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In a volume devoted to medieval and early modern desires, the topic of Foucault may seem problematic, for it was Foucault who argued that the rallying point of studies of the history of sexuality “ought not to be sex-desire, but bodies and pleasures.” 1 His reason for opposing desire as a category of knowledge about sexuality was made clear in an interview given in 1978. He warned against the use of desire as “a grid of intelligibility, a calibration in terms of normality: ‘Tell me what your desire is and I will tell you who you are, whether you are normal or not, and then I can qualify or disqualify your desire.’” 2 The naturalization of desire, according to Foucault, constitutes its danger, its susceptibility to pathologization. In addition, it is the site of unitary notions of identity and the self, and hence, of their regulation. As we know from David Halperin’s work, Foucault sought the “desubjectivating” experience of sexuality as a form of resistance against current regimes of sexuality and subjectivity. 3

Nevertheless, Foucault is relevant to this volume, since he is so frequently deployed by medievalists and early modern scholars interested in the history of sexuality. Foucault himself might have found it ironic that his work had become the object of our desire as scholars of early sexualities. Desiring Foucault has become, in some sense, a measure of our identities as scholars as well as our resistances of, interventions in, and subversions of certain heteronormative constructions of medieval and early modern history, culture, and literature. Although desiring Foucault is not necessarily the worst thing that can happen to a medievalist, I am disturbed that this desire has come to define the field as well as who we are. We might borrow Foucault’s equation of desire and identity I just quoted to describe the state of queer studies in the Middle Ages: Tell me what you desire, and I’ll tell you what your Middle Ages looks like. [End Page 3]

The problem with medievalists desiring Foucault in their study of sexualities is that this desire has produced its own knowledge-effects in the form of a cluster of truths about premodern sexualities: for example, that they were organized around acts rather than identities, that they were discursively produced, and that this discursive production in turn came to characterize a whole regime of knowledge and power in the twentieth century. 4 I am not interested in denying these Foucault-isms; instead, I want to redirect our desire for Foucault back to Foucault’s work in order to raise some problems with his account of the invention of sexuality and his characterization of medieval sexuality in particular. After examining what I take to be contradictions in Foucault’s construction of medieval sexuality, I will conclude with some suggestions for future study of premodern desires and pleasures. I will not be saying that Foucault is undesirable so much as I will be attempting to detach Foucault from our desire, and in the process, revise the way we understand Foucault and the way we use him. Who we are as medievalists and early modernists engaged in the discursive approach to sexuality, as well as desire, is ultimately at stake in this revision.

In an interview conducted while he was at Berkeley in April 1983, Michel Foucault discussed his work in progress, including his fourth volume of the History of Sexuality which he had nearly completed, a study of the Middle Ages. The interviewer began the interview by alluding to his first volume of the History of Sexuality and asking Foucault, “Do you still think that understanding sexuality is central for understanding who we are?” Foucault’s response, in an age where his name is associated—and even sanctified—for his study of sexuality, should come as a surprise: “I must confess that I am much more interested in problems about techniques of the self and things like that rather than sex . . . sex is boring.” 5

This comment might be explained away by the fact that even in the first three volumes of Foucault’s History of Sexuality, sexuality itself is never very far removed from technologies of the self. Volume three in particular, The Care of the Self, reflects Foucault’s interest in ascesis, or self-transformation. In the interview declaration, however, he separates sex from these techniques of the self, allowing him to make the surprising claim that “sex is boring.” If sex is boring for Foucault, what about sexuality, that “great surface network in which the stimulation of bodies, the intensification of pleasures, the incitement to discourse, the formation of special knowledges, the strengthening of controls and resistances, are linked to one another, in accordance with a few major strategies of knowledge and power”? 6

What about the politics of sexuality? Foucault, according to Halperin, [End Page 4] has come to stand for the liberation of sexuality from certain regulatory regimes, the politicization of truth and the body, the reconstitution of sexuality as a site of contestation, and principles of resistance as strategies for scholarly and political intervention. 7 Without denying Foucault any of these important effects, I would like instead to suggest that there was at least another Foucault who wrote about sex in the Middle Ages, and wrote about it in a way that was unfoucaultian. That is, he conceived of and wrote about sex in a way that we would not recognize if we were to refer to the commonplace, unproblematized version of Foucault we associate with volume one of the History of Sexuality.

Two more statements help to complicate the picture of Foucault a bit further. These two comments address the subject of medieval sexuality specifically. The first is found in his best-known first volume of the History of Sexuality: “The Middle Ages had organized around the theme of the flesh and the practice of penance a discourse that was markedly unitary.” 8 Foucault posits here and in the first volume generally a unitary field associated with the flesh and sex that marks the difference between medieval discourse and proliferated modern discourses dating from the nineteenth century. In the next statement, it is, just as surprisingly, the naturalness of sex as a category in the Middle Ages that interests him. In his essay, “A Preface to Transgression,” he looks back fondly, almost nostalgically, to medieval sexuality. In his words, “never did sexuality enjoy a more immediately natural understanding and never did it know a greater ‘felicity of expression’ than in the Christian world of fallen bodies and of sin.” The proof, he continues, can be found in the mystical tradition which “was incapable of dividing the continuous forms of desire, of rapture, of penetration, of ecstasy, of that outpouring which leaves us spent.” 9

To recapitulate Foucault’s three statements: sex is boring, medieval sex was unitary, and sexuality enjoyed a natural and felicitous understanding in the Middle Ages, particularly in its mystical expressions. These statements are rendered even more problematic by a survey of Foucault’s plans for his fourth volume on medieval sexuality. Foucault had completed the fourth volume at the time of his death in 1984, but it has never been published. The projected shape of the volume can be gleaned from Foucault’s comments in interviews, from articles published late in his life, and from The History of Sexuality, volume one, where he maps out some of his ideas about medieval confession.

Foucault’s projected title for volume four on the Middle Ages was to be “Les Aveux de la chair,” or “Confessions of the Flesh.” His choice of [End Page 5] words for confessions, les aveux rather than les confessions, is instructive, for as he explains in his History of Sexuality, volume one, the concept of “avowal” is key to the new technology of the self, the body and its pleasures, and truth-telling constituted by the medieval confessional regime. 10 Codified in the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, this practice of Christian confession represented a unique truth obligation compared with other religions, according to Foucault: not only was the individual responsible for moral and religious truths, but now he or she was also obligated to “seek [out] and state the truth about oneself.” This process of self-doubt and self-analysis is endless, “in the sense that one must be forever extending as far as possible the range of one’s thoughts, however insignificant and innocent they may appear to be,” writes Foucault. 11

The quasi-juridical regime of confession licensed two crucial developments in Western culture: a new Christian technology of the self and a discourse tailored to the requirements of power of the medieval church, one which established “a system of legitimate knowledge and of an economy of manifold pleasures.” 12 The Christian technology of the self is based on the notion of “gouvernement,” and it extracted from the individual a particularly sinister regimen of “unconditional obedience, uninterrupted self-examination, and exhaustive confession.” 13 What interests Foucault most in medieval confessional discourse is the hermeneutic of the self it produced. In one of his courses taught in 1982, Foucault describes how confession locates a truth in the human subject, specifically in the soul, rendering the subject an obscure text to be decoded by “ever more sophisticated practices of attentiveness, concern, decipherment and verbalization.” 14 This process of self-knowledge constitutes Christian subjectivization which, in turn, fosters self-renunciation through a self-objectification that confession requires. The truth of the self, therefore, always demands self-rupture in the form of an admission that “I am not who I am.” 15

The agent of negation here—that which brings the “not-myself” into play—is sexuality. In an essay on “Sexuality and Solitude,” Foucault cites a conversation with Peter Brown, who said that we must come to understand why sexuality became the “seismograph of our subjectivity” in Christianity. 16 Foucault theorizes that sexuality is the measure of Christian identity as the result of the inextricable linking of “sexuality, subjectivity, and truth” in the medieval regulation and practice of confession. 17 In his introduction to the History of Sexuality, he charts the medieval pastoral injunction to confess to the modern incitement to sexual discourse: [End Page 6]

A twofold evolution tended to make the flesh into the root of all evil, shifting the most important moment of transgression from the act itself to the stirrings—so difficult to perceive and formulate—of desire. For this was an evil that afflicted the whole man, and in the most secret of forms: “Examine diligently, therefore, all the faculties of your soul: memory, understanding, and will. Examine with precision all your senses as well. . . . Examine, moreover, all your thoughts, every word you speak, and all your actions. Examine even unto your dreams, to know if, once awakened, you did not give them your consent. And finally, do not think that in so sensitive and perilous a matter as this, there is anything trivial or insignificant.” 18

In this instruction to a penitent, we can discern “one of the West’s most highly valued techniques for producing truth” through the regulation of desire. It is a short distance from this medieval practice to the modern “fable” of sex, in Foucault’s view:

We have since become a singularly confessing society. The confession has spread its effects far and wide. It plays a part in justice, medicine, education, family relationships, and love relations, in the most ordinary affairs of everyday life, and in the most solemn rites; one confesses one’s crimes, one’s sins, one’s thoughts and desires, one’s illnesses and troubles; one goes about telling, with the greatest precision, whatever is most difficult to tell. One confesses in public and in private, to one’s parents, one’s educators, one’s doctor, to those one loves; one admits to oneself, in pleasure and in pain, things it would be impossible to tell to anyone else, the things people write books about. . . . Western man has become a confessing animal. 19

As an argument for the indispensability of medieval subjectivity to what it means to be modern, this passage is often overlooked in favor of Foucault’s other argument for radical epistemic discontinuity between modernity and premodernity. In this passage, the Middle Ages is positioned on a continuum of confessional practices that produces the modern subject in the form of a “confessing animal.” Yet even in this continuist narrative of sexual discourse and the history of the subject, we can discern the medieval “other” at work in Foucault’s theory of sexuality and the contradictions in Foucault’s method. [End Page 7]

As the seismograph of Christian subjectivity, medieval sexuality becomes the unexamined, even natural “given” of foucaultian theory about self-technologies. The two quotations with which I began—that a “unitary discourse” emerged from the theme of the flesh and the practice of penance, and that sexuality never enjoyed a more natural understanding or felicity of expression than in the Christian Middle Ages—create an originary, natural, and unitary moment for sexuality and its discourses. This moment forms the foundation for those modern proliferations of discourse that Foucault characterizes as modern habits of confession. In short, Foucault poses an “outside” for sexuality in the Christian Middle Ages—a time before sexuality entered into crucial cultural relationships that would later constitute what we call the subject. Both the discourse of confession and the medieval understanding of sexuality are collapsed as “avowals of the flesh,” and as the incipient technology of Western subjectivity.

This formulation of medieval sexuality and the truth discourse that organizes it is problematic, to say the least. It is unfoucaultian as well, and more importantly, it should make us cautious about the way we use Foucault to study the medieval and the modern regimes of sexuality. If Foucault’s theory about sexuality seems contradictory, his own attitudes towards the Christian practice of confession and medieval understanding of sexuality were also conflicted. Throughout his work there runs an implicit critique of confession that is consistent with Foucault’s general argument against the repression model of the history of sexuality. Elsewhere, too, he indicates that the confessional regime of truth-telling is a sinister one.

Yet in several of his last essays and interviews, Foucault suggests a far different attitude towards the practice of Christian avowal. James Miller, who wrote the controversial biography of Foucault, nevertheless is the only one besides James Bernauer I have found who addresses this particular paradox in Foucault’s work. It is the notion of self-sacrifice, or renunciation, that lies at the heart of confession and medieval sexual discourse and that Foucault finds particularly appealing. At the end of his Howison lectures at the University of California at Berkeley in 1982, Foucault attributes a “richness” to the Christian technology of the self, that is, self-sacrifice, and he concludes: “No truth about the self is without the sacrifice of the self.” 20 Such a modern technology of truth about the self thus depends on medieval constructions both of sexuality and of its avowal, or confession.

But modern technologies of self are not the only area haunted by medieval Christian avowals of the flesh. In his 1969 essay, “Qu’est-ce qu’un auteur?” and in his 1980 “Talk with philosophers,” Foucault asserts, with [End Page 8] apparent irony, the similarity between modern writers and Christian ascetics and martyrs in the practice of self-sacrifice that links writing and martyrdom. “The negation of the self,” Foucault states, “is the nucleus of the literary experience of the modern world.” 21 From the Christian ascetic/mystic/martyr, who through a regimen of self-sacrifice achieved the greatest felicity of expression that sexuality has ever known, to the modern writer who continues to write in order that he might sacrifice himself, traces of medieval regimes of truth function nostalgically in Foucault’s history of sexuality and in some sense, his own self-fashioning.

One conclusion that could be drawn from all of this is that there would be no Michel Foucault or social constructionist history of sexuality without the Christian Middle Ages. But this is not really my point. It is true that in one sense I am arguing that the Christian Middle Ages—with its explosion of mystical discourse, its confessional regime of truth, and its theology of fallen bodies and of sin—functions as the historical “other” in Foucault’s history of sexuality, as that time when discourse about sexuality was “markedly unitary,” before the proliferation that characterizes the modern, before confession had spread its effects far and wide. But if there was this hegemonized medieval “other” that Foucault used to frame contemporary sexual discourse, there is still another Middle Ages operating in Foucault’s work.

This is the Middle Ages mostly of his later work, public lectures, and interviews, including his study of Cassian in his essay, “The Battle for Chastity.” It is the Middle Ages of the Howison lectures at Berkeley and some of Foucault’s later interviews, where he insists on the Christian “hermeneutics of the self” in the spiritual struggle for chastity in the essay, “Sexuality and Solitude”; it is the Middle Ages of his final interview published in Raritan, where he connects medieval Christianity to writing as a modern practice of the self; it is the Middle Ages, too, of that vexing comment about the natural experience and felicity of expression of sexuality that flourished in mystical writing of the period. 22 Part nostalgia in the latter case, it was also part of the shift in his late work away from sexuality as the subject of his multivolume study and toward technologies of the self—away from discontinuous historiography and towards a continuist one.

This brings us back to the first and most outrageous statement with which I began this essay, Foucault’s laughing assertion that sex is boring, and that he really wasn’t interested in it. In the same interview, he indicated that he would pursue the Christian ethics of the medieval volume into the sixteenth century in his next volume in the series. 23 Had Foucault completed [End Page 9] and published these two volumes, I doubt whether either queer theory or medieval studies would be so indebted to him.

As a medieval scholar working on confession and technologies of secrecy in the Middle Ages, I am disturbed by all the medieval sexualities of Foucault that I have outlined here. The nostalgic, naturalized, felicitous expression is as strange and inhospitable a formulation as the alteritist one of a unitary discourse marked by obedience, avowal, and self-decipherment. I am also keenly aware of the carceral effect that Foucault’s construction of sexuality can have on the Middle Ages, even as it vitalizes queer theory, studies of the history of sexuality, feminist and gender theories, and gay and lesbian politics, not to mention academic discourse. I do not think we can separate the multiple and contradictory ways in which Foucault uses the Middle Ages from his technologies of the self, his methodology of his history of sexuality, or his characterization of modernity. I am also convinced that we have not given adequate attention to the inconsistencies, contradictions, and changes in Foucault’s thinking about sexuality, perhaps because so much is at stake.

Yet I am not ready to jettison Foucault. Briefly, I would like to suggest a way in which Foucault might be used to intervene in our discussion of desire in the Middle Ages and early modernity. As I have already said, Foucault sought to resist what he saw as a policing of desire from the medieval Christian practice of confession to our postmodern practices and discourses of medicine, education, therapy, and even academics. He deliberately launched a counterattack against desire as the “grid of intelligibility,” or dispositif, associated with the philosophies of Deleuze and Lyotard, replacing it with the grid of bodies and pleasures. 24 While this might prove a liberatory strategy for queer politics in the 1990s, as Halperin has argued, we might ask what effects this distinction has for our reading of medieval texts.

Let’s take those very mystical texts where Foucault found the felicitous, natural expression of sexuality, where desire, rapture, penetration, ecstasy, and pleasure exist on an unregulated and uncodified continuum that evacuates, rather than creates, a unified subject. As I have already explained, I am suspicious of Foucault’s idealized, nostalgic rendering of mystical sex; however, I also wonder whether his distinction between desire and bodies and pleasures might be an instructive one, not only by way of critiquing heteronormative narratives of mystical scholars but of revising our own grids. If we agree with Foucault that it is desirable to intervene in identity formations and politics with desubjectivating strategies, then we must at least consider the problems that mystical desire as a category of understanding poses for queer studies. [End Page 10]

Let us take a concrete example and examine it from the standpoints of desire and of bodies/pleasures. I would like to borrow one of Carolyn Walker Bynum’s examples in Holy Feast, Holy Fast from Catherine of Siena, and then to refract it through our different grids of intelligibility:

On the night following . . . a vision [of Christ and his five wounds] was granted to her as she was at prayer. . . . “My beloved,” [Christ] said to her, “you have now gone through many struggles for my sake. . . . Previously you had renounced all that the body takes pleasure in. . . . But yesterday the intensity of your ardent love for me overcame even the instinctive reflexes of your body itself: you forced yourself to swallow without a qualm a drink from which nature recoiled in disgust [i.e., pus from the putrefying breast of a dying woman, which Catherine described as the most exquisite of pleasures]. . . . As you then went far beyond what mere human nature could ever have achieved, so I today shall give you a drink that transcends in perfection any that human nature can provide. . . .” With that, he tenderly placed his right hand on her neck, and drew her toward the wound in his side. “Drink, daughter, from my side,” he said, “and by that draught your soul shall become enraptured with such delight that your very body, which for my sake you have denied, shall be inundated with its overflowing goodness.” Drawn close . . . to the outlet of the Fountain of Life, she fastened her lips upon that sacred wound, and still more eagerly the mouth of her soul, and there she slaked her thirst. 25

The gesture described here is a complicated act which cannot be reduced to a single type of act or desire, although Bynum is quick to try, by placing it within the boundaries of the maternal. She denies here, as elsewhere, the legibility of the sexual or erotic in Christ’s gesture and Catherine’s response. 26

When we do permit the sexual as a culturally legible way of reading this passage, we encounter an act that we might call homoerotic. The feminizing of Christ’s body, the homologizing of his wound to female breast and the vulva, provide the grid for such a reading of Catherine’s vision. 27 Does it really matter whether we assign the homoeroticism of this text to Catherine’s desire or to the bodies and pleasures produced by the text itself? Or to put it another way, what is the difference that bodies and pleasures make in this text? [End Page 11]

Ironically, the very category of desire permits someone like Bynum to read Catherine into the maternal and to exclude the sexual, for she consistently assumes the heterosexuality of all mystical eroticism. Therefore, Catherine’s rapture and delight sucking Christ’s wounds must be maternal, since heterosexuality excludes the possibility of the erotic in this case. If the heterosexual imperative of mystical eroticism is removed, what effects are produced? Still within desire as our grid of intelligibility, not much, except a reversal of terms within the same system of binarily opposed desires and identities. Instead of responding to a maternal gesture, Catherine thus comes to desire the feminized body of Christ, finding rapture and delight in the wound/breast/vulva. A reverse discourse of homoerotic desire in this case does nothing more than reinstall the version, or grid, of mystical sex we seek to dislodge. Thus Catherine’s homoerotic desire for Christ’s feminized body merely recapitulates from the standpoint of the excluded discourse the same old narrative of desire without ever questioning the protocols of this desire. 28

Within the medieval grids of intelligibility, what does Catherine’s suck signify? Nothing at all, as Valerie Traub has shown for early modern female same-sex desire, in her essay on the “(In)Significance of ‘Lesbian’ Desire.” 29 There is no resistance to heteronormative discourses of sexuality here because women’s desire for other feminized or female bodies simply does not signify. If it did, perhaps Raymond of Capua, her scribe, might have protested. Did it signify for Catherine? The fact that she could have such a vision and render it so graphically could indicate that female homoerotic desire was representable precisely because it did not signify (as Traub has argued for early modern theater). Gender ideology haunts these representations of desire, and in the case of women, erases desire itself.

What about bodies and pleasures? The problem of cultural legibility persists in our reading of the bodies and pleasures of Catherine’s texts, for the gendering of bodies and the Christian organization of pleasures are not absent from her suck. If we read Foucault carefully on the subject of bodies and pleasures, we find he means something mystical by these terms, an “apparatus” that is completely freed from desire and the self constituted by that desire. He emphasizes consciously creating a multiplicity of bodies, pleasures, and resistances to power.

Reading Catherine’s suck from this foucaultian perspective, we encounter a complex erotic field that fissures both the hetero- and homoerotic. We must examine how the maternal and the sexual become fused and coterminous in her suck. The suck is itself a fabrication of pleasure for Catherine’s sake, in return for her drinking the pus of a dying woman—in [End Page 12] return for a heroic act of self-mortification. It exists on a continuum of pain and pleasure, or repression and ecstatic indulgence, and it fails to settle into suitable categories. “Pleasure is something which passes from one individual to another,” Foucault reminds us; “It is not secreted by identity. Pleasure has no passport, no identification papers.” 30 If we use this notion of pleasure as a grid for reading Catherine of Siena, her experience becomes more legible for the de-subjectivating effects of mystical ecstasy than for any erotic or pleasurable act it represents.

But is Foucault correct? Is “pleasure,” as Foucault maintains, a “virgin” territory exempt from the pathologies that govern our sexualities and our desires? We know that bodies achieve cultural intelligibility through paternal laws and gender codes, but we also know that bodies can “become sites of phantasmatic investment that refuse to reduce to singular sexualities,” in the words of Judith Butler. 31 So the question becomes: Could pleasures refuse the erotic idioms of medieval texts and modern readers and “travel” without becoming simply illegible and insignificant?

This is indeed the question for historians of sexuality, medieval and early modern alike, for in the pursuit of the culturally legible yet disruptive, we must be aware of the dangers of deploying Foucault. Neither his Middle Ages nor his views of medieval sexuality, which after all, excluded Catherine of Siena and all women in the first place, will aid in the kind of cultural genealogies that Foucault’s work so admirably fostered. But perhaps we can always follow the spirit if not the letter of Foucault, who said that he treated all theoretical problems as dangerous. And “if everything is dangerous,” he added, “then we always have something to do.” 32 By treating Foucault’s own writing and interviews as similarly dangerous, we will not only always have something to do; we will also always be resisting the kind of monolithic dispositifs that Foucault consistently challenged. Nor do we have to deny ourselves pleasure in the process—at least pleasure as Foucault defined it to mean that experience that fragments and dissociates the subject from itself. 33 Our collective pleasures will be constituted by fracturing our identifications as scholars of medieval and early modern cultures with Michel Foucault. The results promise, unlike sex, not to be boring.

Karma Lochrie
Loyola University Chicago
Chicago, Illinois


1. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Random House, 1978), 157. Foucault’s critique of desire in favor of pleasure has been explored by many, particularly his biographers and hagiographers, including David Macey, The Lives of Michel Foucault (New York: Vintage, 1993), 364–77; and David M. Halperin, Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 93–97.

2. Trans. by Macey from “Le Gai Savoir II,” in The Lives of Michel Foucault, 365.

3. Halperin has explored these strategies particularly for their political value in Saint Foucault, 15–125. For Foucault’s concept of asceticism and subjectivization in medieval Christianity, see “The Battle for Chastity,” in Western Sexuality: Practice and Precept in Past and Present Times, ed. Philippe Ariès and André Béjin, trans. Anthony Forster (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985), 24–25.

4. For a good discussion of how Foucault has shaped medieval and early modern historiography, see Louise O. Fradenburg and Carla Freccero, “Introduction: The Pleasures of History,” Premodern Sexualities in Europe, ed. Fradenburg and Freccero, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 4 (1995): 371–84. Other important writing on Foucault on the history of sexuality include: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 44–48; Halperin, Saint Foucault; and Gayle S. Rubin, “Thinking Sex,” in The Gay and Lesbian Studies Reader, ed. Henry Abelove, Michèle Aina Barale, and David M. Halperin (New York: Routledge, 1993), 3–44. For a reevaluation and critique of this essay, see Judith Butler, “Against Proper Objects,” differences, More Gender Trouble: Feminism Meets Queer Theory, 6.2–3 (summer-fall 1994): 1–26; and Butler’s interview with Rubin in the same volume, “Sexual Traffic,” 62–99.

5. “On the Genealogy of Ethics: An Overview of Work in Progress,” a 1983 interview with Michel Foucault in Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, 2nd ed., Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 229. The sanctification of Foucault occurs in David Halperin’s recent book, Saint Foucault.

6. This is Foucault’s own definition of sexuality in The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, 105–6.

7. Saint Foucault, 41–42.

8. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, 33. Foucault adds: “In the course of recent centuries, the relative uniformity was broken apart, scattered, and multiplied in an explosion of distinct discursivities which took form in demography, biology, medicine, psychiatry, psychology, ethics, pedagogy, and political criticism” (p. 33).

9. Foucault, “A Preface to Transgression,” Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, ed. Donald Bouchard, trans. Bouchard and Sherry Simon (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), 29.

10. See the History of Sexuality, 1:58–59.

11. “The Battle for Chastity,” Western Sexuality, ed. Ariès and Béjin, 25.

12. Foucault, History of Sexuality, 1:72.

13. Foucault, “Du gouvernement des vivants,” in Résumé des cours: 1970–1982 (Paris: Gallimard, 1989), 128, my translation.

14. James Bernauer, “Foucault’s Ecstatic Thinking,” in The Final Foucault, ed. James Bernauer and David Rasmussen (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1988), 52.

15. Bernauer, “Foucault’s Ecstatic Thinking,” 53. For this idea in Foucault, see “Sexuality and Solitude,” Humanities in Review 1 (1982): 10, 15; The History of Sexuality, Volume 2: The Use of Pleasure, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage, 1990), 63, 70; and “Omnes et Singulatim: Towards a Criticism of ‘Political Reason,’” lectures delivered at Stanford University on 10 and 16 Oct. 1979, in Sterling McMurrin, ed., The Tanner Lectures on Human Values II (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1981), 239.

16. “Sexuality and Solitude,” 11.

17. “Sexuality and Solitude,” 16; “The Battle for Chastity,” 24–25; History of Sexuality, 1:57–71.

18. History of Sexuality, 1:19–20.

19. Ibid., 1:59.

20. James Miller, The Passion of Michel Foucault (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993), 324. See also Bernauer, “Foucault’s Ecstatic Thinking,” 69–70.

21. Quoted in Miller, Passion of Michel Foucault, 324. A similar idea is found in Foucault’s idea of writing “in order to have no face,” The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith (New York: Harper Colophon, 1976), 17.

22. See “Final Interview: Michel Foucault” Raritan 5.1 (summer 1985): 1–13.

23. “On the Genealogy of Ethics: An Overview of Work in Progress,” in Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, 231.

24. The term dispositif appears only in the French version of Foucault’s first volume, La Volonté de savoir, Histoire de la sexualité, 1 (Paris: Gallimard, 1976), 208. In Robert Hurley’s English translation, this term is translated “deployment” (p. 157). The meaning of dispositif is summarized by Macey, The Lives of Michel Foucault, 355, as the “network” that binds a “heterogeneous body of discourses” together. The “grid of intelligibility” is a translation of another phrase in Foucault, “une mise en intelligibilité,” that I think captures the sense of dispositif, “Le Gai savior” (II), Mec Magazine 6–7 (July–August 1988): 32.

25. Quoted in Carolyn Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 172.

26. For example, see Holy Feast and Holy Fast, 171–80, 250–51, and 260–76.

27. For a discussion of this passage in Catherine of Siena and the image of Christ’s side-wound as vulva/vagina, see “Mystical Acts, Queer Tendencies,” forthcoming in Constructing Medieval Sexuality, ed. Karma Lochrie, James A. Schultz, and Peggy McCracken, from University of Minnesota Press.

28. For a critique of reverse discourse as a practice of subversion, see Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (New York: Routledge, 1993), 21–22. For an example of this problematic reversal, see Richard Rambuss, “Pleasure and Devotion: The Body of Jesus and Seventeenth-Century Religious Lyric,” in Queering the Renaissance, ed. Jonathan Goldberg (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1994), 253–79.

29. In Queering the Renaissance, 62–83.

30. Quoted in Macey, The Lives of Michel Foucault, 364.

31. Bodies That Matter, 90.

32. “On the Genealogy of Ethics,” 231–32. Foucault is referring specifically to his interest in a “genealogy of problems, of problématiques” as an activist politics and as a basis for ethical action and choice.

33. For this understanding of pleasure in Foucault, see Halperin, Saint Foucault, 90–97.

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