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Sjukdom som metafor by Susan Sontag

Sjukdom som metafor (original 1978; edition 2001)

by Susan Sontag

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Title:Sjukdom som metafor
Authors:Susan Sontag
Info:[Stockholm] : Natur och Kultur, 2001.
Collections:Your library

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Illness as Metaphor by Susan Sontag (Author) (1978)


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Outstanding work of criticism and history, one loomed over by the coming AIDS epidemic that started a few years after publication.

When the causes and mechanism of disease are mysterious or unknown, metaphoric meaning rushes in to fill the gap. TB (and later, cancer) filled that role for literature and culture at large, and Sontag gets a lot of mileage from tracking depictions of the two, and how they diverge. Granted, by the time Sontag was writing, cancer was knowable enough that its metaphoric power was failing outside of the generic references to uncontrollable, malignant growth. But soon afterwards, the AIDS epidemic would rise up and prove the subject of endless moralizing by all sides. Sontag was more correct than even she could know. ( )
  gregorybrown | Oct 18, 2015 |
Sontag's long essay on the metaphors associated with disease is both necessary and thought-provoking. With a focus on TB and cancer, Sontag presents the developmental history of metaphoric associations related to disease, discussing the ways in which these metaphors have evolved and controlled various discussions over the years. Her careful look at inaccuracies and comparisons, along with her clear presentations of metaphors (and related themes) is smart and nuanced, particularly when she looks into the clusters of words used in association with the diseases (ie. military language, language of punishment/justice, etc.) and when she expands on the mindsets that contribute to such discussions (ie. romanticism, paranoia, fear, etc.).

For me, the one drawback to her discussion is that I'd like to see more of a discussion of how these metaphors and approaches have affected not only our language, but the people who are personally affected/infected and/or working with the diseases in question.

Overall, though, this is a straightforward and intelligent look at disease and metaphor, and the ways in which our popular understandings of disease have developed (often faultily). Well worth the time, and highly recommended. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Nov 25, 2012 |
Illness as metaphor is a long essay by Susan Sontag about the way we write and think about TB and cancer. The essay is extremely well-researched, citing many instances of the use of these two diseases in metaphorical sense. With references to earlier diseases and epidemics, such as the Plague, Sontag argues that the way we talk about cancer can be explained by reviewing the way people used to talk about TB, before its mystery was solved. Once the mystery, viz. its cause, is discovered, fear dissipates and the disease is brought back to human proportions. Cancer, the cause of which is still unknown, is still largely seen as a great enemy, shrouded in mystery. The comparison and description works very well on the level of the disease and its effect on people, but the final section, section 9, is much less successful. In this section Sontag tries to stretch the metaphor to express the state of the social order or politics. This section seems much less well researched, and quite ineffective. ( )
  edwinbcn | Jan 2, 2012 |
90 pages of brillance.
  mdstarr | Sep 11, 2011 |
Sontag, a cancer survivor at the time, wrote this book to explore and elucidate the metaphors used to describe serious illnesses like cancer and tuberculosis. Sontag argues that the metaphors and mythology created around these diseases make them seem evil and mysterious and very much like invincible predators, and hence sometimes prevent people from believing in conventional treatment to cure them. In addition, since cancer is seen as obscene, repugnant to the senses, and ill-omened, the person suffering from it is seen as morally, if not literally, contagious. Cancer occupies the spot reserved for TB in the past as a shameful disease meaning imminent death, but unlike TB, which was seen as a more ethereal, and metaphorically, a disease of the soul, cancer is definitely a disease of the body, and many times of its more shameful parts like colon or rectum. Both TB and cancer have been seen as diseases of passion- TB as a result of too much of it, and cancer as a result of too little.
Sontag argues that patients are hardly helped by seeing and hearing all possible evils compared to cancer, and hopes that with advances in the treatment cancer the metaphors will become obsolete.

An interesting book, and since written before the times of AIDS very true about the place cancer and TB have occupied in our mythology. Maybe a bit too repetitious. I did not realize how many famous people suffered from and died of tuberculosis. ( )
  Niecierpek | May 12, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sontag, SusanAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
AMazIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bruna, DickCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dürere, AlbrechtCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grasman, GerardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Huth, DorrisDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kersten, KarinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nasser, MurielCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paloméra, Marie-France deTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schøning, GreteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stene-Johansen, KnutIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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for Robert Silvers
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Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This LT work is Susan Sontag's 1977/78 book, Illness as Metaphor. Please do not combine it with the omnibus edition, Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors. Thank you

"Illness as Metaphor first appeared in an earlier version, in The New York Review of Books, vol. XXIV, Nos. 21 & 22 (January 26, 1978); Vol. XXV, No. 2 (February 23, 1978)." T.p. verso
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374520739, Paperback)

This book was originally published in 1977 and the first edition in paperback by this publisher occurred in 1988. It is about being "unwell" as opposed to being healthy. For example (page 7) the author pleads (because of the fantasies concocted around cancer) for cancer patients "not to be told the truth but rather to rectify the conception of the disease, to de-mythicize (sic) it." She contends that illness is not a metaphor, and the most truthful way of regarding illness - and the healthiest way of being ill - is to resist such metaphoric thinking.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:21 -0400)

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