The current four volumes of Michel Foucault’s Histoire de la sexualité: a review of the state of research, 2022


  • Johann Beukes University of the Free State



Michel Foucault (1926-1984), Histoire de la sexualité, The History of Sexuality, La volonté de savoir, Les aveux de la chair


By providing a review of the present state of research regarding French historian of ideas Michel Foucault’s (1926-1984) current four-volume series Histoire de la sexualité, this essay highlights an acceleration in tempo after the publication of an edited fourth volume (Les aveux de la chair) in 2018. After providing an overview of the manuscript development of Les aveux de la chair, and the emergence of a pattern regarding the structural and chronological composition of Histoire de la sexualité, namely that the series should effectively be read backward from the first volume La volonté de savoir to the thematically last volume L’usage des plaisirs, several developing themes in the most recent scholarship on Histoire de la sexualité are noted and annotated. The report concludes with a presentation of two notable features of the current four volumes, namely its unconventional composition and existing historical gaps, regarding the Carolingian and post-Carolingian periods, later Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation, and Counter-Reformation.


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Review essay