Susan Sontag's "The Way We Live Now" and AIDS Metaphorics: A Postmodern Approach

Shadi S. Neimneh, Abdullah B. Al-Sheik Hasan, Abdullah F. Al-Badarneh


This article examines the representation of AIDS in a story by Susan Sontag within the social context of conversations held by a group of people about their sick friend and an atmosphere of sexual liberation characteristic of the postmodern era. "The Way We Live Now" (1986) interrogates the condition of postmodernity and engages postmodern artistic techniques to effectively communicate a socio-cultural theme about life in the wake of the AIDS epidemic in the West late in the twentieth century. Lack of depth, consumerism, pluralism, self-referentiality, the hyperreal, and incredulity toward master narratives are the main indicators of this postmodern culture. Exploring the "postmodern" context of the story, this article links its form to its content and concludes that despite the unavoidability of metaphorical thinking about illness (the cultural model), a more practical way of dealing with patients (the bodily model) is better for the sick and those around them. The absence of the sick man in Sontag's story is an indication of the negative role of social voices in ostracizing patients, exacerbating their suffering, and mediating their fragmented life, a fact enhanced by the unmentioned disease in the story, the unidentified patient, and the lack of real support friends can provide. The loss of the materiality of the body is the story's comment on the negative role of the discursive mediation of the diseased body in the context of postmodern culture.


Sontag, “The Way We Live Now,” Cultural Criticism, AIDS, Illness, Fiction, Postmodernism, Body/Culture.

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