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On the Way to Self-actualization

Author LiuYing
Tutor ZuoZuo
School Shandong Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Susan Sontag In America self-actualization
Type Master's thesis
Year 2010
Downloads 172
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Susan Sontag (1933-2004) is an influential critic and literary theorist of contemporary America. This passionate lady shows a wide range of interests in not only literature, but also philosophy and politics. The uniqueness and self-consciousness that she displays in her literary creation and criticism bring her one laurel after another. Together with Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) and Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), she is considered as the most important female intellectual in western literary world.Published in the year of 1999, the last novel of Susan Sontag, In America, won the National Book Award in 2000. This historical fiction is based upon the true story of the Polish actress Helena Modjeska—with a new name as Maryna Zalezowska in the book, her arrival in California in 1876, and her ascendancy to American stardom. This novel is an exhilarating journey into the past, freighted with dazzling details, endless inquisition and historical imagination. Sontag uses elegant language, inventive dialogue, impassioned monologue, and diary entries to lure readers gradually into the fascinating historical journey of a woman who attains fame and success.This thesis aims at establishing the connection between Susan Sontag, the writer and her protagonist in the novel In America. Through analyzing the process of self-actualization in the leading character of the novel with the help of theory of self-actualization in humanistic psychology, the thesis attempts to probe into Sontag’s view of life and view of self.The whole thesis is composed of three chapters in addition to the introductory and concluding parts.The introductory part makes a brief review of the literary figure Susan Sontag and her novel In America. In addition, it summarizes the domestic and overseas research on the writer and the novel, and clarifies the theoretical support and the purpose of this research.Chapter one probes into Susan Sontag, the writer’s life pursuit and her process of self-actualization. Whether in her personal life or in her literary creation, Sontag strives for an ideal self, challenging social convention while embracing reality and truth without any prejudice. She is a representative of a self-actualized woman.Chapter two elaborates on the journey to self-actualization of the protagonist in the novel In America. The author of this thesis tries to expose heroine Maryna’s quest for the ideal self and three periods of her journey on the path to self-actualization, respectively in Poland, in Utopian Community and on American stage.Chapter three tries to establish a connection between the writer and her protagonist, that is, both of them are endowed with the spirit of using art as a means to self-actualization, and both of them devote their entire life to seeking for art perfection. Maryna’s life best echoes Sontag’s pursuit of self-actualization.This thesis ends with the conclusion that in both Susan Sontag’s life journey and her novel In America, self-actualization is an important motif. Through the life-long search, Sontag keeps striving for actualizing the ideal self through her literary creation. She sets for her readers the ideal image of a self-actualized individual by her unparalleled talents and her devotion to arts.

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