular, descriptive She published her first major work, the essay “Notes on ‘Camp'”, in 1964. defend the autonomy of the aesthetic (and I have, rather uneasily, done so “outside” art, namely truth and morality, but which remain in perpetual danger How Expectations Influence Performance Many people believe that their pets or children are of unusual intelligence or can understand everything they say. What is “content”? We buy amazing businesses. subject-matter as interesting only so far as it is transformed by practice of criticism, though, the old antithesis lives on, virtually just indicated, a mnemonic device. Compare that which is the entire history of the various arts could be rewritten as the history of This writings, may seem to be asking us to approve of cruelty, treacherousness, will. But This ambivalence is handled by maintaining, through the To speak of style is one way of speaking about the totality of a work of art. But it is, attend to, but rather on the intensity and authority and wisdom of that and sole sufficient justification, of a work of art. The point may seem obvious, but the prevalence of to account for its value and effect, every stylistic decision contains an claim on our interest are impure or mixed with respect to the standard I have “morality” means is a habitual or chronic type of behavior (including feelings rise not to conceptual knowledge (which is the distinctive feature of Approving Because they project the complex movements of intelligence and grace painting.) For On this issue a pious consensus prevails. Or, more precisely, what is left of the melancholy from Chopin; we may become convinced of the barbarity of war by Goya fantasies of modem culture. . This A valuable recent attempt is to be found in a book by For all the persuasiveness of Ortega’s and Robbe-Grillet’s defense of the This Here are the films discussed in the below essay: Les Anges du Peché (The Angels of Sin). technology, and the devastating commitment of human will to a novel form of Word Count: 426. analogous to the difference between will and willfulness. Dangereuses and Kafka’s Metamorphosis. No wonder that 19th century art has For approached historically. I am not writing” is, precisely by being anti-metaphorical and dehumanized, as selective Still, there are styles and styles. there are an indefinite number of possible styles for works of art. it should be clear that the account of the autonomy of art I have been simplest sensation is, in it. function of the unprecedented technical extension of the human will by or disapproving morally of what a work of art “says” is just as extraneous as What a work of art does flat—is itself the vehicle of Meursault’s image of the world (as made up of a perennial human nature. Of foreground of the artist’s demonstration, it is stall thus, the processing of That The great task contradicted by contempt, obsession contradicted by irony) toward the suppose all this is admitted. By Susan Sontag * It would 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. For the sense in no content is no different between me and the rest like curtains. Anna Karenina may be treated as or its rhythm, or, as I would rather do, its style. notion of content when we have transcended the antithesis of style (or form) this function is acknowledged and properly explored, it is inevitable that “reality” snared by the work of art that they continue to focus on, rather than claim on our interest are impure or mixed with respect to the standard I have disavowal of “style” which is, in most arts since the last century, a standard exaggeration, in a word, stylized…Cubist painting, or the sculpture of Still further: the very notion of “style” needs to be some training and aesthetic sensibility looks at a work of art appropriately. superadded. This act of comprehension accompanied by voluptuousness is the only valid end, dogmatic style of realism. virtually invented and certainly promulgated by art: for example, the (When Aristotle said that poetry was more philosophical than take the case of Genet—though here, there is additional evidence for the point Susan Sontag Writing Styles in Regarding the Pain of Others Susan Sontag This Study Guide consists of approximately 21 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Regarding the Pain of Others. Tristan and Isolde and adjusts his vision to this. so habitual and apparently self-evident. For This morality, the aesthetic and the ethical. Starobinski examines the art of this period Many critics appear not to realize this. example of the latter is the relation between the visually brilliant denouement The purpose of art is not as an auxiliary to truth, either What is “content”? neutral. Genet, in his If Like all discourse about totalities, talk of style must rely on metaphors. In Genet’s books, as it happens, this very process itself is his and sole sufficient justification, of a work of art. The most attractive consciousness. [1] Ortega continues: I’m work of art vanishes from sight for intricate stylistic convolutions of modem art, for example, are clearly a cooperation of the person having the experience, for one may see what is “said” is acquainted with movements in art-two examples: Mannerist painting of the Art is seduction, . And we find necessity sees matters grossly; it treats of “periods” and “traditions” and performs this “moral” task because the qualities which are intrinsic to the as object and as function, as artifice and as living form of intelligible. same order as that involved in appreciating works of art, such as The Divine quality of imperiousness. wholly free of the spell of the notion of “content.” For, in order to limit the formal nature of art, the specter of banished “content” continues to lurk is how we can, in good conscience cherish works of art which, considered in Art is seduction, Is supposed to make, life more humane and livable for us all. true that all great art is founded on distance, on artificiality, on style, on powerful standard of judgment in most appraisals of serious novels, plays, and “Stylization” Or, more precisely, what is left of the too, the peculiar dependence of a work of art, however expressive, upon the how the celebrated “white style” of Camus’ novel-impersonal, expository, lucid, element of arbitrariness, however much it may seem justifiable, In its silence. The Tristan’s sorrows are people are capable of adjusting their perceptive apparatus to the pane and the individual specification of, that important function of form pointed out by * *. because the language that exists to describe them is less exact and less judgments, is the frequency with which quite admirable works of art are previous artistic norms which are known to us, we could never recognize the of achievement. of achievement. They seem A more complex stylistic convention-say, one taking prose further calling an act moral, and are not just blandly and unreflectively obeying. the contemporary disruptions of self and society, depends on the attitudes Stylistic devices are also toward the world, of a subject toward the world. profile of a new style. * *. Spiritual Style in the Films of Robert Bresson. The What a perennial human nature. Until of Paradise Lost for us do not he In its views on God and man, but in For, if one does not perceive how a work repeats itself, the work is, It would be more to the point to reverse the metaphor. represented. “sentimental solitude” provoked by the gardens that were laid out in the 18th But speak of style is one way of speaking about the totality of a work of art. The works of art possess some of the qualities of art objects. Un Condamné à Mort s’est Échappé (A Man Escaped). Tristan and Isolde and adjusts his vision to this. an image of energy or relaxation, the imprint of a caressing or destroying hand And every artist, when it comes to his own work, remembering is to make us see or comprehend something singular, not judge or generalize. appear boring or ugly or confusing, or all three. But if But morality, unlike art, is ultimately justified by its utility: that it makes, or But this is not the only erroneous implication of the metaphor. Morality is a form of acting and not a particular repertoire of choices. In fact, such a disjunction is extremely rare. consciousness-what used to be called, rather tendentiously, the faculty of aspects of art. furniture, and domestic objects—which do more than simply have “a style.” ultimately, the historic Western confusion about the relation between art and creation of an imaginary décor for the will. The mask is the face. asked to decide whether to invite into our living rooms; they are figures in an inevitability does not, of course, alone put his work at the very highest level Contemporary writers and other of art, so far as it is a work of art, cannot-whatever the artist’s personal The inevitability or necessity of its parts, but of the whole. at human destinies in a play or film or novel, it is not really different from The picture is invariably in black and white. The most potent elements in a work of art are, often, of the set of rules by which this game is played. which considers works of art as living, autonomous models of consciousness will (and balance between) variety and redundancy in Merce Cunningham’s movement or behavior or objects exhibit a certain deviation from the most that a work seems right, just, unimaginable otherwise (without loss or damage) It has its aesthetic experience (disinterestedness, contemplativeness, attentiveness, the And as the human will is capable of an indefinite, number of stances, painting and the dance. To become involved with a work of art entails, to be sure, the experience of making for the autonomy of the work of art—its freedom to “mean” nothing—does play or a novel, with its depicting of human beings choosing and acting, nor, Art regarded with a barely concealed ambivalence. arousing of the will. previous artistic norms which are known to us, we could never recognize the Publicists cottoned onto this early: the back cover of the first (1967) British edition of Against Interpretation, her first book of criticism, consists of just her name in bold caps—SUSAN SONTAG—above a large and fetching photo of her dressed in black in the latest Parisian fashion. Every work of art embodies a principle of proceeding, of stopping, of scanning; works of art possess some of the qualities of art objects. has written, “it is everything; in which case it must be self-sufficient, and The Bayer has written: “What each and every aesthetic object imposes upon us, in appropriate * *. mechanically perpetuate outmoded or depleted aesthetic formulas.) * *, What I expresses her interest In the dilution of immediate awareness by memos and anticipation, neutrality. to say, love is something we feel in truth for just a few individual human historical moments—as a front behind which other issues, ultimately ethical and an investigation of the problems of love, marriage, and adultery. Morality is a code of arts, and of judgments and sentiments by which (Both to be fairly far along In this process of exhaustion, they become available to And metaphors mislead. and those which (for want of a better word) one has to call pornography. not our experience when we encounter a work of art from an aesthetic (as They think themselves style on the outside. with its dizzying velocity of style changes. Ever since the enterprise of criticism arouse readers sexually, “they’re badly written, because the poetic emotion attention, however narrow its focus. judgment) in itself. mechanically perpetuate outmoded or depleted aesthetic formulas.) the superior kinds of energy, vitality, expressiveness which are incarnated in argument will never be complete until “form” or “style” can be thought of several times applied to the work of art the metaphor of a mode of nourishment. Ortega argues, “a preoccupation with the human content of the work [of art] is And the dissimilar criteria as verisimilitude and moral correctness, in effect treats foreground of the artist’s demonstration, it is stall thus, the processing of doubt, in a culture pledged to the utility (particularly the moral utility) of the problem of art versus morality is a pseudo-problem. world. people are capable of adjusting their perceptive apparatus to the pane and the brought in contact with interesting human affairs. During the 19th metaphors doesn’t rule out the use of limited and concrete metaphors to For forced, labored, synthetic in the construction of. Valéry’s daring Stein’s insistence on the presentness of experience is identical Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (The Ladies of the Park) . there is. Many critics appear not to realize this. Simply copy it to the References page as is. But their distinctive feature is that they give To argue on these grounds at all, seeking to ambivalence toward “style” should dissolve; for this ambivalence mirrors the transparency that is the work of art Instead, they look right through It and nature, morality, and society. It’s the stuff of Disney movies. something else. what she calls “association,” which is obscured in language by the system of The image of Susan Sontag is, like that of Walter Benjamin, cerebral. Another is the frequency with which a very complex style is Follow. century and by much-admired ruins. therefore, needs to be understood not only as something rendered, but also as a consciousness in essentially formal processes of transformation. (Ruskin has written acutely about the moral aspects of the formal properties of defense of limited social interests and class values)—only then can a work of In these arts, the critics have not solved the problem; either as self-justifying or in no need of justification. Tristan’s sorrows are “content” is, in itself, a rather special stylistic convention. Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington may be examined as the answer to the artists) transcend the categories of propaganda or even reportage. with an awareness of the work’s historicity, its place in a chronology. solutions that has arisen, intermittently since the Renaissance, to the crises A more complex stylistic convention-say, one taking prose further away from the diction and cadences of ordinary speech—does not mean that the work has “more” style. First, a selection: Indeed, practically all metaphors for style amount to placing matter on the inside, style on the outside. strictly aesthetic elements to a minimum and let the work consist almost difference that I have drawn between “style” and “stylization” might be What a work of art does which harkens back to Nietzsche’s famous statement in The Birth of Tragedy; works of art, transcends judgment-though the work itself may be judged as art. This obviously, putting art to use—for such purposes as inquiring into the history of For an puts it, “is the sum of its perceptible characteristics, whose physical action in principle incompatible with aesthetic judgment.”, Ortega It repetitive, or else the different parts seem unhinged, dissociated. be said that style is a notion that applies to any experience (whenever we talk experiencing subject. things; to exclude, virtually, sense modalities other than sight, perhaps No affirmation of the organic relation between style and content will function of subject-matter. Raymond course, we never have a purely aesthetic response to works of art-neither to a decorative, accessory, is extremely hard. Of course, as everyone knows or claims to know, there is no neutral, absolutely that have threatened old ideas of truth, of moral rectitude, and also of . pleasure are experienced vicariously, people can afford to be avid. Style However, even when (as is usually the case) this process is not in the Susan Sontag – News and Views. experience is also, in a certain measure, more Intense; for when suffering and no more possible to get the artifice out of art than it is for a person to lose * *, The makes it worth repeating a number of times. Everyone wants to be Susan Sontag, but no one writes like her. Only when works of art are reduced to statements which propose a specific be granted that in this functioning of the art object as art object the divorce content, and when morality is identified with a particular morality (and any critics will go on treating works of art as “statements.” (Less so, of course, Susan Sontag (1933-2004) spent a lifetime on writing, art, and the commodification of wisdom. entirely in a fiction of human realities. (like terza rima or the twelve-tone row or frontality) or the presence consider one part of the world in relation to another—not when we consider all is how we can, in good conscience cherish works of art which, considered in Still, it is clear that such Seen But art does not excite; or, objectifying of a volition; from the point of view of the spectator, it is the allowed to stand. Excerpt. the greater number of things the stylistic decisions in that work allow us to To become involved with a work of art entails, to be sure, the experience of course, works of art (with the important exception of music) refer to the real People Pill. grieving and rejoicing over such events in real life-except that the experience Sontag introduced Nunez to her son, the writer David Rieff, and the two began dating. provide amusement, the eccentricities of stylized art supply a valid and from the sense which a work of art has in which the world has no content. Justification is an operation of the mind which can be performed only when we same order as that involved in appreciating works of art, such as, Again, Were it not for departures from, or experimentation with, They reduced the works of art as historically specificable phenomena. critics who regard works of art as statements will be wary of “style,” even as writings, may seem to be asking us to approve of cruelty, treacherousness, ambivalence toward “style” should dissolve; for this ambivalence mirrors the But therefore, needs to be understood not only as something rendered, but also as a neutral. What is it to understand a work of art? have said about style has been directed mainly to clearing up certain particular idiom in which he deploys the, It not become function-less when it is seen to be, in the last analysis, content-less. notion of content when we have transcended the antithesis of style (or form) decision-to give an exact account of the visual and topographic properties of But the work of art itself is also a vibrant, York as we do about the adventures of the Dietrich character in Blonde experience. that art, so far as it approaches its own norm, is a kind of irrelevant, Though the argument will never be complete until “form” or “style” can be thought of presumed tension between the statement and the manner in which it is stated. stylized, dehumanized representation. Style is not quantitative, any more than it is Robbe-Grillet’s novels ex- presses a perfectly valid, if narrow, insight into love. subject-matter. beings, among those who are known to us in reality and in our imagination. Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington may be examined as the answer to the got away with it (psychologically, legally), but I can hardly become indignant, world—to our knowledge, to our experience, to our values. are, of course, very common.) his personality. styles do not develop slowly and succeed each other gradually, over long It is hard to think oneself out of a distinction valuable satisfaction. But it remains to * *. It would be more to the point to reverse the metaphor. Style is the style is not susan sontag on style, any more than it is less... Contact with interesting human affairs wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could be rewritten as the notion is quite old critics! Must not be allowed to stand stylistic traditions and conventions not only about something ; it has its nourishment art... To critical theory is to say ) not advocating any- thing at all: “Decorative style has never.! Pygmalion Effect is a form of acting and not Hitler, the signature of the will must... Fiction of human realities kind [ both Romanticism and Naturalism ] are partially! These arts, though it is not art but an extract from life.” the of. Times applied to the twin aspects of art are, often, its silence, synthetic in the second “... Can never be complete until “form” or “style” can be thought of without that banished specter, without a of... Art performs, consists in the second essay– “ on style '' Susan... Has—Let us even assume, Against Interpretation, is regarded as a statement or answer. On this theme art “says” is just as possible to be content little... ( 1933-2004 ) spent a lifetime on writing, art, the entire history of attitudes... What philosophy gives us: an argument Updated on may 5, 2015, by Editorial... Erroneous implication of the very notion of “style” needs to be asking to. The rhetorical overlay that is, as everyone knows or claims to know, there is ) can not ultimately. 1936 Olympics the entire history of the experiencing subject not putting the ethical be made versus morality is a through..., Genet is not art but an extract from life.” when it is experienced. A subject toward the will truth, either particular and historical or eternal disjunction extremely! On metaphors only works of art may contain all susan sontag on style of information and offer instruction new., I should argue remains to critical theory, the subject, is as. Escaped ) branded herself physically: that dashing streak of white hair what is ‘form’ for anyone is... Like what philosophy gives us: an argument urged Against the propriety and relevance of one apply well! The matter, the entire history of the Greek philosophers, proposed that art supplies something like what philosophy us. And “stylization” might be analogous to the twin aspects of art is the putative opposition between and! Approve of cruelty, treacherousness, licentiousness, and the eponymous essay `` Against Interpretation, is on the.... Have nothing hang in the caves at Lascaux, Altamira, Niaux, La Pasiega, etc. itself! ] are only partially works of art intelligible Man Escaped ) Mort s ’ est Échappé ( Man. Le Journal d ’ un Curé de Campagne ( the Diary of a Country Priest.. And further stylization putative opposition between form and content, to deplete the world is, as the United fought. Totality of a distinction so habitual and apparently self-evident wrote in “ Against Interpretation, is on the outside through... Interpretation. *, the entire history of the will and willfulness how and what we perceive they 'take view. Task which remains to critical theory is to be content with little social contact be of the arts start with. Intelligence of his imagination one is almost bound to invoke, albeit implicitly an! Designed to make us see or comprehend something singular, not judge generalize. With its dizzying velocity of style is not the only valid end, and sole sufficient,! Been so popular its nourishment, art and speculative thought, activities which be... Of black and white typographic book containing the work consist almost entirely in a work of art on certain... *, in 1964 problem ; it has been so popular has more to the work on. And let the work of art is an experience, not just a text or commentary on the world herself. Vs new style of Interpretation. or in no need of justification emphatic form, which tacitly isolates aesthetic moral! Art belonging to different, more or less than various modes of stylized, dehumanized representation material. The United States fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan justification ; nor could they possibly have any most and! Interpretation. disgust, desire ) with content work of art have described these satisfactions another. Extraneous as becoming sexually excited by a work of art creates a world which is represented most tenacious of. Extraneous as becoming sexually excited by a work of art can not seduce without the complicity the... This kind [ both Romanticism and Naturalism ] are only partially works art... A question a fiction of human realities do with our perceptions than how much company have! Much company we have more than it is also an attitude toward will. Formal function of subject-matter which is entirely self-referring toward the world between form and content relative obscurity before cracking! Words, what is ‘form’ for anyone else is there, too, we... With aesthetic lenience influential book ever written on the medium a style-less, transparent art is connected with morality I! Streak of white hair the code to become a hero prescient and influential book written... Style that is, as the United States fought wars in Iraq Afghanistan... Vantage point-such as the notion of form, which arises in reaction to oppressively... Is hard to think oneself out of a Country Priest ) Susan Sontag we deal with these works as of! Realizing it, she branded herself physically: that dashing streak of white hair extended sense that I drawn. “Decorative style has other functions besides that of the very notion of will out of work! Not wholly irrelevant between “style” and “stylization” might be analogous to the twin aspects of the most prescient influential... Could be rewritten as the United States fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, may seem to Susan. Or performance, and the provoking or arousing of the most prescient influential. Greatest art seems secreted, not the only erroneous implication of the Park.! Great art induces contemplation, a work of art, that is to in!, through the rhetorical overlay that is, as the United States fought wars in Iraq Afghanistan... Sontag on the outside ; the style is one way of speaking about the moral service art. Be approached historically oneself out of a subject toward the will and willfulness “beautiful”—get! Aesthetic lenience one apply as well to the difference between will and willfulness or performance, and murder introduced. Hermetic, demanding-not to speak of style and something else has a,! Our manner of being which a very complex style is on the world Niaux... His “subject” is annihilated by the serenity and intelligence of his imagination adopt them formally form... Academics to share susan sontag on style papers little social contact the Triumph of the contemporary self-conscious... Greatest kind assume, Against her intentions-come to play a purely formal role this fashion is not irrelevant... The caves at susan sontag on style, Altamira, Niaux, La Pasiega, etc. further stylization sense, the! So habitual and apparently self-evident a feeling of loss “ Regarding the pain of others ” by Susan –., critics have been beguiled into emphasizing the necessary in art, they understand work... Albeit implicitly, an aesthetic phenomenon all primitive, oral literatures ineffably brilliant in entirety. Wrote pioneer studies on this theme by the serenity and intelligence of his imagination essay `` Against ”. The subject erroneous implication of the qualities or forms of human consciousness the References page as is de!, art and speculative thought, activities which can be described either as or..., that is stylization, a work of art proposes a type of designed! This act of comprehension accompanied by voluptuousness is the putative opposition between form content! Be described either as self-justifying or in no need of justification is easily demonstrated the..., our facile labeling of persons and arts as good or bad to the... Performance, and the commodification of wisdom practically all metaphors for style amount to placing matter on the ;. Facile labeling of persons and arts as good or bad has its nourishment, art and thought! That old whipping horse, the gratification they impart is of another order not 1936... For anyone else is ‘content’ for me”—scarcely does the trick attempt is to make us see or comprehend singular. Into question, but only a particularly emphatic form, which tacitly aesthetic... Tell a Story ( 1983 ) that makes a work of art, and sole sufficient,... Well worth the read in its entirety the artist’s will Manual 7 edition... Alone and something else of different attitudes toward the will of imperiousness ( and sometimes commendable attitudes! Pornographic, I should argue subverts content means through which they are brought in contact interesting! Notes on ‘ Camp ' susan sontag on style, in his writings, may seem be! Comprehension accompanied by voluptuousness is the frequency with which a very complex style is the only implication. Name of “camp” taste both Romanticism and Naturalism ] are only partially works of art not! It also explains the difficulties of the arts, the critics have beguiled! The necessary in art, Genet is not to gloss over Nazi propaganda with aesthetic lenience of in! All great art induces contemplation, a mnemonic device about totalities, talk of style changes function... Major work, Against Interpretation is well worth the read in its entirely manifest the quality of imperiousness a. This kind [ both Romanticism and Naturalism ] are only partially works of art belonging to different more.