Intelligence – as a taste in ideas

Susan Sontag

To be serious about power and serious about pleasure: cherish literature, relish films, challenge domination, release yourself into the rapture of sexual need—but be thorough about it.
“Seriousness is really a virtue for me,” Sontag wrote in her journal. She was twenty-four.


This woman was a writer, philosopher, activist, filmmaker, and teacher. Sontag was either depicted as a counter-cultural hero or a posturing pop celebrity. What she definitely was, is an amazing. We can argue and not approve her choices, but we must surely admit she was an intellectual giant. Though she changed her mind repeatedly, it was always done with style and conviction.


She was fundamentally an aesthete. It was a gay sensibility that she interpreted, and that shaped her response to the visual arts. It was also the central focus of her emotional life. In a culture expecting easy intimacies from its great figures, she was aloof, poised, posed.


Susan was camera-friendly magnetic kind of beauty. She was a tall, handsome, dark-haired, dark-eyed, all natural, fluent and articulate woman.
The fascination of Sontag lies in her endurance as a cultural icon, the model of how a woman should think and write in public. What is intriguing about Sontag is less who she was than how we understand our desire for her, or someone like her, to occupy a rare position in the literary culture: that of a apparently invulnerable woman capable of transforming intellectual seriousness into an erotic spectacle.


Sontag herself was wary of the impulse to anoint. In her 1975 essay “A Woman’s Beauty: Put-Down or Power Source?” she argues that conceiving of a woman’s beauty as antithetical to her other virtues makes beauty morally suspect: “We not only split off—with the greatest facility—the ‘inside’ (character, intellect) from the ‘outside’ (looks); but we are actually surprised when someone who is beautiful is also intelligent, talented, good.” The power of beauty is self-negating, Sontag warns. It is a “power … always conceived in relation to men; it is not the power to do but the power to attract.” We need “some critical distance” from beauty if we are to avoid the “crude trap” of treating a woman’s self-presentation as separable from, and opposed to, her interior self.

From The Atlantic
Explore and read about Sontag. Read her books. Watch the many photographs of her, some taken by her lover Annie Leibovitz. Watch her movies. Watch the documentary about her: Regarding Susan Sontag. She is truly an inspiration.

photography source: pinterest
Photos used have no commercial intent. We use them to illustrate a story and purely as a mood board.

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