Against Interpretation | Study Guide

Susan Sontag

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Against Interpretation | Key Figures

Key Figure Description
Susan Sontag Susan Sontag (1933–2004) was an influential American philosopher who wrote on culture, art, and society for over forty years. Read More
Plato Plato (428–348 BCE) was an ancient Greek philosopher and is considered the founder of Western philosophy. Read More
Aristotle Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BCE) was Plato's most famous student and founded the formal study of logic. He studied a wide range of subjects including ethics, science, the arts, and more. Read More
Karl Marx Karl Marx (1818–83) was a German economist and philosopher. His books Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto formed the basis of Marxist thought which profoundly influenced sociology and history as well as political movements throughout the twentieth century. Read More
Sigmund Freud Austrian psychologist Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) developed the theory and practice of psychoanalysis. Read More
Michaelangelo Antonioni Italian filmmaker Michaelangelo Antonioni (1912–2007) is known for his emphasis on aesthetics rather than realism.
Erich Auerbach German philologist and literary critic Erich Auerbach (1892–1957) is best known for Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. He analyzed art through its historical context, wherein history could be better understood through culture.
Roland Barthes Roland Barthes (1915–80) was a French literary critic whose emphasis on semiotics (the study of signs and symbols) helped define the New Criticism school of thought.
Samuel Beckett Irish writer Samuel Beckett (1906–89) is best known for his 1952 play Waiting for Gadot. Beckett's works often use dark humor to examine the human condition and contain frequent allusions to philosophy and theology.
Walter Benjamin Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) was a German literary critic and philosopher whose works deeply influenced German critical thought in the latter half of the twentieth century.
Ingmar Bergman Ingmar Bergman (1918–2007) was a Swedish filmmaker whose body of work was one of the first to be recognized as art, not just entertainment. His most famous work 1957's The Seventh Seal depicts a disillusioned man playing a game of chess with the personification of death.
Robert Bresson Robert Bresson (1901–99) was a French filmmaker. His style was austere, with limited music and frequent use of non-professional actors, which set his work apart from the costume dramas of traditional French cinema. His work often reflected his devout Catholicism.
Jean Cocteau Jean Cocteau (1889–1963) was a French writer, artist, and film director. His surrealist films of the 1930s and 40s inspired French New Wave filmmakers in the 1960s.
George Cukor George Cukor was a prolific American film director (1899–1983). He is responsible for many of the best-known films of the 1930s to 60s, from A Star is Born to My Fair Lady.
Dante Medieval Italian philosopher Dante (1265–1321) is considered the father of modern Italian. His best-known work is the epic poem The Divine Comedy, which depicted heaven, hell, and purgatory.
William de Kooning Dutch-American modernist painter William de Kooning (1904–97) was the leader of New York's avant-garde artists.
Charles Dickens Prolific English writer Charles Dickens (1812–70) produced many of the most well-known classics of nineteenth-century literature including A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and more.
T.S. Eliot American-English writer, T.S. Eliot (1888–1965) is one of the most important and influential poets of the twentieth century. A leader of the modernist movement, his works revitalized English language poetry.
Blanche DuBois Blanche DuBois is a fictional character in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire. Formerly a Southern belle, she is now an alcoholic with a tenuous grasp on reality.
Manny Farber Manny Farber was an American painter and film critic (1917–2008). He often included references to films in his paintings.
William Faulkner William Faulkner (1897–1962) was a Mississippi-born American writer. He was one of the premier novelists of the Southern Renaissance in the 1920s and 30s, writing on life in the Deep South, especially the tense race relations of the Jim Crow era.
Pierre Francastel French art historian Pierre Francastel (1900–70) argued against applying Marxist theories to works of art.
Northup Frye Canadian literary critic Northup Frye (1912–91) helped create the field of modern literary criticism by emphasizing that it should be as precise and rigorous as scientific study.
Andre Gide Andre Gide (1869–1951) was a French writer and critic whose early works reflected his interest in symbolism. He was well-regarded as a great humanist and moralist writer.
Jean-Luc Godard French film critic and director Jean-Luc Godard (b.1930) helped found the French New Wave, which departed from Hollywood narratives while it revered the skill of Hollywood directors. His first feature 1960's Breathless was one of the movement's inaugural films, eschewing traditional narrative and style.
D.W. Griffith D.W. Griffith (1875–1948) was an early American film director, mostly of the silent era. His technical innovations elevated the medium of film, but his narratives (as in Birth of a Nation) were often blatantly racist.
Howard Hawks American film director Howard Hawks (1896–1977) worked extensively during Hollywood's Golden Era from the 1930s to the 50s. During the French New Wave in the 1960s, European critics began to champion Hawks as an auteur for his consistently high-quality output and the touch of personal style in his films.
Homer Homer (800 BC–701 BC) was a Greek poet best known for his epics The Iliad and The Odyssey.
Randall Jerrell American poet and literary critic Randall Jerrell (1914–65) was born in Tennessee and his work was influenced by the Southern Renaissance in poetry of the 1920s and 30s. His output during the post-World War II decades made him one of the most important American poets of the mid-twentieth century.
James Joyce Irish writer James Joyce (1882–1941) is known for his groundbreaking modernist style. Notable works include Ulysses and Portrait of the Artist.
K K is the protagonist in Franz Kafka's (1883–1924) 1926 allegorical novel The Castle.
Joseph K. Joseph K. is the protagonist in Franz Kafka's (1883–1924) 1925 novel The Trial.
Franz Kafka Franz Kafka (1883–1924) is a German-language writer born in Prague (present-day Czech Republic). He explored existentialist themes in his novels, which were frequently allegorical tales.
Elian Kazan Elian Kazan (1909–2003) was a Turkish-American director of both plays and films; he was lauded for the powerful performances he rendered from his actors. In the 1950s he cooperated with the House Un-American Activities Committee which ruined many of his colleagues' careers and tainted Kazan's legacy.
Stanley Kowalski Stanley Kowalski is a fictional character from Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, he is the brother-in-law of Blanche DuBois.
D.H. Lawrence Born David Herbert Lawrence in England, D.H. Lawrence (1885–1930) is one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. His most famous work, Lady Chatterley's Lover of 1929 was banned in the U.S. for decades.
Nicolai Leskov Russian novelist Nicolai Leskov (1831–95) is one of the greatest storytellers in the history of Russian literature His pseudonym was "Stebnitsky."
Leto Leto is the goddess of motherhood in Greek mythology. She was one of Zeus' wives and the mother of twins Apollon and Artemis.
Thomas Mann German writer Thomas Mann (1875–1955) is known for his symbolically rich novels. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1929.
Friedrich Nietzsche German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) used psychoanalytic principles to critique traditional morality that aligned him with the ideas of Marx and Freud.
Odysseus Odysseus is the protagonist in Homer's The Odyssey of the late eighth century BC.
Ermanno Olmi Italian film director Ermanno Olmi (1931–2018) explored social and religious themes in his movies, often focusing specifically on Catholicism.
Yasujiro Ozu Japanese realist filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu (1903–63) is celebrated by critics and fellow directors around the world for his humanist dramas.
Erwin Panofsky Erwin Panofsky (1892–1968) was a German-American art historian. His studies anchored the analysis of artworks to their historical and sociological context.
Philo of Alexandria Also known as Philo Judeaus, Philo of Alexandria (20 BC–50 AD) was a Greek-speaking Jewish philosopher. He sought to marry the ideas of Greek philosophy and Judaism and was an important influence on the development of Christian theology.
Ezra Pound American poet Ezra Pound (1885–1972) is one of the most important founders of the modernist style of poetry.
Marcel Proust French writer Marcel Proust (1871–1922) is best known for his seven-part series In Search of Lost Time, the last volume of which was published posthumously.
Jean Racine French dramatist Jean Racine (1639–1699) is known for his mastery of the tragic genre.
Alain Resnais French filmmaker Alain Resnais (1922–2014) was part of the New Wave of the 1960s. His 1961 nonnative masterpiece Last Year at Marienbad remains influential to filmmakers today.
Jean Renoir Jean Renoir (1894–1979) was a French realist filmmaker. He was the son of the renowned French impressionist artist, Auguste Renoir.
Rainer Maria Rilke Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926) was an Austro-German poet born in present-day Prague, Czech Republic. He is considered one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century and a transitional figure between the traditional and modernist styles.
Alain Robbe-Grillet French writer and film director Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922–2008) provided the screenplay for Alain Renais's 1961 Last Year at Marienbad.
François Truffaut François Truffaut (1932–84) was a French film critic turned director and one of the founders of French New Wave cinema. His 1959 film The 400 Blows is considered one of the foundational films of the movement, along with his friend Godard's Breathless of 1960.
Dorothy Van Ghent Dorothy Van Ghent (1907–66) was a literary critic who wrote about Charles Dickens, John Keats, Willa Cather, among others.
Raoul Walsh Raoul Walsh (1887–1980) was an American film director. Although born in New York City he migrated West and became a cowboy-actor, which informed his directing style when he began making acclaimed action-adventure films.
Walt Whitman American writer Walt Whitman (1819–92) is considered one of the greatest poets in U.S. history. In his works, particularly his most famous, Leaves of Grass, he endeavored to make his writing style mimic the "style" of the nation itself.
Oscar Wilde Irish writer Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) is best known for his plays, including An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, which displayed his sparkling wit. He emphasized the aesthetic value of art; his personal style exemplified dandyism, and he was imprisoned for homosexuality in 1895.
Tennessee Williams Tennessee Williams (1911–83) was an American playwright whose works exemplify the Southern Gothic style of writing. He is best known for A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, both of which became acclaimed feature films in the 1950s.
Zeus Zeus is the king of the Gods in Greek mythology.
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