Read Under the Sign of Saturn: Essays by Susan Sontag Online


This third essay collection by America's leading essayist brings together her most important critical writing from 1972 to 1980, in which she explores some of the most influential artists and thinkers of our time....

Title : Under the Sign of Saturn: Essays
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ISBN : 9780312420086
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 224 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Under the Sign of Saturn: Essays Reviews

  • Hadrian
    2019-04-22 23:53

    Hooh! Don't you wish you could write as fluently and brilliantly as Susan Sontag? I do. Under the Sign of Saturn is a collection of essays on aesthetics. Her style is wide in its reach and deep in its thinking. Paul Goodman (who she damns with faint praise) and the many hopes and failures of Artaud. The title essay is on the saturnine life and temperament of Walter Benjamin. She parses his life and thought as a study of melancholy and alienation. She finds a sad and lonesome man, who collects and miniaturizes things so he could take them with him, and loves the baroque and the arcane.There are two essays here on fascism, or at least the aesthetics of it. The first is on Leni Reifenstahl's project with the Nuba tribes of Sudan, and how she still unconsciously clings to the same ideas of her previous propaganda. The second is on Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's 7-hour-long film 'Hitler'. A fun watch, I'm sure.Two more essays on Roland Barthes and Elias Canetti round out the set.

  • Rambling Reader
    2019-04-11 21:17

    superb essays on barthes, fascism, and benjamin

  • Mr.
    2019-04-15 22:20

    Sontag has once again compiled an intelligent collection of essays on widely varying aesthetic topics. Though she begins with a rather artificial and patronizing obituary for the late man of letters Paul Goodman, whose body of work she is evidently less than enthused with, though she feels obliged to compare him to Sartre. The essay rings of false piety. She moves into an expansive and favorable essay on Antonin Artaud, the great playwright and artist of the avant-garde movement. Sontag reviews the developments of his great career within the context of moralistic philosophic aesthetics, liking him with Nietzsche, then Sade, then Breton. Yet the most impressive essay in Under the Sign is titled `Fascinating Fascism,' and it is truly fascinating. In it, Sontag overviews the work of filmmaker, actress, and photographer Leni Riefenstahl, the Nazi propagandist whose body of work includes the esteemed documentaries Triumph of the Will, and Olympia, the latter about the 1936 Olympic games. Sontag reviews Riefenstahl's book of photography on the Nuba tribe in Sudan, which is apparently breathtaking. Sontag concludes that Reifenstahl, despite her `de-Nazification' and renunciation of her political past is still enamored with a fascist ideal, valuing the masculine strength of the male Nuba and placing their bodies in the foreground, while the women remain vulnerable and tucked away in shadowy corners. The essay is highly provocative. The title essay is about the great philosopher and literary critic Walter Benjamin, whom she reviews favorably. This essay provides some interesting tidbits of information that Hannah Arendt neglects to include in her introduction, such as Benjamin's apparent hatred for Heidegger's philosophy. Also included in this volume is an excellent and terse review of Roland Barthes, and the fine novelist Elias Canetti, whom she holds in great esteem.

  • Jeremy
    2019-04-15 01:16

    Sontag, as ever, manages to craft writings of remarkable intellectual range and depth on pretty much anything she focuses. Under the Sign of Saturn feels a bit darker than some of her other books I've read, in so far is a lot of the essays focus on (both directly and implicity) fascism and its broad appeal and continued resonance in the arts and culture of the post-war era. I think the best thing I can say about these is that even when you have no exposure to the works of people she writes about (I for one don't know the first thing about Antonin Artaud Elias Canetti or Hans Syberberg) she still manages to spin out so many dazzlingly smart observations that they are absolutely worth your time. Sontag makes you passionate about everything she's passionate about. And there seems to be very little that she isn't passionate about.

  • Liza
    2019-03-29 00:04

    I read these essays because Susan Sontag is famous, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. They turned out to be much closer to my current preoccupations than I had expected, which I found by turns exhilarating, ominous, disappointing and disturbing. Lately I've been almost obsessively troubled by the relation between power and aesthetics and so, it seems, was she."Riefenstahl's current de-Nazification and vindication as indomitable priestess of the beautiful—as a filmmaker and, now, as a photographer—do not augur well for the keenness of current abilities to detect the fascist longings in our midst.""Somewhere, of course, everyone knows that more than beauty is at stake in art like Riefenstahl's. And so people hedge their bets—admiring this kind of art, for its undoubted beauty, and patronizing it, for its sanctimonious promotion of the beautiful.""The end to which all sexual experience tends, as Bataille insisted in a lifetime of writing, is defilement, blasphemy. To be 'nice,' as to be civilized, means being alienated from this savage experience—which is entirely staged."-"Fascinating Fascism""There was something sad in all this talk about pleasure..." -"Remembering Barthes" covet, to thirst, to long for-these are passionate but also acquisitive relations to knowledge and truth..." The very last passage in this book I found beautiful: "The last achievement of the serious admirer is to stop immediately putting to work the energies aroused by, filling up the space opened by, what is admired. Thereby talented admirers give themselves permission to go beyond avidity; to identify with something beyond achievement, beyond the gathering of power." It is such a strange and yet maybe fitting ending, because this is exactly what Sontag seems not to do. She is avid, she achieves, and she gathers power, but she doesn't go beyond. She has a wonderful capacity for lucid prose and logical argument, but these very capacities take on a sinister quality when they are placed so insistently in the forefront, while the subjects she proposes to champion: troubled, mad, and mostly dead, recede. I am thinking in particular here of Artaud and Benjamin. I have never read any Artaud and don't plan to, but what I gathered in her essay about him was exactly that it shouldn't have been written. What does it mean to break down a theater of cruelty for the readers of the New Yorker? One has a sense of her sense of herself as serving her subjects by bringing them out of obscurity. But when their power, as she acknowledges and dwells on, is intrinsically related to their obscurity, then there is something troubling about her attempt to disseminate it. Again back to Artaud, she seems at times to be approaching an argument in favor of madness, then draws back for a distinction between identification and appreciation. And, ok, I thought it was gross. Get in or get out, sister. As it stands, I just can't get past those New Yorker readers, and the sense in her writing that she is performing for them, showing off how edgy she is while remaining palatable.

  • Mike
    2019-04-14 01:04

    Re-reading this I'm once again struck by the sheer scope of Sontag's writing—the variety of topics she encompasses here—and her powerful devotion to the culture context of art in its many forms. Sontag became known as both the most current, pop-culture-aware and most adroit critic of her generation and this accomplishment was in good part due to her ability to weave between topics so flawlessly and with such true and exacting insight. Possibly none of her collections of essays really showcase that acumen better than this one: Sontag here gets away from the overriding concept of the day that art was to be focused upon in either a historical context (for older works) or in the guise of its own merits alone. Instead of taking either an arts historical or straight-ahead critical view, Sontag is able to combine these; even when speaking of film she is able to really dive deep into the procedural as well as external, cultural, aspects. She's concerned above all else with aesthetics but not just in an isolated or immediate context. Probably what she accomplishes most here is providing a groundwork for how criticism can be undertaken in a way that is provident and comprehensive to all facets of a work, including its extended cultural ramifications. It's important to remember that at this point in her career, while known as a critic, Sontag first had published a novel and was as keen on writing fiction as commenting on it: that is clear in her treatment here of Elias Canetti and also her approach to Walter Benjamin in what is perhaps the finest essay in this collection. It is however her command of the immediate powers of film that is probably most vital: in 1980 when this collection was first published, film criticism was starting to be taken seriously in literary circles however the reach and depth of Sontag's introspection here is simply without precedent.

  • Jeremy Allan
    2019-04-10 02:10

    It's hard to talk with any clarity about my admiration for Susan Sontag's work. Her books have been able to change my daily habits, direct me to writers I hadn't known previously that I loved, and dictate a new line of inquiry for my own writing. Under the Sign of Saturn is familiar in that sense; as a collection of essays, it both reoriented my thinking about familiar topics and introduced me to new ones. Even when I disagree with her, I can't help but admire the strength and ferocity of Sontag's thinking.Notable in this collection is the title essay, which discusses the life and work of Walter Benjamin; her expansive essay on Syberberg's Hitler, a Film from Germany; and her amazing razing of Leni Riefenstahl. But from the first page to the last, whether discussing Paul Goodman or Roland Barthes, she always delivers pertinent and interesting thinking about her subjects. (In fact, her elegiac essay Remembering Barthes may be the most humanizing treatment of the man I've ever read, and may be responsable for his rehabilitation in my eyes/interests.) For such a sharp, uncompromising mind, Sontag's work is amazing in its generosity. I believe it will be a very sad day for me when I have finally read everything she has written.

  • AC
    2019-03-30 23:04

    I have not read any of this book apart from the essay on Leni Riefenstahl, which can be found here:

  • Willow
    2019-04-01 23:58

    Susan Sontag's collection of appreciations inspires me to read more, and to write better. I love the way she is able to say interesting and un-cliche things about authors that seem "untouchable" to regular people like myself. I'd recommend the title essay "Under the Sign of Saturn" first, as it is the most accessible.

  • Jo
    2019-03-30 21:53

    I hesitate to give 4 stars because her approach is too academic for my liking (I know, that's such a silly thing to say about Sontag). The eponymous essay makes up for everything, though. Brilliant.

  • David
    2019-04-19 01:58

    Magnificent essays on various writers and artists. Benjamin, Riefenstahl, Canetti, Barthes essays are all home runs. But it doesn't really matter what she writes about. The brilliance of her gaze illuminates regardless.

  • Julia
    2019-03-28 03:07

    read this recently and need to track that here before i forget about this site again, as i always do while school is in session. it was excellent of course, and work that is really exemplary in achieving the perfect balance between informative/educational and, you know, overpoweringly temptingly interesting—like really truly kind of a page-turner. approaching artaud and fascinating fascism are essential but we've known that for years already (and the latter somehow still better than i would have expected—this impressive tightrope-scary balance between strict and capacious, unself-forgiving and daring).

  • Magdalena
    2019-04-22 19:22

    7 esejów Sontag z lat 1972-80 jest rezultatem wewnętrznego skupienia się na myślach najbardziej istotnych, otwiera je tekst stworzony podczas rocznego odizolowania w małym paryskim pokoiku, w przestrzeni oczyszczonej z książek i sprzętów. Odosobnienie przypomina jej w dużej mierze o ojczyźnie i przez to pierwszy z jej esejów poświęcony jest Paulowi Goodmanowi; kolejne otwierają cały panteon osób istotnych dla autorki - wszystkie łączy pewien specyficzny rodzaj uwagi, w którym twórcy skupieni są na własnym świecie wewnętrznym, charakterystyczny również dla samej Sontag . W odsłonach kolejnych osób przewija się niezadane pytanie - czym jest tak naprawdę sztuka, dlaczego tak absorbuje umysł i serce, że z każdym krokiem w głąb pragnie się więcej i więcej - dlaczego poszukiwanie sensu pochłania niektórych ludzi do tego stopnia, że są gotowi na schodzenie w coraz dalsze poziomy zrozumienia pomimo niemal fizycznego bólu, który temu towarzyszy.Po Goodmanie Sontag przybliża nam Antonina Artauda, człowieka zakotwiczonego w dramacie alienacji od własnego umysłu. Jego pełna zmiennych form twórczość ogniskuje się wokół idei sztuki totalnej, sięgającej do obnażenia na scenie archetypów - w wieku rozkwitu nauk psychologicznych iście szatański głos na pustyni. Jednakże w obu założonych przez siebie teatrach ani widownia nie była odpowiednio przygotowana, ani przekaz ideowy zbyt jasny, by wzbudziło to szersze zainteresowanie. Tutaj pojawia się kolejna ważna myśl Sontag - często staje się tak, że genialne idee albo osobowości pozostają niedocenione, pomimo tego, że wymykają się tradycyjnym kryteriom oceny literatury (jako: wiarygodność, siła emocjonalna, subtelność i istotność - s. 20) i wpadają w jedno z trzech kryteriów pozbawionych łatwej przyswajalności (szaleństwo, niezwykłe cierpienie, milczenie - s. 58). Artaud był dla Sontag przedstawicielem gnostycznych koncepcji wyzwolenia literackiego i jedną z wielu możliwych odpowiedzi na pytanie, w którą stronę prowadzi nas sztuka. To też świetny przykład na to, w jaki sposób można "zawładnąć" niestrawialnym w odbiorze twórcą, by uczynić z niego klasyka literatury, którego się NIE czyta.Esej poświęcony Leni Riefenstahl ostro rysuje granicę pomiędzy obiektywną sztuką a romantycznymi ideałami kultu piękna i zdrowia w faszyzmie. Sontag odmawia jej prawa do rehabilitacji i uczestniczenia w ówczesnym kręgu artystycznym, podkreślając wagę związków Riefenstahl z hitleryzmem, co z definicji stawia Niemkę w kręgu twórców skażonych politycznie - Sontag ostro wyraża swoje zdanie, że nie powinniśmy zachwycać się obiektywnie pięknem filmu lub fotografią, gdy jest on bezpośrednio związany z "propagowaniem najróżniejszych niszczycielskich uczuć" (s. 105). Sontag stoi na straży uważności w tym, co konsumujemy - jeśli wielu ludzi na raz przyjmie i zaakceptuje nowy smak, może mieć to nieprzewidywalne konsekwencje. Nasze wyczulenie w dzisiejszych czasach się nieco stępiło, jesteśmy w stanie akceptować różnorakie skrajności w postawach, bez alarmującego rozróżnienia, które z nich mogą stać się niebezpieczne, ponieważ doświadczenie wojny pozostało udziałem wymarłych pokoleń.Esej o Walterze Benjaminie jest rozmyślaniem nad istotą melancholii i pozostawia otwartym pytanie, czy to osobowość saturniczna wpływa na pisarstwo, czy też przyjęcie świata książek jako realnej przestrzeni życia kształtuje osobowość melancholiczną. Walter Benjamin, jako prekursor kartografii utraconej przestrzeni, nie mógłby prawdopodobnie się spodziewać, że w XXI wieku znajdzie tak wielu lepszych i gorszych naśladowców. Sontag pisze o nim w sposób niemal czuły, nie dodaje od siebie nic ponad to, co pomaga nam dobrze go zrozumieć.W kolejnym eseju autorka skupia się na interpretacji 7- godzinnego filmu Hansa-Jurgena Syberberga z 1977 roku: "Hitler. Film z Niemiec"; filmu minimalistycznego, skonstruowanego na zasadzie asamblażu, który autorka klasyfikuje jako horror o wymiarze moralnym; filmu nadmiaru, o estetyce pasożytującej na Wagnerze, prawdzie historycznej osadzonej w otoczce dystopii i science-fiction ("Statek kosmiczny Goethe-Hans" - s. 172). Postromantyk Syberberg w oczach Sontag stworzył arcydzieło, odległe o mile świetlne od innych filmów uważanych za bardzo dobre - symbolika jego przekazu rezonuje w widzu znaczeniem.Wspomnienie Rolanda Barthes'a to pełen spokoju ukłon w stronę zmarłego myśliciela, który potrafił pisać o wszystkim i wszystkiego był ciekawy, afirmował życie i przyjemności.Ostatni esej to portret Eliasa Canetti. Przedstawia człowieka owładniętego pasją poznania wszystkiego i jego niezrealizowanych planów stworzenia plejady książek o ludziach ogarniętych obsesjami (ukazała się tylko pierwsza z cyklu, o bibliofilu). Jedyną przeszkodą dla Canetti'ego, której nie można obejść, był umykający czas - nie godził się na perspektywę ludzkiej skończoności. Jego późniejsze prace skupiają się na niszczycielskiej sile masy i jej stosunku do władzy, ale w każdym momencie życia obecna jest niezgoda na brak długowieczności umysłu. Największą cnotą pozostawał dla niego oddech.Po lekturze esejów przychodzi mi na myśl tylko jedno - czuję ogromny żal, że tak błyskotliwy intelekt nie dożył czasów współczesnych i że taka postać jak Sontag nie czuwa gdzieś nadal na pograniczu nurtu zdarzeń, by je komentować i czynnie zawracać uwagę na to, co większości umyka.

  • Anthoferjea
    2019-04-07 22:20

    She's a great writer. There's quite a few references I didn't get since I don't read like her (does anyone) but the sentences are elegant and excellent even without the references. The Benjamin one is very sad.

  • Maurizio Manco
    2019-04-21 19:21

    "Il libro è una miniaturizzazione del mondo, in cui il lettore abita." (p. 103)

  • Jasmine
    2019-04-24 00:14

    The essays that weren't on the erotic appeal of fascism were not as good.

  • Víctor Sampayo
    2019-03-26 23:21

    Publicados entre 1972 y 1980, en la New York Review of Books, en estos ensayos y artículos Susan Sontag hace una retrospectiva de siete personajes de la cultura occidental (Paul Goodman, Antonin Artaud, Leni Riefenstahl, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes y Elias Canetti), entre escritores, cineastas o, como el caso de Artaud, artistas renuentes a una clasificación facilona, todo con un tono en el que lo mismo puede caber lo anecdótico, lo biográfico, la crítica formal, la influencia histórica y social, la cercanía o lejanía emocional, entre otros factores. Para mí resultaron particularmente deliciosos el que da título al libro "Bajo el signo de Saturno", que sigue los pasos a Walter Benjamin a través de una exploración en su estilo, pero sin dejar de lado los sucesos esenciales de su vida, sobre todo cuando resalta su condición de melancólico a la manera de la teoría de los cuatro humores y su influencia en el comportamiento de quienes nacen bajo el signo de Saturno; y también "La mente como pasión", en el que emprende una minuciosa cartografía de Elias Canetti.

  • Ali
    2019-04-20 19:06

    رساله های سونتاگ در زمینه ی هنر و جامعه، گاه از رمان ها و کارهای ادبی اش جلوه ی بیشتر و بهتری دارند. اگرچه سوزان سونتاگ در ایران بیشتر به یک منتقد ادبی و اجتماعی نویس معروف است، و در این زمینه ها کارهای بزرگی تالیف کرده، اما رمان های سونتاگ کارهای زیبایی ست که ندیده یا نشنیده ام به فارسی ترجمه شده باشد. روشن نیست چرا بجز چند مقاله، آثار او به فارسی برگردانده نشده. سوزان سونتاگ از روشنفکران آمریکایی دهه ی 1960 است، با همان دید رادیکال نسبت به جوامع غربی. بعدها به شکلی از آمریکا زده شد و به تبعیدی خودخواسته به اروپا، سوئد و بعدن فرانسه رفت. سال های اقامت سونتاگ در اروپا یادآور زندگی بسیاری از نویسندگان نسل پیش از او هم چون همینگوی است که بخشی از دوران جوانی و میانسالی شان را در اروپا و عمدتن فرانسه گذراندند. اگرچه سونتاگ در میان دانشگاهیان و در رسانه ها بیشتر به یک روشنفکر نق نقو و ایرادگیر معروف است، با این همه نمی توان از نقش او به عنوان یک زن نویسنده در روند تفکر دایره ی روشنفکری آمریکایی ها چشم پوشید.

  • Andrew
    2019-03-30 19:09

    Like so many other contemporary cultural critics, Sontag hones in on key figures of our era: Benjamin, Riefenstahl, Barthes, Canetti, etc. Through a thorough analysis, Sontag provides a mechanism for dissecting hot topics, reading fascism or flanerie in a way that manages to fuse praxis and theory while simultaneously remaining accessible.

  • Philip Bardach
    2019-04-15 19:01

    This collection does contain some of Sontag's least interesting writing (primarily because much of it isn't as deeply analytical as her other work), but is still essential & well worth reading. However, "Fascinating Fascism" ranks with the best of her essays.

  • Isabel Quispe Castilla
    2019-03-25 19:57

    No puedo ser imparcial con Susan Sontag. Ensayos para la mesa de noche, digeribles y para enamorarse de su prosa firme y sabia.

  • Peter
    2019-04-22 23:03

    This collection of essays by Susan Sontag was the first book by her that I ever read. And I estimate I've read it at least a dozen times since. An incredible mind, poking at some very difficult issues in a style and depth that leaves you gasping and wanting more.

  • Sarah
    2019-03-28 23:02

    Clear, confident, sometimes didactic critical writing. Sontag cultivates a passion for explanation and deconstruction. Informative and inspiring looks at some of the 20th century's most fascinating voices.

  • Maru Luarca
    2019-04-12 03:09

    Del libro, lleno de reviews interesantes sobre Artaud, Canetti, quedo con la parte dedicada a Leni Riefenstahl.Mueve su análisis alrededor de Fascinating Fascism de una forma que me parece muy provocadora.Un ensayo que vale la pena leer.

  • M
    2019-03-27 19:22

    chapter on "Approaching Artaud"

  • Taylor Peters
    2019-03-27 22:52

    i ought to read more susan sontag

  • Ainsley
    2019-04-08 21:22

    Such a good collection of essays, particularly liked "Fascinating Fascism" on the nostalgia for Leni Riefenstahl and the aesthetics of fascism.

  • Azul Ceballos
    2019-04-10 18:55

    Brilliant ideas. I listen and see her in transit thoughts, as if she is sharply thinking while doing other things, connected while walking. Very much alike the main essay of the book.

  • Ryan
    2019-03-31 00:05

    Contains "Fascinating Fascism" - reproduced here:

  • Izabela
    2019-04-23 21:16