History of Sexuality, vol. 1 by Michel Foucault

This post is in the theme “Constructing an identity through media”. Read the first.

September 7, New York: This is one of those books that has hung around in my collection since the first reading. And a good one for it, because my copy is full of notes. Notes of a young mind! Sadly, this book feel victim to a rainstorm. I read it in this condition but I’m afraid this will be its final read.

If only this had happened to my copy of Paper Machine, I could have written a whole thing about it.

I love this book and Michel Foucault in two separate ways. First, let’s be honest: I love this book as a nineteen year old pseudo-intellectual who felt so proud of himself reading lines like: “An entire medico-sexual regime took hold of the family milieu.” Yeah! And perhaps most importantly, who loved telling the ladies he was into Foucault. It was, in this sense, a sort of shibboleth of pseudo-intellectual hooking-it-up.

But I also love Foucault as a reader. The first book of his I read was Discipline and Punish, which for once presented a thesis that was built upon an multiplicity of sources, few of which were academic. He wove works of art and poetry into a contemplative tome about prisons. This was the way I’d always aspired to write academically. By the time I finished college, my best papers were a pastiche of source texts from pop culture to history to tarot cards. But I first read Foucault before I had a professor that would let me write that way. So he represented a great hope for me.

With History of Sexuality, I had another totally different experience. As I struggled to maintain focus enough to follow the polysyllabic logic from page to page, I suddenly realized I completely grokked the theory of power Foucault was presenting. And better yet, I’d seen it elsewhere: the final chapter of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I felt like the smartest little motherfucker on campus. (It was then that I was introduced to The Hedgehog and the Fox.)

To be honest, the first way of loving Foucault persisted long after the second. I would read a book on occasion for pleasure (actually finding pleasure in it) but more and more Foucault, like Baudrillard and Debord and Zizek— I wanted to be a man who identified with these authors. And I was always a sucker for the women whose bookshelves they adorned.

Married now and reading this book, I was content to enjoy just the prose. And you know what? I did immensely.

Buy yourself a beret, an espresso machine, and a copy of The History of Sexuality, volume 1.

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