Arthur C. Danto

Susan Sontag was, like Oscar Wilde, an aesthetician hero. They both lived by the code of Puccini’s Tosca: “Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore” (I lived for art, I lived for love). In one of her earlier pieces for the then-new New York Review of Books, she classified writers as husbands or lovers—steady as opposed to dangerous, providers of emotional stability in contrast to engines of unpredictable ecstasy. The piece, as I remember it, was about Camus. By her criteria she was herself a lover rather than a wife, addressing dangerous topics like pornography in edgy ways rather than building a systematic critique of aesthetic judgment (Kant or Dewey would be husbands). Her view was that we need an erotics of art, but it was not her style actually to construct such a work, in the genre of a lost text of Aristotle’s (the Erotics, as a companion volume to the Poetics). Rather, she practiced criticism

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