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The first part attempts to situate and assess HS1. Thus, HS1 constitutes a turning point in Foucault's thought: it presents Foucault's mature articulation of disciplinary power while also opening up new analyses of biopower and bringing certain ethical problematics to the fore. As such, its reframing of sexuality has been profoundly inspirational for thinkers and activists alike.

The much shorter second part briefly presents HS1's argument through analyses of each part and chapter. The full text of this article hosted at iucr. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Chapter 6. Richard A. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access. Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article.

Summary The History of Sexuality , volume 1 HS1 : An Introduction may be the most widely read of Foucault's texts in English for many, to be sure, it is the first book by Foucault that one is likely to read.

A Companion to Foucault. Related Information. Unable to claim aristocratic "blood," this group used sex to affirm and defend its position in society. It accomplished this in several ways. Morally, the bourgeoisie embraced a conservative view of sex that distinguished them from the carefree aristocrats and the "degenerate" poor. Socially, they insisted on marriages that would not only preserve socioeconomic status but also protect potential children from hereditary diseases.

Only later, around the turn of the 20th century, did this come to be seen as a wholesale repression of sex. Foucault concludes Volume 1 with reflections on the broader interplay of sex and power. Sex, he says, has been a pivotal area in the modern transformation of power. For millennia, power—and specifically sovereignty—consisted largely in the ability "to decide life and death.

Even the death penalty, once treated as a manifestation of the sovereign right to take away life, is now couched in terms of protecting the rest of the population from dangerous criminals. As "bio-power"—power over people as organisms—became increasingly prominent, sex itself was invested with new importance. It became a culture-wide preoccupation, subject to endless moral and psychological theorizing.

History of Sexuality | Study Guide

It is in this sense, again, that Foucault can say sexuality was "deployed": it was not repressed, nor channeled exactly, but upheld as a "mirage" capable of distracting individuals to the point of obsession. Thus, attempts to "liberate" sexuality represent a misunderstanding of its role in power relations: "We must not think that by saying yes to sex, one says no to power. Foucault 's alternative history of Western sexuality has its roots in the medieval Church.

The reason Foucault confidently identifies the early 13th century as a turning point in his tale is that, in , the Catholic Church held one of its most important ecumenical councils. These councils were great meetings overseen by the pope, during which bishops, abbots, and other high-ranking clergy debated changes in Church policy. As a result of the council's deliberations, the pope would issue decrees announcing new rules and judgments, along with clarifications on controversial points of doctrine.

The council held in , known as the "Fourth Lateran Council" or "Lateran IV," covered a huge range of doctrinal and political issues, from the crusades to the proper wording of the Nicene Creed. Of greatest interest to Foucault, however, is the papal edict obligating Christians to confess their sins annually. This is not quite the birth of the Catholic sacrament of confession: in some parts of the Christian world, a similar practice had been carried out for centuries.

It is, however, the first formal, Church-wide pronouncement making regular confession a requirement for the faithful. As confession formally, the Sacrament of Penance became an ongoing part of religious life in Western Europe, literature was developed to instruct both penitents and priests. Priests were taught how to help their penitents identify and root out various sins, including sexual ones. Penitents themselves, meanwhile, were urged to prepare for the sacrament through an "examination of conscience. The manuals written to assist with this task addressed every subject of moral interest to Christians, including sex.

Thus, Foucault claims, as people went over their sins in greater depth, frequency, and formality, they wound up talking and writing about sex more frequently than ever. The rise of modern medicine went hand in hand with the development of what Foucault calls the scientia sexualis.

On this topic, Foucault cites primarily French medical authorities whose work may not be well known to English speakers. An exception—an internationally known figure about whom Foucault says a great deal—is the neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot — Best known today for his work on such illnesses as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease, Charcot has a complicated legacy among historians of medicine. This is partly because, in addition to researching and proposing treatments for those disorders, he was intensely interested in the treatment of an illness known as hysteria.

Today, the word hysterical is sometimes used to mean "extremely funny": "I thought her standup set was just hysterical. The origin of both words, as Foucault hints but does not fully explain, is medical: hystera is Ancient Greek for "womb," which is why the surgical removal of the womb is called a hysterectomy. From the Middle Ages onward, physicians had posited a connection between the supposed emotionality of women and the presence of a womb.

The History of Sexuality, Volume 1 | McNally Jackson Books

King Lear, the titular character of English playwright William Shakespeare's — play King Lear —06 , refers to his madness as hysterica passio. This shows that by the 17th century, this stereotypical linking of wombs and madness had already "escaped" from medical discourse and entered popular culture. In the 18th and especially the 19th centuries, doctors aimed to treat mental illness in women by performing procedures on the womb and other reproductive organs. To be "hysterical" under these conditions was a much more serious matter than the word might imply today. Charcot was one of the physicians working on hysteria, which was then widely perceived as an important but mysterious medical issue.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Charcot did not believe hysteria was exclusive to women—he treated male patients with similar symptoms. Nonetheless, in lending his professional credibility to hysteria and the quest to treat it, he became a key figure in what Foucault calls the "hysterization of women's bodies," the medical establishment's long tendency to view women as physiologically wired for emotionality and mental illness because of their sex. The great attention paid by Charcot's peers to the problem of hysteria shows how theories of sexuality in medicine came to influence culture well beyond the hospital walls.

The rise of psychoanalysis forms the other "endpoint" in the period under study in this volume.

Michel Foucault-"The History of Sexuality Vol.1" (Part 1)

Perhaps the best-known figure in this regard is Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud — , often described as the "founding father of psychoanalysis. Instead of using hypnosis and other quasi-medical techniques, Freud asked his patients to talk through their thoughts and feelings in great detail. In doing so, he hoped to get at the neuroses—the underlying anxieties and obsessions—that he felt were at the root of hysteria and other recognized mental illnesses of his time. The stereotypical scene of a patient lying on a couch comes from the psychoanalytic tradition, which encouraged patients to hunt through repressed memories as a clue to their present troubles.

Like confession and hypnosis before it, the psychoanalytic technique had the net effect of encouraging people to open up about their sexual histories, their urges and desires. It thus constituted another installment in the history of sexual discourse—and more proof that sex was far from unilaterally "repressed" during the Victorian era. Freud is a central figure for Foucault not only because he pioneered the practice of psychoanalysis, but also because he forms a turning point in the history of psychology.

For much of the 19th century, psychology was a controversial and loosely organized discipline whose credibility was challenged by philosophers, scientists, and religious authorities. At the turn of the century, however, Freud and his students helped to propel psychology to greater respectability.


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Their work spurred the acceptance of psychological treatments by the middle and upper classes and, importantly for Foucault, gave people yet another vocabulary for discussing sex and sexuality. In Volume 2 Foucault will take a seemingly abrupt turn from modern to ancient history. It can be helpful, before turning the page and jumping back 2, years, to review the key arguments of Volume 1.

Perhaps the central contention of this volume is that sexuality is a social construct.

The History of Sexuality. Volume One: An Introduction

Although sex and sexual behavior are certainly older than civilization, sexuality is more than a value-neutral way of describing sex. It is a cultural way of thinking about sex in which certain urges and inclinations are deemed to be deeply embedded in one's personality. Because sexuality is considered such a deep part of a person's psychological makeup, modern Western culture tends to view it as a source of essential truths not just about what a person wants , but who that person is.