A bestseller in France following its publication in 1999, Insult and the Making of the Gay Self is an extraordinary set of reflections on "the gay question" by Didier Eribon, one of France's foremost public intellectuals. Known internationally as the author of a pathbreaking biography of Michel Foucault, Eribon is a leading voice in French gay studies. In explorations of gay subjectivity as it is lived now and as it has been expressed in literary history and in the life and work of Foucault, Eribon argues that gay male politics, social life, and culture are transformative responses to an oppressive social order. Bringing together the work of Jean-Paul Sartre, Pierre Bourdieu, Judith Butler, and Erving Goffman, he contends that gay culture and political movements flow from the need to overcome a world of insult in the process of creating gay selves.Eribon describes the emergence of homosexual literature in Britain and France at the turn of the last century and traces this new gay discourse from Oscar Wilde and the literary circles of late-Victorian Oxford to Andre Gide and Marcel Proust. He asserts that Foucault should be placed in a long line of authors-including Wilde, Gide, and Proust-who from the nineteenth century onward have tried to create spaces in which to resist subjection and reformulate oneself. Drawing on his unrivaled knowledge of Foucault's oeuvre, Eribon presents a masterful new interpretation of Foucault. He calls attention to a particular passage from Madness and Civilization that has never been translated into English. Written some fifteen years before The History of Sexuality, this passage seems to contradict Foucault's famous idea that homosexuality was a late-nineteenth-century construction. Including an argument for the use of Hannah Arendt's thought in gay rights advocacy, Insult and the Making of the Gay Self is an impassioned call for critical, active engagement with the question of how gay life is shaped both from without and within.
Didier Eribon is a philosopher, historian, and journalist in France, where he writes frequently for the weekly news magazine Le Nouvel Observateur. In addition to his biography Michel Foucault, he is the author of books including Une morale du minoritaire: Variations sur un theme de Jean Genet and Heresies: Essais sur la theorie de la sexualite. Michael Lucey is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The Misfit of the Family: Balzac and the Social Forms of Sexuality (published by Duke University Press) and Gide's Bent: Sexuality, Politics, Writing.
Preface xi Acknowledgments xxiii Abbreviations xv Introduction: The Language of the Tribe 1 Part 1 A World of Insult 13 1 The Shock of Insult 15 2 The Flight to the City 18 3 Friendship as a Way of Life 24 4 Sexuality and Professions 29 5 Family and "Melancholy" 35 6 The City and Conservative Discourse 41 7 To Tell or Not to Tell 46 8 Heterosexual Interpellation 56 9 The Subjected "Soul" 64 10 Caricature and Collective Insult 70 11 Inversions 79 12 On Sodomy 88 13 Subjectivity and Private Life 97 14 Existence Precedes Essence 107 15 Unrealized Identity 113 16 Perturbations 124 17 The Individual and the Group 130 Part 2 Specters of Wilde 141 1 How "Arrogant Pederasts" Come Into Being 143 2 An Unspeakable Vice 153 3 A Nation of Artist 160 4 Philosopher and Lover 168 5 Moral Contamination 176 6 The Truth of Masks 182 7 The Greeks against the Psychiatrist 190 8 The Democracy of Comrades 197 9 Margot-a-la-boulangere and the Baronne-aux-epingles 206 10 From Momentary Pleasures to Social Reform 213 11 The Will to Disturb 223 12 The "Preoccupation With Homosexuality" 231 Part 3 Michel Foucault's Heterotopias 245 1 Much More Beauty 247 2 From Night to the Light of Day 250 3 The Impulse to Escape 256 4 Homosexuality and Unreason 264 5 The Birth of Perversion 274 6 The Third Sex 281 7 Producing Subjects 289 8 Philosophy in the Closet 296 9 When Two Guys Hold Hands 303 10 Resistance and Counterdiscourse 310 11 Becoming Gay 319 12 Among Men 326 13 Making Differences 334 Addendum: Hannah Arendt and "Defamed Groups" 339 Notes 351 Works Cited 419 Index 439