“The working hypothesis is this: it is true that sexuality as experience is obviously not independent of codes and systems of prohibitions, but it needs to be recalled straightaway that these codes are astonishingly stable, continuous, and slow to change. It needs to be recalled also that the way in which they are observed or transgressed also seems to be very stable and very repetitive. On the other hand, the point of historical mobility, what no doubt change most often, what are most fragile, are modalities of experience.”
- Michel Foucault
In 1981 Foucault delivered a course of lectures which marked a decisive reorientation in his thought and of the project of a History of Sexuality outlined in 1976. It was in these lectures that arts of living became the focal point around which he developed a new way of thinking about subjectivity. It was also the moment when Foucault problematized a conception of ethics understood as the patient elaboration of a relationship of self to self. It was the study of the sexual experience of the Ancients that made these new conceptual developments possible. Within this framework, Foucault examined medical writings, tracts on marriage, the philosophy of love, or the prognostic value of erotic dreams, for evidence of a structuration of the subject in his relationship to pleasures (aphrodisia) which is prior to the modern construction of a science of sexuality as well as to the Christian fearful obsession with the flesh. What was actually at stake was establishing that the imposition of a scrupulous and interminable hermeneutics of desire was the invention of Christianity. But to do this it was necessary to establish the irreducible specificity of ancient techniques of self.In these lectures, which clearly foreshadow The Use of Pleasures and The Care of Self, Foucault examines the Greek subordination of gender differences to the primacy of an opposition between active and passive, as well as the development by Imperial stoicism of a model of the conjugal bond which advocates unwavering fidelity and shared feelings and which leads to the disqualification of homosexuality.
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“[Foucault] must be reckoned with.” – The New York Times Book Review
PRAISE FOR FOUCAULT’S WORKS IN THE LECTURES AT THE COLLÈGE DE FRANCE SERIES
“Ideas spark off nearly every page... The words may have been spoken in [the 1970s] but they seem as alive and relevant as if they had been written yesterday” – Bookforum
“Foucault is quite central to our sense of where we are...” – The Nation
“[Foucault] has an alert and sensitive mind that can ignore the familiar surfaces of established intellectual codes and ask new questions... [He] gives dramatic quality to the movement of culture.” –The New York Review of Books
“These lectures offer important insights into the evolution of the primary focus of Foucault’s later work – the relationship between power and knowledge.” – Library JournalAbout the Author:
Michel Foucault, acknowledged as the pre-eminent philosopher of France in the 1970s and 1980s, continues to have enormous impact throughout the world in many disciplines.
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