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Collectivity in Trouble

Writing on HIV/AIDS by Susan Sontag and Sarah Schulman

Paula Treichler

Pages 245 - 270


The HIV/AIDS epidemic has generated literary and artistic works on a scale not far short of that produced by the two world wars. Like war, the epidemic has created alliances, friendships, sexual connections, political and emotional bonding, communities of suffering and death, collaborative art and science, and collective action. In this essay, I explore notions of collectivity and related social formations in the AIDS writings of two American women: Susan Sontag and Sarah Schulman. I argue that their contrasting fictional representations of collectivity and different experiences of collectivity as writers illuminate several problematic aspects of collectivity as a concept and help explain why it remains elusive and often fragile in the realities of everyday life.


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