Department or Program


Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Yoon Sun Lee


Susan Sontag (1933-2004) is mostly known as a 20th Century New York intellectual, as a political activist, and – to both her benefit and her disadvantage – as an emblem of a certain avant-garde “cool.” In part due to the overwhelming status of her early essays, most notably “Against Interpretation” (1966) and “Notes on Camp” (1964), her work as a fiction writer – which she herself always maintained was her first life, her primary intellectual activity – has not received significant attention in the critical discourse. These fragments engage with various questions incited by her 1992 novel, The Volcano Lover, concerning the texture of narrative voice, historicity and referentiality, and the simultaneous deferral and satisfaction of desire. The novel is approached as a stage for the exploration of concerns raised and developed in the greater body of Sontag’s work, and an argument is made for the complexity and worthiness of her fiction.