Sontag Regarding the Pain of Others Chapter One

I won’t be in class on Monday, so here is an outline of Sontag’s first chapter of Regrading the Pain of Others.

Sontag begins this chapter by looking at Virginia Woolf’s The Three Guineas

-Woolf first argues that first there is no “we” but a distinctly male and female approach to war

-Males are in favor and enjoy the brutality of war, while women don’t

-Woolf asked in this letter to an unidentified male lawyer if when they look at the same photos from the Spanish civil war if they feel the same thing

-Woolf states that both her female and his male opinion regard war in the same disgust and both genders resolve that there must be a way to end war

-The shock of the first world war took hold of Europeans who were utterly amazed that they brought such destruction unto themselves.

– This lead to a climate of antiwar sentiments, and caused authors and artists to use the horrors of war to help prevent another war of this caliber.

Sontag uses The Three Guineas to evaluate how images that capture the brutalities of war impacted people before the begging of WWII.

-When we see a photo of brutality we can alter the caption to mean whatever we want

-Franco argued that he never committed such atrocities and that it was the Basques that destroyed Guernica by placing sticks of dynamite in the sewers, later he said it was by dropping bombs that were manufactured in Basque territory

-Sontag addresses that for a long time people believed that if they expose the true horrors of war to the masses, that it would cause an end of war

-However, Sontag addresses that three years before Woolf published three guineas, Ernst Friedrich published a photo book called (War Against War!) which uses photography as shock therapy. It was so unapologetic in the brutality of war that it was banned in cities across Germany for censorship. In 1838 Able Gance a french director created a film that showed closeups of faces mutilated by war, the film ends in a military cemetery where the deranged war veteran states that “your sacrifices were in vain”. Still despite these efforts to bring the horrors of war to people, just a year after Woolf and Gance’s anti-war pieces the war came.


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