Emergence of Sexuality: Foucault, Sexual Identities, and the Modern Self

Presented with Strand Bookstore


In his groundbreaking study, The History of Sexuality: Volume 1, philosopher and historian Michel Foucault provocatively argued that the thing we call sexuality, the supposed essence of our sexual core, our desires, our selves, is in fact “a name that can be given to a historical construct.” In this Olio, we will discuss the significance of Foucault’s claim that sexuality is not an essential and fixed quality inherent to our being, but rather the result of historical shifts in power and knowledge. We will examine how and why it is we have come to think of sexuality as a “problem of truth,” as a secret to be revealed. 

We will look closely at the philosopher’s controversial claim that at the very moment we imagine sexuality as being repressed, driven under, made to hide, it was indeed “exploding,” “inciting,” and proliferating unto every aspect of human experience. We will also ask ourselves about the value of Foucault’s work for challenging our own ideas about our personal desires, our identity categories, and our cherished notions of the self.




Location: Strand Bookstore

828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

The Rare Book Room at Strand Bookstore boasts an elegant venue, the walls lined with leather-bound treasures from a book hand printed in 1480 to a limited edition Ulysses signed by Henri Matisse, the illustrator, and by James Joyce. 


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