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SAINT FOUCAULT by David M. Halperin

SAINT FOUCAULT

Towards a Gay Hagiography

By David M. Halperin

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-19-509371-2
Publisher: Oxford Univ.

 A self-described ``worshipper'' of Foucault takes on critics of the philosopher in two interrelated essays dealing with Foucault's sexual politics and his biographers. Halperin (Literature/MIT; One Hundred Years of Homosexuality, not reviewed) offers this book as an attempt to recuperate the late writer's position as an ``oppositional thinker who is also gay and who undertakes explicitly to combine scholarship and politics in his own practice.'' The first, and longer, essay is a cogent effort to situate Foucault's personal practice within the matrix of his thought, defending his History of Sexuality, Vol. 1 in particular from his straight-liberal detractors. Halperin gives a sound and understandable prÇcis of Foucault's complex work and makes abundantly clear the way in which Foucault's own political activities worked in tandem with his writing as an attempt at transformation, allowing the powerless, the silenced, and the objectified to become speaking subjects. A lengthy discussion of Foucault's idea of self-transformation and how it links up with his own sadomasochistic sexual tastes leads smoothly into the second essay. Considering the ``politics of writing a gay life,'' Halperin denounces James Miller's biography The Passion of Michel Foucault for what he takes to be its anti-Foucauldian stance and particularly for its positioning of Foucault as a sexually abnormal ``freak.'' Finally, he turns the tables on Miller, offering a reading of the biographer as obsessed with ``abnormal'' sexuality. Although these arguments are couched in the academic jargon that afflicts such writing these days, Halperin makes a strong case in the first essay and a passionate if somewhat less convincing one in the second, and the book is helped considerably by his droll and sardonic asides. For those concerned with the thought of Foucault and the politics of gayness, an absolutely necessary book. Unfortunately, like Foucault's work itself, probably too arcane for a general readership.