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Unit Seven Text I Beauty by Susan Sontag. About the author – Susan Sontag Susan Sontag (1933- 2004 ), U.S. essayist, philosopher, novelist, short-story.

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Presentation on theme: "Unit Seven Text I Beauty by Susan Sontag. About the author – Susan Sontag Susan Sontag (1933- 2004 ), U.S. essayist, philosopher, novelist, short-story."— Presentation transcript:

1 Unit Seven Text I Beauty by Susan Sontag

2 About the author – Susan Sontag Susan Sontag (1933- 2004 ), U.S. essayist, philosopher, novelist, short-story writer, and filmmaker, was a leading observer of new trends in literature, art, film, photography, and culture. She was educated at the University of California, the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and St. Annes College of Oxford University. She worked for several years as an instructor and writer in residence at universities in the New York City area. Her publications include: Against Interpretation (1960), On Photography (1976), Illness as Metaphor (1978), The Benefactor (1964) and Death Kit (1967), the latter two being novels. In Beauty, first published in Vogue magazine in 1975, Sontag traces the history of a word which was once defined as general excellence but which has often been used to characterize female appearance.

3 · · Susan Sontag, 1933 1 16 2004 12 28 Against Interpretation Styles of Radical Will On Photography Aids and Its Metaphors The Volcano Lover 2000 National Book Awards 1960 (FROM Wikipedia )

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5 Awards and honors 1978: National Book Critics Circle Award for On PhotographyNational Book Critics Circle Award 1990: MacArthur FellowshipMacArthur Fellowship 1992: Malaparte Prize, ItalyMalaparte Prize 1999: Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, FranceCommandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres 2000: National Book Award for In AmericaNational Book Award 2001: Was awarded the Jerusalem Prize, which is awarded every two years to a writer whose work explores the freedom of the individual in society.Jerusalem Prize 2002: Received her second George Polk Award, for Cultural Criticism for "Looking at War," in The New YorkerGeorge Polk Award 2003: Received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis des deutschen Buchhandels) during the Frankfurt Book Fair (Frankfurter Buchmesse).Peace Prize of the German Book TradeFriedenspreis des deutschen BuchhandelsFrankfurt Book FairFrankfurter Buchmesse 2003: Won the Prince of Asturias Award on Literature.Prince of Asturias Award on Literature

6 Praise for Susan Sontag "Susan Sontag is a powerful thinker, as smart as shes supposed to be, and a better writer, sentence for sentence, than anyone who now wears the tag 'intellectual.' " -- New York Observer "We wouldnt recognize our postwar intellectual history without Susan Sontag." --Talk magazine Sontags incisive intelligence, expressive brilliance, and deep curiosity about art, politics, and the writers responsibility to bear witness have secured her place as one of the most important thinkers and writers of the twentieth century. -- The New Yorker

7 Major Books Collections of essays (1966) Against Interpretation (includes Notes on Camp ) (1966) Against Interpretation (includes Notes on Camp ) Notes on CampNotes on Camp (1969) Styles or Radical Will (1980) Under the Sign of Saturn (2001) Where the Stress Falls (2001) Where the Stress Falls (2007) At the same time: essays and speeches 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 The Volcano LoverThe Volcano Lover (1999) In America (National Book Award for fiction in 2000) In AmericaNational Book AwardIn AmericaNational Book AwardMonographs (1977) On Photography On PhotographyOn Photography (1978) Illness as Metaphor (1978) Illness as Metaphor Illness as MetaphorIllness as Metaphor (1988) AIDS and Its Metaphors (a continuation of Illness as Metaphor) AIDS and Its MetaphorsAIDS and Its Metaphors (2003) Regarding the Pain of Others Regarding the Pain of OthersRegarding the Pain of Others

8 Quotations from Sontag Beauty What is most beautiful in virile ( ) men is Beauty What is most beautiful in virile ( ) men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine. Against Interpretation something masculine. Against Interpretation Truth The truth is always something that is told, not something that Truth The truth is always something that is told, not something that is known. If there were no speaking or writing there would be no truth is known. If there were no speaking or writing there would be no truth about anything. There would only be what is. The Benefactor about anything. There would only be what is. The Benefactor Aids AIDS obliges people to think of sex as having, possibly the Aids AIDS obliges people to think of sex as having, possibly the direst of consequences: suicide. Or murder. (AIDS and its Metaphors) direst of consequences: suicide. Or murder. (AIDS and its Metaphors) Books are funny little portable pieces of thought. Books are funny little portable pieces of thought.

9 Quotations from Sontag Racism in America: I do not think white America is committed to granting equality to the American Negro. This is a passionately racist country; it will continue to be so in the foreseeable future. Art: Real art has the capacity to make us nervous. By reducing the work of art to its content and then interpreting that, one tames the work of art. Against Interpretation: people should not attempt to find the 'meaning' in a work of art but experience it as a thing in itself. )

10 Major argumentative devices: 1) Definition: etymological connection between beauty and virtus 2) Contrast: Greek tradition vs. Christian tradition; classic concept (of beauty) vs. modern concept; women vs. men (different self-recognition, different social roles, different expectations on ones own appearance) (Refer to the Students Book p. 97-98)

11 Quotations from Naomi Wolfs The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women Beauty The more legal and material hindrances women have broken through, the more strictly and heavily and cruelly images of female beauty have come to weigh upon us. Feminism The beauty myth of the present is more insidious( Feminism The beauty myth of the present is more insidious( )than any mystique of femininity yet: A century ago, Nora )than any mystique of femininity yet: A century ago, Nora slammed the door of the doll's house...where women are trapped slammed the door of the doll's house...where women are trapped today, there is no door to slam. today, there is no door to slam. Feminism We are in the midst of a violent backlash against feminism Feminism We are in the midst of a violent backlash against feminism that uses images of female beauty as a political weapon against that uses images of female beauty as a political weapon against women's advancement: the beauty myth. women's advancement: the beauty myth.

12 Organization of the text Section 1 (Para 1-3): Contrast the ancient notion of beauty with the modern concept to introduce the topic

13 Section II (Para 4-7) Illustrating how women and men are viewed/treated differently to support the argument: the oppression of women – Section IV (Para. 10) Calling on women and the whole society to get out of the trap created by the myth of beauty and the resulting oppression of women. Section III (Para 8-9 ) Pointing out how societys gender stereotypes have affected adversely the development of women (e.g. encouraging narcissism, dependence, immaturity, passive acceptance …etc)

14 Comprehension questions Paragraph 1 Whats the purpose of citing the example of Socrates in paragraph 1?

15 What does the sentence We do not mean? In what sense is the word beauty used in the sentence we are more wary of the enchantments of beauty? How do you interpret the sentence? What point is the author trying to state here? Paragraph 2

16 Paragraph 3 Did the limitation Christianity placed on the meaning of the word beauty give it any sexual bias? What does the author mean by And beauty has continued to lose prestige? What gives sexual bias to the meaning of beauty?

17 Paragraph 3 Why does Sontag think that associating beauty with women has put beauty even further on the defensive, morally?

18 Paragraphs 1-3 Can you show how beauty was degraded through history?

19 Paragraph 4 Do you think Sontag will agree that handsome mean to men what beautiful mean to women? Why does Sontag think that regarding women as beautiful sex is detrimental to both the notion of beauty and that of women?

20 Paragraph 5 Narcissism describes the trait of excessive self-love, based on self- image or ego.self-loveself- imageego The term is derived from the Greek mythology of Narcissus. Narcissus was a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. As punishment, he was doomed to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus pined away and changed into the flower that bears his name, the narcissus.NarcissusEchonarcissus In psychology and psychiatry, excessive narcissism is recognized as a severe personality disorder. The terms narcissism, narcissistic, and narcissist are often used as pejoratives, denoting vanity, conceit, egotism or simple selfishness. Applied to a social group, it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the plight of others.psychologypsychiatrynarcissistic narcissistpejorativesvanityconceit egotismselfishnesssocial groupelitism Sigmund FreudSigmund Freud believed that some narcissism is an essential part of all of us from birth and was the first to use the term in the reference to psychology. Andrew Morrison claims that, in adults, a reasonable amount of healthy narcissism allows the individual's perception of his needs to be balanced in relation to others.

21 Paragraph 5 Whats the point of this paragraph? What does the use of passive women are taught to be involved with beauty… imply? What does Sontag refer to by stereotypes in the last sentence of para.5? And what have these stereotypes to do with the mixed reputation beauty enjoys? How does Sontag show linguistically that social convention plays a role in maintaining feminine stereotypes?

22 Paragraph 6 What does a flattering idealization of their sex mean? Can you think of any concrete example? What effect does such idealization have on women?

23 Paragraph 6 & 7 Contrasting para. 6 with 7, do you think ( Sontags) society is fair in its expectations of men and women with regard to their looks?

24 Paragraph 8 What critical view does Sontag take of Cocteaus remark The privileges of beauty are immense?

25 Paragraph 9 Interpret the sentence If a woman does real work – and even if she has clambered up to a leading position in politics, law, medicine, business, or whatever – she is always under pressure to confess that she still works at being attractive.

26 Paragraph 9 Interpret the sentence but in so far she is keeping up as one of the Fair Sex, she brings under suspicion her very capacity to be… thoughtful. But as long as she is trying to become a beautiful woman as is required by the whole society, people will be suspicious of her abilities, because a beautiful woman is more likely to be thought as superficial, inability, stupid, etc.

27 Paragraph 9 Interpret the last sentence Damned if they dowomen are. And damned if they dont. We have to think at this in two ways (within the context provided in paragraph 9): women work at being attractive & women work with capacity to be professional. Women are condemned (criticized) if they do work at being attractive and are questioned about their abilities. If women are capable of being attractive, as well as competent in their work (show their abilities by climbing up to a leading position), they are condemned because people are most likely to doubt how they get promotion to a leading position. And women are condemned (criticized severely) if they dont work at being attractive, no matter whether they are competent or not, because being attractive is thought to be their duty and their work. To preen or not to preen, that is a question. What can save women from criticism?

28 Paragraph 10 Interpret the first sentence: The story of the oppression of women, which has had a long history and seems to be going on endlessly, is both lamentable and laughable; it serves as the most powerful evidence to show how harmful it can be to judge a person by refusing to put into consideration both inner beauty and outer beauty together. (… by putting ones inside and outside at two opposite ends and regarding them as incompatible.)

29 Paragraph 10 To get women out of the trap they are caught in, Sontag suggests that they get some critical distance from that excellence and privilege which is beauty (para. 10). What do you think this means?

30 Paragraph 10 What does the mythology of feminine mean (para. 10)?

31 Paragraph 10 How do you interpret the last sentence of the essay?

32 Interpret the sentences from l.70-l.74 Women should disassociate themselves as far as possible from the conventional, biased notion of beauty which seems to flatter but in fact belittle women, and see what the full meaning of beauty is, and how its implication of overall excellence has been narrowed so as to support the traditional but false notion of what women should be like. With its original meaning in Greek to denote a total, integrated concept of excellence, the word beauty should be saved from merely functioning as a compliment (with certain demeaning overtones) for women. Only when the reputation of this word has been restored can it be possible that women will be beautiful in the true sense of the word.

33 Organization of the text Section 1 (Para 1-3): Contrast the ancient notion of beauty with the modern concept to introduce the topic

34 Organization of the text Section II (paras. 4-7) : The oppression of women derived from the degraded, split-off notion of beauty and social convention about how men and women are viewed differently. Beautiful VS. handsome Social pressure: womens identity depends largely on how she looks – encouraging narcissism, dependence, immaturity (in contrast to men, whose identity depends on what he IS or DOES) Womens voluntary acceptance: women are trapped in and willing to accept the stereotyped obligation to aim at a perfect appearance. (in contrast to men, whose imperfection in appearance is considered preferable.)

35 Organization of the text Section III (paras. 8-9) : Dilemma of the Fair Sex -- beauty as a catch-22 for women 1)Beauty: a power to negate itself 2) Beauty: an obligation neither to be engaged in nor to be disposed of Section IV (para. 10) : A call on women to get out of the trap and the whole society to get rid of the trap.

36 Organization and development Sontag begins her essay by defining the ancient Greeks attitude toward beauty, and goes on in subsequent paragraphs to trace the changes in the meaning of the word. What can you infer from this etymological ( study of the word?

37 Answer To Sontag, the change that occurred in the meaning of the word beauty is not merely an instance of semantic narrowing, but, more significantly, an instance of the distortion of lexical meaning of a word inflicted upon it by social prejudice ( ). It seems that the ultimate aim of the essay is to expose and denounce such prejudice. Perhaps it is not difficult to agree that beauty is just a topic through which Sontag is actually exploring very much a feminist issue that demands public attention.


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