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The History of Sexuality: An Introduction

The History of Sexuality: An Introduction

3.7 8
by Michel Foucault, Robert Hurley (Translator)

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Michel Foucult offers an iconoclastic exploration of why we feel compelled to continually analyze and discuss sex, and of the social and mental mechanisms of power that cause us to direct the questions of what we are to what our sexuality is.


Michel Foucult offers an iconoclastic exploration of why we feel compelled to continually analyze and discuss sex, and of the social and mental mechanisms of power that cause us to direct the questions of what we are to what our sexuality is.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Care of the Self shares with the writings on which it draws the characteristic of being carefully constructed, exquisitely reasoned and internally cogent." — The New York Times Book Review

"Foucault is a thinker from whose writing one can infer lessons for our modern lives and dilemmas."— Boston Globe

Library Journal
In this absorbing study, Foucault discusses the attitudes toward sexuality prevalent in Hellenistic Greece and Rome. Classical Greece's view of sex as a means of obtaining individual pleasure faced increasing challenge in Hellenistic times. The love of boys now assumed more muted tones, often finding itself at odds with the highly valued ideals of marital fidelity and virginity. The Stoic approach, as Foucault demonstrates in a nuanced discussion, both resembled and differed from the asceticism of Christianity. This volume, perhaps the last that will appear of the author's posthumous History of Sexuality ( LJ 10/15/78; 12/1/85) manifests Foucault's powerful analytic ability. Though at times it draws very broad conclusions from the discussion of relatively few texts, it is still highly recommended. David Gordon, Social Philosophy & Policy Ctr., Bowling Green State Univ., Ohio

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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5.18(w) x 7.92(h) x 0.49(d)

Meet the Author

Michel Foucault was born in Poitiers, France, in 1926. He lecturerd in universities throughout the world; served as director at the Institut Francais in Hamburg, Germany and at the Institut de Philosophi at the Faculte des Lettres in the University of Clermont-Ferrand, France; and wrote frequently for French newspapers and reviews. At the time of his death in 1984, he held a chair at France's most prestigious institutions, the College de France.

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The History of Sexuality 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have to disagree with the first reviewer's assesment. This volume is an introduction to a historical survey of "sexuality"; a good introduction in that it is sweeping, and magnanimous in it's theoretical implications. I'll just say the books premise turned me on; and I think Foucault adequately explains how the repressive hypothesis cannot account for the implosion of discourse on the subject of sexuality since its 18th, 19th century emergence in the fields of medicine, demography, and psychoanalysis. The deployment of sexuality, as Foucault points out, goes hand in hand with this "will to knowledge." If I may respond to the previous reviewer on one point: the idea is that power did not acknowledged the "masturbating child," before the 18th, an 19th centuries when a score of literature was published on how to curb his "unnatural" behavior. As a result it became increasingly "naturalized," and propelled a proliferation of discourse on the "masturbating child," so that we may now safely say we are at the point when power itself acknowledges the "masturbating child," without disavowing his behavior; this signals a significant shift in the strategy of power that Foucault is talking about in this brilliant, thought provoking introduction. But please read this book and not my lame account. His writing is very accessible, and his enthusiasm for the subject is infectious.
Andromeda_Nox More than 1 year ago
Since no one else has reviewed this, I figured I owed it to any other college and grad students to provide an overview in case they have to read it. This book started out with potential. After reading the title, I hoped he'd provide a comprehensive study of legal cases, medical practices, and average Victorian sex lives. Unfortunately, "history" is a misnomer, because Foucault never specifies when particular events occurred. Instead, he makes general statements such as, "Religious confessions became part of medical treatment for patients with sexual disorders in the nineteenth century." But he never provides dates or specific examples. Where is the documentation, the medical records, the testimony? Nonexistent. I really wondered if he'd actually bothered to read any books prior to writing his, because there are no references or footnotes in the text to show that he did research. If I practiced this kind of "scholarship" as a grad student, I would receive an F and a citation for plagiarism. Does becoming a professional scholar mean that one can disregard the rules of proper citations? Apparently so.

Furthermore, Foucault's ideas were unclear. I know, it's theory; it's supposed to be confusing. But he failed to fully convince me that Victorians did not want to repress sex. He claims that parents, doctors, and schoolteachers tried to repress children from masturbating because they knew their efforts would fail, and they wanted this to happen. How does that make any sense? Foucault explains that it's because they wanted the children's sexual urges to drive them towards marriage, but a young child can't get married, at least not for several years.

Overall, I was disappointed in this book. It was poorly researched and the very subject, "sex", is rarely named within the text (I guess this was a trick to show that sex couldn't be spoken about in direct terms in Victorian society. Cute). One reviewer said that Foucault on sex was as erotic as a discarded Coke can. If I have to read a scholarly book, it should be interesting and display good methods of scholarship. This book didn't.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Foucault doesnt need to cite sources. Foucault is the source.