For new readers of Susan Sontag’s work, it may be strange to think about something as practical as the history of HIV/AIDS in terms of language and metaphor; and yet, strangely we are placed in a position this semester to do exactly that. You may be wondering why we might have to consider this issue from the perspective of random citizens getting an education in a community college in Pittsburgh? What could we possibly contribute to the conversation? Your first reading asked you to try and complete one full reading of the essay with the intent of getting through it despite not being familiar with some of the references in the text. If you did know some of them, that’s great! I’d like our second reading of Sontag’s essay to have two goals:
- Complete the reading once again –or for the first time ;-)– . As you do this, choose one of the references Sontag makes, maybe it’s a book she talks about or a poem she references. Do your best to do a quick internet search to see what you find about that reference. Write this in your notes somewhere and keep it. Later on in the semester I’ll show you how to use these references in putting together a paper that is your own creation and that still answers the original essay question. Don’t spend too much time (unless you get really interested) on this part. I just want you to get some quick experience picking out a random reference and look up very quickly any information you can find on it.
- Define Sontag’s project. We’re defining a project this semester as “the central aspect” of a writer’s text, in this case Sontag’s essay. This can be addressed by asking yourself what you think the writer’s goal is in his/her work. While you read the essay this second time, make a list in your notes of the possible goals that Sontag might have for her essay. What is she trying to accomplish?
When you’ve thought about all of this and when you’ve watched the Frontline documentary, please write a short paragraph (approximately 200-300 words) in which you explore (that is, take a guess) at what Sontag is trying to accomplish? How might her project be connected to the history you learned about in the Frontline documentary, The Age of AIDS.
Please share your response with the class by clicking on “leave a comment” at the top of this post. All comments should be submitted by 11:59pm EST on Tuesday, January 22nd.
Some Tips for Posting
- It’s sometimes easier to write your responses on your word processor and then copy and paste your response in the reply box. Technology is a notoriously erratic luxury. Sometimes connections get lost or something unforeseen causes a computer to shut down and all unsaved work is lost.
- Use spell check. It’s not perfect and it’s no substitute for proofreading. But it does catch some obvious errors that can escape us because of the excitement our ideas provide for us.
- Remember that this is a public blog. You are representing yourself to anyone who happens to read this. Please be mindful of this in your discussions with others. I will moderate these posts as much as possible with a zero tolerance for disrespectful behavior and/or unnecessary profanity.
- Have fun. It’s interesting to exchange ideas with classmates and to see how they are thinking about a similar concern.