Illness As Metaphor


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Feb 24, Carolyn rated it it was ok. Herein, Sontag presents an excising polemic on the use of cancer and tuberculosis as metaphors of evil in respectively the Romantic and industrialized eras of modern society. Unfortunately, this diatribe is neglectful of non-Western cultures and carries a certain sense of an overly-personal motive.

Sontag grasps desperately at every little data point in history suggesting at her thesis. As a result, the author repeatedly rehashes concepts with a frequency that is tiring for a mere page nove Herein, Sontag presents an excising polemic on the use of cancer and tuberculosis as metaphors of evil in respectively the Romantic and industrialized eras of modern society.

As a result, the author repeatedly rehashes concepts with a frequency that is tiring for a mere page novelette. Furthermore, Illness as Metaphor fails to consider an effective counter-argument; i. While this work certainly highlights the apt intellectitude of its writer, it falls short of a thorough development of the issues it presents. A fascinating central concept, but its presentation is sadly pallid. View all 4 comments. Mar 14, Korri rated it liked it Shelves: body , health-disease-medicine. But that's only a part of her argument and the most developed part at that.

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The part about using illness as a metaphor in society ex: National Socialism calling Jews a cancer felt sort of tacked on at the end without deep engagement. Jul 10, Marija rated it it was amazing. Although a progression from pure psychological prejudgment to accurate scientific improvement in cancer treatment has certainly been made since , this book retains its topicality.

The study exposes insightful analogy of two different illnesses, exploring the boundaries of their broader cultural and historical frame. In the same time, it evokes new perspectives on perception and understanding of those fatal conditions through questioning already established metaphorical thinking. Susan Sontag succeeded in providing a critical approach to social norms based on preconceived beliefs and examined certain social values deeply rooted in human subconsciousness.

Shelves: history , essays , art , health , criticism.


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I reread this for first time since s in the middle of my own challenges last year. Sontag is clear in writing about health speech, or ill health comparisons. God bless and keep her. Highly recommended. Jan 31, Michelle rated it liked it Shelves: non-fiction. Sontag brings up some valid points about the way we regard diseases, especially tuberculosis and cancer.

She dives deep into how writers often romanticize TB but dispa 3. She dives deep into how writers often romanticize TB but disparage cancer, and of how those two compare and contrast. I found myself heavily agreeing with her when she mentioned how often villains in literature or in whatever fictionalized medium, really were portrayed to have some type of illness, as if the disease they're afflicted with were a symptom of their moral deficiency.

It's true that we often associate cancer with death due to its fatalistic nature at least when it was first presented , ineluctable again, when first presented because of the mystery behind its cause. Sure, we use cancer and other illnesses as a metaphor a lot, but it's such a destructive force. I don't advocate for a total abolition of its figurative use since I believe that anything can be used as a metaphor; however, I do understand wanting to remove the stigma.

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Is this perhaps a little dated now that research has proven that cancer is not an effect of character, or can we still not separate the disease from the person? I admit that it's extremely difficult not to think of the clock ticking when someone mentions their battle against cancer and yes, I realize that Sontag takes issue with its militaristic associations , but does anyone still regard it as a punishment? Actually, I can think of some who might want to have a word about that.

On the negative end, Sontag makes some pretty big presumptions. I don't think think her conclusions are entirely cogent.

Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors

As much as her arguments are, as I conceded, valid, I'm not convinced enough. I'd elaborate on this, but I'm a lousy reviewer. Jul 19, Gui Freitas rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. Sontag makes a tightly packed argument about the ways in which illness has simultaneously been romanticised and placed on the patient making them the cause of their own illness, when they should be the seen as the victim.

Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors : Susan Sontag :

She uses the case studies of Tuberculosis and Cancer to argue the different ways in which they have been seen as illnesses which certain personality types are prone to. She ties this nicely to the way in which they are or in the case of TB were so mythologized being due to th Sontag makes a tightly packed argument about the ways in which illness has simultaneously been romanticised and placed on the patient making them the cause of their own illness, when they should be the seen as the victim.

She ties this nicely to the way in which they are or in the case of TB were so mythologized being due to the unawareness of the causes and proper, complete treatment; she further demonstrates her point by arguing that syphilis, a disease contemporaneous with TB, did not have any specific mythology around it or its victims as people knew who they were and how they contracted it.

The second half of the book details the idea of illness as a metaphor in the political and social spheres. We have probably all heard or read of 'x' being described as 'cancerous'. She details the potential problems this has, including offering an admission of her own difficulties with this when she famously called the 'white race' a 'cancer'. Her discussion of illness as metaphors highlights, as she herself argues, the shallowness of our culture's view of death, as well as a helpless romanticism which is really the secular myth of self-transcendence.

An engaging and thought-provoking read. Dec 24, Mike rated it really liked it Shelves: good-books-have-bad-covers , nonfiction , medical-and-diseases , essays , good-nonfiction. Maybe I don't like this quite as much as I liked Regarding the Pain of Others because I know a little more about the topic. I know basically nothing about photography, but I know a little more about portrayals of diseases, even if I'm not exactly an expert.


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  8. I kind of wish Sontag had taken a harder stance on some of the issues she brings up - most of the essay is spent documenting evidence in a neutral tone, and I would've liked a little more time explaining what that evidence implies. I also wish she had defined 'insanity', which she seems to use as a vague catch-all for any mental illness that results in people being separated from society. It just doesn't betray a very good understanding of how mental illness actually works. But apart from that, this was very interesting.

    This is an essay about the way we talk and think about disease, in subtle ways that I hadn't really thought about before. The essay is a bit dated, but much of it still applies to how we talk about diseases like AIDS, Ebola, and the current Zika outbreak. Sontag brings up a lot of interesting points about how illnesses shape culture and how this affects how we treat people with illnesses. The essay is, to some extent, an apology for saying that, "the white race is a cancer upon the human race," not in the part where she criticizes white people, but in the part where she uses cancer as a metaphor for something generically bad.

    It's quite an effective apology - having read the essay, I have a good understanding of why she regrets saying that and why it has a potentially negative impact on society, even if she doesn't dwell on her own actions too much. This wasn't as much of a revelation to me as Regarding the Pain of Others was, but it's still an interesting read. I'd recommend it for writers in general - thinking about these issues is a good exercise in learning about how the minute details of language can have a big impact.

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    Jul 22, Opal McCarthy rated it really liked it. It was both a way of describing sensuality and promoting the claims of passion and a way of describing repression and advertising the claims of sublimation' Cancer is a metaphor for what is most ferociously energetic; and these energies constitute the ultimate insult to natural order' On cancer and the 'body politic': 'Before the city was understood as, literally, a cancer-causing carcinogenic environment, the city was seen as itself a cancer - a place of abnormal, unnatural growth, and extravagant, devouring, armored passions' Nov 04, Richard DiCicco rated it really liked it.

    This is the first book by Susan Sontag that I've read, and I very much enjoyed it. Previously, I had read her shorter essays and excerpts, but Illness as Metaphor provides much deeper insight into how she thought about politics, literature, and morality. As a book about medicine, it details the many, many ways that disease and its treatment have been misrepresented by allegory and metaphor.

    It comes off as a demythologizing letter to a generation still frightened by the associated and unfounded This is the first book by Susan Sontag that I've read, and I very much enjoyed it.

    It comes off as a demythologizing letter to a generation still frightened by the associated and unfounded myths of cancer. However, I'm an art historian, not a doctor. So, for me, I was more interested in Sontag's cultural critique, which is thoroughly researched and fascinating in its connections. Sontag draws threads from 19th century literature to 18th century philosophy and finally 20th century totalitarianism, finding disease metaphors seemingly everywhere. The consistency and perniciousness of these ideas and their application to social ills was surprising. I often reread sections about cancer's myths--of characters in fiction who receive cancer as a punishment for failure or timidness, and who lash out in rage or passion as a cure--and realized how much modern fiction still draws from these metaphors.

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