Susan Sontag (/ˈsɒntæɡ/; January 16, 1933 – December 28, 2004) was an American writer, filmmaker, philosopher, teacher, and political activist. She mostly wrote essays, but also published novels; she published her first major work, the essay “Notes on ‘Camp'”, in 1964. Her best-known works include the critical works Against Interpretation (1966), Styles of Radical Will (1968), On Photography (1977), and Illness as Metaphor (1978), as well as the fictional works The Way We Live Now (1986), The Volcano Lover (1992), and In America (1999).

Sontag was active in writing and speaking about, or traveling to, areas of conflict, including during the Vietnam War and the Siege of Sarajevo. She wrote extensively about photography, culture, and media, AIDS and illness, human rights, and communism and leftist ideology. Although her essays and speeches sometimes drew controversy, she has been described as “one of the most influential critics of her generation.”

Books in order of publication:

Fiction

  • (1963) The Benefactor
  • (1967) Death Kit
  • (1977) I, etcetera (Collection of short stories)
  • (1991) “The Way We Live Now” (short story)
  • (1992) The Volcano Lover
  • (1999) In America – winner of the 2000 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction

Plays

  • The Way We Live Now (1990) about the AIDS epidemic
  • A Parsifal (1991), a deconstruction inspired by Robert Wilson’s 1991 staging of the Wagner opera.
  • Alice in Bed (1993), about 19th century intellectual Alice James, who was confined to bed by illness.
  • Lady from the Sea, an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s 1888 play of the same name, premiered in 1998 in Italy. Sontag wrote an essay about it in 1999 in Theatre called “Rewriting Lady from the Sea.”

Nonfiction

Collections of essays

  • (1966) Against Interpretation (includes Notes on “Camp”)
  • (1969) Styles of Radical Will
  • (1980) Under the Sign of Saturn
  • (2001) Where the Stress Falls
  • (2003) Regarding the Pain of Others
  • (2007) At the Same Time: Essays & Speeches (edited by Paolo Dilonardo and Anne Jump, with a foreword by David Rieff)

Monographs

  • (1959) Freud: The Mind of the Moralist
  • (1977) On Photography
  • (1978) Illness as Metaphor
  • (1988) AIDS and Its Metaphors (a continuation of Illness as Metaphor)
  • (2003) Regarding the Pain of Others