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Finding Aid for the Susan Sontag papers, ca. 1939-2004
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Processing History
  • Indexing Terms
  • Items Removed from the Collection
  • Items Added to the Collection
  • Related Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Susan Sontag papers
    Date (inclusive): ca. 1939-2004
    Collection number: 612
    Creator: Sontag, Susan, 1933-2004.
    Extent: 264 boxes (132 linear ft.) 67 oversize boxes 1 oversize map folder
    Abstract: Susan Sontag (1933-2004) was an influential and controversial American writer, director, and political activist. She wrote numerous essays, short stories, novels, and non-fiction books. She also wrote and directed films and plays in the United States and abroad. She received honors and awards throughout her life and her works have been translated into over thirty languages. The contents of the Susan Sontag Papers reflect her intelligence, energy, and the seamless integration of her wide-ranging interests in her work and life. In addition to notes, research, and manuscript material related to her writing, theatre, and film projects, the collection includes the following: personal and professional correspondence; journals; schoolwork; teaching material; ephemera and correspondence related to her public appearances, institutional involvement, and political activism; publicity and press; and highlights from her library.
    Language: Finding aid is written in English.
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    Open for research, with following exceptions: Boxes 136 and 137 of journals are restricted until 25 years after Susan Sontag's death (December 28, 2029), though the journals may become available once they are published.
    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Susan Sontag, purchase, 2002 and 2005.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Susan Sontag papers (Collection Number 612). Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

    Biography

    Susan Sontag was an influential and controversial American writer, director, and political activist. She was born in New York City on January 16, 1933, and was raised in Tucson and Los Angeles. In 1949, she graduated from North Hollywood High School and began her undergraduate work at the University of California, Berkeley. After one term, she transferred to the University of Chicago, where she graduated in 1951. She married Philip Rieff in 1950. Their son, David Rieff, was born in 1952. In 1957, she received a Master's degree in philosophy from Harvard (Radcliffe), and studied on a fellowship at St. Anne's College, Oxford, and the University of Paris-Sorbonne until 1958. She divorced Philip Rieff the same year. In 1959, she discontinued her doctoral work and moved to New York City with her son. Sontag worked for Commentary Magazine and held positions as instructor and lecturer at City College of New York, Sarah Lawrence College, and Columbia University until around 1966. During this time, she began writing film and literature reviews, essays, and stories for publication in The Partisan Review and other prominent journals. Throughout her life, her short stories and numerous essays on art, literature, politics, and culture appeared in several publications in the United States and abroad. Most of these works were collected into seven books: Against Interpretation and Other Essays (1966), Styles of Radical Will (1969), I, Etcetera (1978), Under the Sign of Saturn (1980), A Susan Sontag Reader (1982), Where the Stress Falls (2001), and At the Same Time (2007). Sontag published four novels: The Benefactor (1963), Death Kit (1967), The Volcano Lover (1992) and In America (2000), which won the National Book Award. Her non-fiction books explored and challenged aspects of modern society: On Photography (1977), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, Illness as Metaphor (1978), inspired by her own experience with breast cancer, AIDS and Its Metaphors (1989), and Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), on war photography. Sontag wrote and directed four films: Duet for Cannibals (1969), Brother Carl (1971), Promised Lands (1974) and Unguided Tour (1983). She directed several plays, including Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo in 1993; and she wrote several plays including Alice in Bed (1993) and Lady from the Sea (1999), productions of which have been staged across the United States and internationally. As a committed human rights activist she traveled to Cuba, China, Vietnam, and Bosnia. She also served as president of the PEN American Center from 1987-1989. Her works have been translated into over thirty languages. She received honors and awards throughout her life, including the Jerusalem Prize (2001) and the Friedenspreis (2003) for her body of work. She died of cancer on December 28, 2004, and is buried in Montparnasse cemetery in Paris.

    Scope and Content

    The Susan Sontag papers range from ca. 1939-2004. The papers include the following: personal and professional correspondence; childhood drawings; schoolwork; teaching material; journals; notes, research, manuscripts, and other material related to her writing, theatre, and film projects; ephemera and correspondence related to her wide range of public appearances and institutional involvement; reviews, interviews, biography, and publicity material; material related to her political activism (including her work in Bosnia and with PEN); her subject clipping files; research and manuscript material of her former husband, Philip Rieff; artwork and manuscripts by others; and highlights from her library.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Arranged in the following series:
    1. Correspondence
    2. Juvenalia
    3. School Material
      • 1. Junior High School
      • 2. High School
      • 3. Undergraduate
      • 4. Graduate
    4. Teaching Material
    5. Journals
    6. Works by Susan Sontag
      • 1. Early Writing
      • 2. Writings and Other Works
      • 3. Unpublished and/or Unfinished Works
      • 4. Declined Projects
      • 5. Blurbs and Quotes
    7. Public Activity
    8. Political Activity
    9. Bosnia Involvement
      • 1. Correspondence and General Material
      • 2. Gluhic Family Material
      • 3. News Articles and Clippings
    10. PEN Involvement
    11. Material about Susan Sontag
      • 1. Articles and Clippings
      • 2. Interviews
      • 3. Biography and Bibliography
      • 4. Unauthorized Biography
      • 5. Professor Lee Poague Projects
    12. Subject Clipping Files
    13. Material Collected by Susan Sontag
    14. Philip Rieff Material
    15. Manuscripts by Others
    16. Artwork by Others
      • 1. Joseph Cornell Artwork
      • 2. Joseph Cornell Box
      • 3. Keith Haring
      • 4. Annie Leibovitz
      • 5. David Levine
      • 6. Nicole St�phane
    17. Selected Books from the Library of Susan Sontag

    Processing History

    The Susan Sontag Papers came to UCLA in two installments. The first installment, received in 2002, was processed maintaining the organization created by Susan Sontag as it was transferred to UCLA. The following was the organization and arrangement of the first installment:
    1. Correspondence
    2. Bosnia-Correspondence
    3. Gluhic Family
    4. Joseph Cornell Box
    5. Manuscripts by Others
    6. PEN
    7. Public Appearances
    8. Town Hall Speech and Political Statements
    9. Trips and Juries
    10. Writings by Susan Sontag, subdivided into an alphabetical list by title and subject, essays from the 80s and 90s, unpublished and uncollected.
    The second installment, received in 2005, was combined with the first installment, maintaining the organization and arrangement of the 2002 installment as much as possible. Due to the nature of the second installment materials, though, some changes were made to the existing organization and arrangement. The following is the first installment's organization and arrangement with notes next to each series explaining how they were added to and/or changed:
    1. Correspondence (Material added, nearly doubling the series in size.)
    2. Bosnia-Correspondence (Material added. See series #3.)
    3. Gluhic Family (Material added. Combined with series #2. Reorganized into a single new series, Bosnia Involvement, with three subseries.)
    4. Joseph Cornell Box (Moved into new series, Artwork by Others, with six subseries, to include added art by Cornell and other artists.)
    5. Manuscripts by Others (Material added.)
    6. PEN (Material added which called for a complete reorganization of the series. Series renamed PEN Involvement.)
    7. Public Appearances (Material added. See series #9.)
    8. Town Hall Speech and Political Statements (Material added, including new political writings and political writings in series #10. Series renamed Political Activity to more generally describe the series' broad range of material.)
    9. Trips and Juries (Material added. Combined with series #7. Reorganized by year into a single new series, Public Activity.)
    10. Writings by Susan Sontag, subdivided into an alphabetical list by title and subject, essays from the 80s and 90s, unpublished and uncollected. (Material added, including more material for existing titles and material for new titles and early work. Series renamed Works by Susan Sontag to more accurately represent the range of her work, with five subseries. Political writings were moved to Political Activity series.)
    In addition to the above changes, nine new series were created for the second installment of material that did not belong in the existing series: Juvenalia, School Material, Teaching Material, Journals, Material about Susan Sontag, Subject Clipping Files, Material Collected by Susan Sontag, Philip Rieff Material, Selected Books from the Library of Susan Sontag.
    Finally, the number order of the series was changed from alphabetical order to a mixed order primarily determined by the significance of the material.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.

    Subjects

    Sontag, Susan, 1933-2004 --Archives.
    Women intellectuals --United States --Archival resources.
    Women authors, American --United States --Archival resources.

    Items Removed from the Collection

    Copies of items exceeding three, and sometimes two, have been removed. Nonessential items, such as folders or other enclosures with redundant information or no information, have been removed.

    Items Added to the Collection

    Correspondence between Susan Sontag and Thomas C. Leonard. Gift of Thomas C. Leonard, UC Berkeley Professor and University Librarian, 2008.

    Related Material

    Books from the library of Susan Sontag (Collection 892). Available at the Department of Special Collections, UCLA Library.
    SON Susan Sontag Library (Special Collections note searchable in the UCLA Library catalog to find records of a selection of books from Susan Sontag's library, primarily works by Sontag in their various translations)
    Lee Poague. Susan Sontag: an Annotated Bibliography, 1948-1992 (New York: Garland, 2000). Circulating copy held by UCLA Young Research Library; non-circulating, research copy held by UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections.
    Philip Rieff papers at University of Pennsylvania (small faculty papers collection).