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Feast of ExcessA Cultural History of the New Sensibility$
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George Cotkin

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190218478

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190218478.001.0001

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Naming the New

Naming the New

Susan Sontag 1964

Chapter:
(p.185) { 13 } Naming the New
Source:
Feast of Excess
Author(s):

George Cotkin

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190218478.003.0015

This chapter discusses how Sontag, along with Tom Wolfe, described the change in American culture and called it “the New Sensibility.” For Sontag, it was largely about surface, a refusal to overinterpret; pluralism and pleasure; and above all liberation from tradition. She wrote about the central role of a camp sensibility (predicated upon excess and sensual surfaces) in this cultural turn. Sontag also rejected the traditional divide between high and low culture in essays that would be collected in her book Against Interpretation. Wolfe, in subject and style, celebrated the New Sensibility, finding it in cars, demolition derbies, and celebrity. His writing style, with its heated prose and proliferating punctuation, captured the excess and speed of this new cultural style. The chapter also examines performance artists working in the new style, focusing on Carolee Schneemann’s Meat Joy, which combined bodily movement, sexual play, and food products in a celebration of liberation, for both performers and audience.

Keywords:   Susan Sontag, Tom Wolfe, Carolee Schneemann, camp, Against Interpretation

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