Susan Sontag (1982) | Writer's Workshop


In this episode of Writer's Workshop, Susan Sontag meets with USC creative writing students and shares her experience on the day-to-day process of writing, recalling how she found a publisher for her first novel, and explaining how she came to write Illness as Metaphor. Sontag observed that she wrote her fiction longhand and her essays on a typewriter. The visual, sensual, and the kinetic interests her and she has an interest in directing. She has written screenplays so that she can have the opportunity to direct. 

Sontag observed that writing is not fun and that it is something else like a holy vocation, or a sacred calling. The writer deals with the language and the language is the instrument of thought, of sensibility for the whole culture. The writer keeps the language alive, adding to the language or contributing to its deterioration. Although she says she is a feminist, Sontag does not consider herself a feminist writer and observed that the writer is concerned with questions of conscience and literature has no sex. 

Side Notes:

  • January 16, 1933 - December 28, 2004
  • Publication of Against Interpretation, her first major collection of critical essays,  January 23, 1966
  • Publication of Illness as Metaphor  July 16, 1978
  • Publication of The Way We Live Now November 24, 1986
  • An influential critic of her generation, 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 literature, photography, media, culture, AIDS,  illness, war, human rights and politics.

The Writer's Workshop features 15 major talents in contemporary literature who met in a one-on-one forum with well-known author William Price Fox and University of South Carolina creative writing students. Each writer discussed his or her personal writing methods, furnishing insights into the highly individualized process of literary creation. Other authors include George Plimpton, James Dickey, James McPherson, John Gardener, John Hawkes, John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut, Nora Ephron, Pauline Kael, Reynolds Price, Stephen Spender, Susan Sontag, Tom Wolf, William Price Fox, and William Styron.