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Finding Aid for the Susan Sontag papers, ca. 1939-2004
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
Susan Sontag (1933-2004) was an influential and controversial American writer, director, and political activist. She wrote numerous essays, short stories, novels, and non-fiction books. She also wrote and directed films and plays in the United States and abroad. She received honors and awards throughout her life and her works have been translated into over thirty languages. The contents of the Susan Sontag Papers reflect her intelligence, energy, and the seamless integration of her wide-ranging interests in her work and life. In addition to notes, research, and manuscript material related to her writing, theatre, and film projects, the collection includes the following: personal and professional correspondence; journals; schoolwork; teaching material; ephemera and correspondence related to her public appearances, institutional involvement, and political activism; publicity and press; and highlights from her library.
Background
Susan Sontag was an influential and controversial American writer, director, and political activist. She was born in New York City on January 16, 1933, and was raised in Tucson and Los Angeles. In 1949, she graduated from North Hollywood High School and began her undergraduate work at the University of California, Berkeley. After one term, she transferred to the University of Chicago, where she graduated in 1951. She married Philip Rieff in 1950. Their son, David Rieff, was born in 1952. In 1957, she received a Master's degree in philosophy from Harvard (Radcliffe), and studied on a fellowship at St. Anne's College, Oxford, and the University of Paris-Sorbonne until 1958. She divorced Philip Rieff the same year. In 1959, she discontinued her doctoral work and moved to New York City with her son. Sontag worked for Commentary Magazine and held positions as instructor and lecturer at City College of New York, Sarah Lawrence College, and Columbia University until around 1966. During this time, she began writing film and literature reviews, essays, and stories for publication in The Partisan Review and other prominent journals. Throughout her life, her short stories and numerous essays on art, literature, politics, and culture appeared in several publications in the United States and abroad. Most of these works were collected into seven books: Against Interpretation and Other Essays (1966), Styles of Radical Will (1969), I, Etcetera (1978), Under the Sign of Saturn (1980), A Susan Sontag Reader (1982), Where the Stress Falls (2001), and At the Same Time (2007). Sontag published four novels: The Benefactor (1963), Death Kit (1967), The Volcano Lover (1992) and In America (2000), which won the National Book Award. Her non-fiction books explored and challenged aspects of modern society: On Photography (1977), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, Illness as Metaphor (1978), inspired by her own experience with breast cancer, AIDS and Its Metaphors (1989), and Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), on war photography. Sontag wrote and directed four films: Duet for Cannibals (1969), Brother Carl (1971), Promised Lands (1974) and Unguided Tour (1983). She directed several plays, including Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo in 1993; and she wrote several plays including Alice in Bed (1993) and Lady from the Sea (1999), productions of which have been staged across the United States and internationally. As a committed human rights activist she traveled to Cuba, China, Vietnam, and Bosnia. She also served as president of the PEN American Center from 1987-1989. Her works have been translated into over thirty languages. She received honors and awards throughout her life, including the Jerusalem Prize (2001) and the Friedenspreis (2003) for her body of work. She died of cancer on December 28, 2004, and is buried in Montparnasse cemetery in Paris.
Extent
264 boxes (132 linear ft.) 67 oversize boxes 1 oversize map folder
Restrictions
Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.
Availability
Open for research, with following exceptions: Boxes 136 and 137 of journals are restricted until 25 years after Susan Sontag's death (December 28, 2029), though the journals may become available once they are published.