Michel Foucault is famous as one of the 20th-century’s most innovative and wide-ranging thinkers. The qualities that made him one of the most-read and influential theorists of the modern age find full expression in History of Sexuality, the last project Foucault was able to complete before his death in 1984.
Central to Foucault’s appeal is the creativity of his thought. Creative thinking takes many forms – from redefining an issue in a novel way to making unexpected and illuminating connections. Foucault’s particular talent could perhaps best be described as turning questions inside out. In the case of sexuality, for instance, his interpretation of the historical evidence led him to argue that the sexual categories that we are used to (homosexual, lesbian, straight, and so on) are not “natural,” but constructs that are products of the ways in which power and knowledge interact in society.
Such categories, Foucault continues, actually serve to produce the desires they seek to name. And their creation, in turn, is closely linked to the power that society exerts on those who belong to different sexual groups.
Foucault’s ideas – familiar now – were so novel in their time that they proved highly challenging. But to see the world through Foucault’s thought is to see it in a profoundly different and illuminating way – an example of creative thinking at its best.
Ways in to the text Who was Michel Foucault? What does History of Sexuality say? Why does History of Sexuality matter? Section 1: Influences Module 1: The Author and the Historical Context Module 2: Academic Context Module 3: The Problem Module 4: The Author's Contribution Section 2: Ideas Module 5: Main Ideas Module 6: Secondary Ideas Module 7: Achievement Module 8: Place in the Author's Work Section 3: Impact Module 9: The First Responses Module 10: The Evolving Debate Module 11: Impact and Influence Today Module 12: Where Next? Glossary of Terms People Mentioned in the Text Works Cited
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