Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality—the first volume of which was published in 1976—exerts a vast influence across the humanities and social sciences. However, Foucault’s interest in the history of sexuality began as early as the 1960s, when he taught two courses on the subject. These lectures offer crucial insight into the development of Foucault’s thought yet have remained unpublished until recently.
This book presents Foucault’s lectures on sexuality for the first time in English. In the first series, held at the University of Clermont-Ferrand in 1964, Foucault asks how sexuality comes to be constituted as a scientific body of knowledge within Western culture and why it derived from the analysis of “perversions”—morbidity, homosexuality, fetishism. The subsequent course, held at the experimental university at Vincennes in 1969, shows how Foucault’s theories were reoriented by the events of May 1968; he refocuses on the regulatory nature of the discourse of sexuality and how it serves economic, social, and political ends. Examining creators of political and literary utopias in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from Sade to Fourier to Marcuse, who attempted to integrate “natural” sexualities, including transgressive forms, into social and economic life, Foucault elaborates a double critique of the naturalization and the liberation of sexuality. Together, the lectures span a range of interests, from abnormality to heterotopias to ideology, and they offer an unprecedented glimpse into the evolution of Foucault’s transformative thinking on sexuality.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michel Foucault (1926-1984), a French philosopher, historian, and social theorist, was one of the most important figures in twentieth-century thought.
A Note From the Publisher
Edited by Claude Doron. General Editor: François Ewald. English Series Editor: Bernard E. Harcourt. Translated by Graham Burchell. Foreword by Bernard E. Harcourt. Foucault Lecture Series
"These lectures offer a really important insight into Foucault’s work in the 1960s on the question of sexuality—a topic on which his more famous works come from the 1970s and 1980s. This volume shows how he proposed a study of scientific knowledge about sexuality from biology to psychology, with some explicit engagement with figures who are only discussed obliquely elsewhere. Graham Burchell is the most important translator of Foucault’s work into English, and Anglophone readers remain much in his debt."
--Stuart Elden, author of The Early Foucault
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Thankyou Netgalley for this advanced copy of Sexuality in exchange for an honest review of the book. I really enjoyed Michel Foucault’s book. I found his perspectives very interesting.
Sexuality: The 1964 Clermont-Ferrand and 1969 Vincennes Lectures by Michel Foucault represent the first English translations of these early lectures on sexuality. These would, I think, be interesting even to someone unfamiliar with Foucault's later published work on the subject. But for those who have read all or most of his work these lectures serve to both show his thought processes on sexuality as well as make clearer the methodological connections with his earlier (than the History of Sexuality) groundbreaking work. I always approach introductions/forewards to works like this with some apprehension. They often spend time on their own ideas rather than the theorist at hand or they become little more than a loose historical contextualization. I think the introduction here, as well as the summaries at the end, work very well for these lectures. Ideas are discussed but largely with an eye toward placing Foucault's ideas of the lectures within his personal history. The important historical contextualization is where I think Harcourt excelled. We are reminded of what was and was not part of the discourse at the time(s) as well as what Foucault was responding to and, in hindsight, what he was setting up. I think this foreward will make this more accessible to the casual reader and serve as an important reminder for those familiar with Foucault's work. I had heard a bit about how his thinking on sexuality had evolved, so while this filled many of the gaps for me I think my biggest takeaway was having the opportunity to see how his methodology had both kept many basic aspects while also changing, partly with the topic at hand and partly with his views as history played itself out around him. In other words, while I expected this to make my next reading of his History of Sexuality more nuanced I didn't anticipate the effect this will likely have on my rereadings of his other major works. I would recommend this to any reader who has an interest in Foucault, especially those for whom the History has become a major touchstone of their thought and/or research. I do think that a more casual reader of Foucault will find a lot here of interest though I would suggest having the History relatively fresh in your mind so you can see how his thought evolved from 1964 and 1969 to 1976 and after. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.