The History of Sexuality (French: Histoire de la sexualité) is a three-volume study of sexuality in the western world written by the French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault. The first volume, The Will to Knowledge (la volonté de savoir), was first published in 1976 by Éditions Gallimard, before being translated into English by Robert Hurley and published by Allen Lane in 1978. It was followed by The Use of Pleasure (l'usage des plaisirs), and The Care of the Self (le souci de soi).
Volume I explores Foucault's ideas regarding the "repressive hypothesis", the idea that western society suppressed sexuality from the 17th to the mid-20th century; he argues that this hypothesis is an illusion, and that in actuality, discourse on sexuality proliferated during this period. He goes on to argue that at this time, experts began to examine sexuality in a scientific manner, classifying different types of sexuality and encouraging people to confess their sexual feelings and actions, all in the desire to learn the "truth" of sex.
Foucault was interested in the creation of the subject and how the individual was constituted. In The History of Sexuality, he argues that in the Western world during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, people's identities became increasingly tied to their sexuality.
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“Hence poetry is something more philosophic and of graver import than history, since its statements are rather of the nature of universals, whereas those of history are singulars.”
—Aristotle (384322 B.C.)