Notes on Sontag

Princeton University Press
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Notes on Sontag is a frank, witty, and entertaining reflection on the work, influence, and personality of one of the "foremost interpreters of . . . our recent contemporary moment." Adopting Sontag's favorite form, a set of brief essays or notes that circle around a topic from different perspectives, renowned essayist Phillip Lopate considers the achievements and limitations of his tantalizing, daunting subject through what is fundamentally a conversation between two writers. Reactions to Sontag tend to be polarized, but Lopate's account of Sontag's significance to him and to the culture over which she loomed is neither hagiography nor hatchet job. Despite admiring and being inspired by her essays, he admits a persistent ambivalence about Sontag. Lopate also describes the figure she cut in person through a series of wry personal anecdotes of his encounters with her over the years.

Setting out from middle-class California to invent herself as a European-style intellectual, Sontag raised the bar of critical discourse and offered up a model of a freethinking, imaginative, and sensual woman. But while crediting her successes, Lopate also looks at how her taste for aphorism and the radical high ground led her into exaggerations that could do violence to her own common sense, and how her ambition to be seen primarily as a novelist made her undervalue her brilliant essays. Honest yet sympathetic, Lopate's engaging evaluation reveals a Sontag who was both an original and very much a person of her time.

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About the author

Phillip Lopate is the author of many books, including the essay collections Getting Personal (Basic), Against Joie de Vivre (Simon & Schuster), Portrait of My Body (Doubleday), and Bachelorhood (Little, Brown), as well as the anthology, The Art of the Personal Essay (Doubleday). Among his other books is Waterfront: A Walk around Manhattan (Crown). He teaches writing at Columbia University, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Mar 9, 2009
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9781400829873
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Collections / Essays
Literary Criticism / American / General
Literary Criticism / General
Literary Criticism / Women Authors
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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"A Good Man Is Hard to Find" is Flannery O'Connor's most famous and most discussed story. O'Connor herself singled it out by making it the title piece of her first collection and the story she most often chose for readings or talks to students. It is an unforgettable tale, both riveting and comic, of the confrontation of a family with violence and sudden death. More than anything else O'Connor ever wrote, this story mixes the comedy, violence, and religious concerns that characterize her fiction. This casebook for the story includes an introduction by the editor, a chronology of the author's life, the authoritative text of the story itself, comments and letters by O'Connor about the story, critical essays, and a bibliography. The critical essays span more than twenty years of commentary and suggest several approaches to the story - formalistic thematic, deconstructionist - all within the grasp of the undergraduate, while the introduction also points interested students toward still other resources. Useful for both beginning and advanced students, this casebook provides an in-depth introduction to one of America's most gifted modern writers. The contributors are Michael O. Bellamy, Hallman B. Bryant, William S. Doxey, J.Peter Dyson, Madison Jones, W.S. Marks, III, Carter Martin, William J. Scheick, Mary Jane Schenck, and J.O.Tate. Frederick Asals teaches at New College, the University of Toronto. He is the author of Flannery O'Connor: The Imagination of Extremity and of articles on O'Connor and other American writers. A volume in a new series, Women Writers: Text and Contexts, edited by Thomas L. Erskine and Connie L. Richards. Series Board: Martha Banta, Barbara Christian, and Paul Lauter.
Fusing history, lore, politics, culture, and on-site adventures, esteemed essayist and author Phillip Lopate takes us on an exuberant, affectionate, and eye-opening excursion around Manhattan’s shoreline. Waterfront captures the ever-changing character of New York in the best way possible: on a series of exploratory walks conducted by one of the city’s most engaging and knowledgeable guides. Starting at the Battery and moving at a leisurely pace along the banks of the Hudson and East Rivers, Lopate describes the infrastructures, public spaces, and landmarks he encounters, along with fascinating insights into how they came to be. Unpeeling layers of myth and history, he reveals the economic, ecological, and political concerns that influenced the city’s development, reporting on everything from the building of the Brooklyn Bridge to the latest projects dotting the shorelines.

New York’s waterfront has undergone a three-stage revaluation—from the world’s largest port to an abandoned, seedy no-man’s land to a highly desirable zone of parks and upscale retail and residential properties—each metamorphosis only incompletely shedding earlier associations. Physically, no area of New York City has changed as dramatically as the shoreline, thanks to natural processes and the use of landfill, dredging, and other interventions. Everywhere Phillip Lopate walked on the waterfront, he saw the present as a layered accumulation of older narratives. He set about his task by trying to read the city like a text. One textual layer is the past, going back to the Lenape Indians, Captain Kidd, and Melville’s sailors; another is the present—whatever or whoever was popping up in his view at the moment; a third layer contains the constructed environment, the architecture or piers or parks currently along the shore; another layer still is his personal history, the memories recalled by visiting certain spots; yet another consists of the city’s incredibly rich cultural record—the literature, films, and artwork that threw a reflecting light on the matter at hand; and finally, there is the invisible or imagined layer—what he thinks should be on the waterfront but is not.

Waterfront is studded with short diversions where Lopate expounds on some of the greater issues, characters, and sites of Manhattan’s shoreline. Be it a revisionist examination of Robert Moses, the effect of shipworms on the city’s piers and foundations, the battle over Westway, the dream of public housing, the legacy of Joseph Mitchell, a wonderful passage about the longshoremen and Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront, or the meaning of the World Trade Center, Lopate punctuates this marvelous journey with the sights and sounds and words of a world like no other.

A rich and impressive work by an undisputed master stylist, Waterfront takes its rightful place next to other literary classics of New York, such as E. B. White’s Here Is New York and Joseph Mitchell’s Up in the Old Hotel. It is an unparalleled look at New York’s landscape and history and an irresistible invitation to meander along its outermost edges.


From the Hardcover edition.
In 1977, Bennington College alumna Edith Barbour Andrews established the Ben Belitt Lectureships in gratitude to her teacher Ben Belitt and dedicated the publication of the lectures (in the form of chapbooks) to the memory of William Troy, another of her beloved teachers. The collection, published here in one volume, comprises lectures by some of the most inspiring writers and keenest critics of our time. In his introduciton to The Ordering Mirror, Phillip Lopate contrasts the anticipations and the audience/lecturer dynamic inherent in attending yearly lecture, with the experience of reading them, and the opportunity for reflection and comparison. Lopate summarizes that, "It is enough to appreciate that we are watching masters of the game of essay-writing, who, even as they comment on the masterpieces of other writers, practice their own wizardry."

The volume includes:

George Steiner, "The Uncommon Reader" (1978)
Frank Kermode, "Divination" (1979)
Harold Bloom, "To the Tally of My Soul: Whitman's Image of Voice" (1980)
Denis Donoghue, "The Politics of Modern Criticism" (1981)
Irving Howe, "The Making of a Critic" (1982)
Richard Ellman, "The Uses of Decadence: Wilde, Yeats, Joyce" (1983)
Bernard Malamud, "Long Work, Short Life" (1984)
Ben Belitt, "Literature and Belief: Three 'Spiritual Exercises'" (1985)
Saul Bellow, "Summations" (1987)
Hugh Kenner, "Magics and Spells (about curses, charms, and riddles)" (1987)
Richard Rorty, "The Barber of Kasbeam: Nabokov on Cruelty" (1988)
Rene Girard, "Collective Violence and Sacrifice in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar" (1989)
Nadine Gordimer, "Three in a Bed: Fiction, Morals and Politics" (1990)
Seamus Heaney, "Dylan the Durable?: On Dylan Thomas" (1992)
Cynthia Ozick, "What Henry James Knew" (1992)

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