The Routledge Guidebook to Foucault's The History of Sexuality  book cover
1st Edition

The Routledge Guidebook to Foucault's The History of Sexuality

ISBN 9780415717847
Published November 17, 2016 by Routledge
272 Pages

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Book Description

Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality is one of the most influential philosophical works of the twentieth century and has been instrumental in shaping the study of Gender, Feminist Theory and Queer Theory. But Foucault’s writing can be a difficult book to grasp as Foucault assumes a familiarity with the intellectually dominant theories of his time which renders many passages obscure for newcomers to his work.

The Routledge Guidebook to Foucault’s The History of Sexuality offers a clear and comprehensive guide to this groundbreaking work, examining:

  • The historical context in which Foucault wrote
  • A critical discussion of the text, which examines the relationship between The History of Sexuality, The Use of Pleasure and The Care of The Self
  • The reception and ongoing influence of The History of Sexuality

Offering a close reading of the text, this is essential reading for anyone studying this enormously influential work.

Table of Contents


Chapter One: The Will to Know

Questioning the Repressive Hypothesis


The Social Construction of Sexualities

The Perverse Implantation

Chapter Two: Power Over Life

Objective: Regicide

Method: or How to Theorize Power without the King

Power is everywhere

Power is war

Power is relational

Power is immanent

Power comes from below

Power relations are intentional and non-subjective

Power produces resistance

Chapter Three: Women, Children, Couples and ‘Perverts’

Denaturalizing Sex

Domain: The Family





Periodization: Retelling the History of Sexuality

Chapter Four: Sex, Racism, and Death

From Sanguinity to Sexuality

Foucault’s Genealogy of Modern Racism

From Spectacles of Death to the Management of Morbidity




Letting Die

De-sexing sexuality

Chapter Five: The History of Sexuality and Feminist Theory

Feminist Tensions

The Repressive Hypothesis, Identity Politics, and the Feminist Sex Wars

Consciousness Raising, Confession, and Experience

Feminist Bodies and Pleasures

Chapter Six: The History of Sexuality and Queer Theory

From Feminism to Queer Theory

‘A Queer Voice’

Canonizing Foucault

‘The Imperial Prude’

Chapter Seven: A Genealogy of the Desiring Subject

Revising the Project

Sexual Austerity and the Monogamous Ideal

Using Sex

Sexual Anxiety

‘The antimony of the boy’

A Male Ethics

Ethics versus Codes


Positions and Partners

Sexual Binaries

Sex and Health

Sex without Psychology

The Use of The Use of Pleasure


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Chloë Taylor is Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Philosophy at the University of Alberta, Canada. She has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Toronto and was a Tomlinson postdoctoral fellow in Philosophy at McGill University.


Taylor’s well-written guide to Foucault’s History of Sexuality promises to become a welcome companion for students delving into Foucault’s influential text, as it provides historical context and clarifies points of reference that may require some explanation and background for the new reader of Foucault.
Claudia Schippert, University of Central Florida, USA

In this invaluable guide to Foucault’s History of Sexuality Volume 1, Taylor offers a lucid explication of one of the most consistently misread books of our time. Without sacrificing nuance or depth, Taylor frames Foucault’s History of Sexuality within the history of eugenics. This text will be especially illuminating for students who have looked to Foucault for a theory of sexual liberation. The chapters on Foucault’s uptake by feminists and queer theorists are a tour de force! Highly recommended for beginners and experts alike.
Lynne Huffer, Emory University, USA