Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Literature, Poetry, and Books

Susan Sontag as Case Study

Joseph Epstein gives a lesson on how to understand and dissect contemporary intellectuals and their poseurs--in this case Susan Sontag.  Not for the squeamish. 

Discussions - 68 Comments

Thanks Ken. It occurs to me that among the 20th Century's most peculiarly distinguishing characteristics was the success of the intellectual poseur. Or maybe it was just the second half of the century? Doubtless in 50 years, or less, no one will either know or care who Susan Sontag was. How many others can we add to that list? Even now, I can't for the life of me figure out how their shelf-life was as long as it was. Was it our relative affluence? Is it possible that not just 1990s, but all of post-WWII was a "holiday from history"? Just wondering.

success of the intellectual poseur

Was it really a 20th century phenomenon? Or did "intellectual poseurs" exist before, but as you say of Sontag, history has long forgotten them?

In addition to Sontag -- for whom I have absolutely no contact other than the dialog in "Bull Durham" where Sarandon and Costner were arguing as a prequel to their romance -- I would classify as intellectual poseurs all the news media icons: Murrow, Cronkite, Rather, Woodward and Bernstein, etc. History will remember them, but I don't believe as lovingly as they were remembered just a decade ago.

Now I'm wondering about the role of closer scrutiny as enabled by modern technology. It's now hard to be a poseur because there are so many able-minded people ready and willing to call a spade a spade.

Sontag and her ilk from the 60's enjoyed a long run of protection from reality. But the party is over. Reality is pounding at the door and while many wish to deny or defer, reality will have its way. And the results will not be pretty. There's an ill-wind blowing, and the next quarter century will not be remembered fondly.

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It's normative among the Leftists to prop up pseudo-intellectuals, so long as they toe the party line and give good service when called upon. Notice how quickly they are "dropped" if they convert or become "cranky."

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