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Stekl, Michael (Spring 2019)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/np193b12r?locale=zh
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Abstract

If sex has become a “problem of truth,” then what is truth, and what is sex? This thesis reevaluates the status of truth in both the methodology and the object of Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality. In chapter 1, I analyze the still-unpublished challenge to dialectical philosophies of truth that a young Foucault develops (in 1955-1956) through Friedrich Nietzsche’s notion of the Eternal Return. In Foucault’s hands, eternal recurrence is no metaphysical concept, but rather the foundationless iteration of iterations through which alone any metaphysics of truth is constituted. Repetition figures truth’s condition of (im)possibility, as this constitutive iterability, groundlessness, or contingency of truth is disavowed by the dialectical pretense to Absolute Knowledge, with its eternally deferred ideals of stability and self-identity. I argue that Foucault’s later genealogies, as “political histories of truth,” may be read as “experiences of the Eternal Return”; pace charges of historicism, genealogy estranges the Absolute truths of the present to themselves, less by pinpointing their emergence on a chronological timeline than by showing up the haunting return of aleatory relations in the present. In chapter 2, I read History of Sexuality: Volume One“from the point of view of the Eternal Return,” to examine how Foucault’s Nietzschean problematization of truth destabilizes the “problem of truth” that is (post)modern sexuality. If truth is never finally Absolute, and if the truth/fiction of Absolute Knowledge (un)grounds the (bio)power-knowledge of sexuality, then the truth of sex is perpetually threatened by its own iterability. This is to say that the construction of sexuality through a differential repetition of haphazard forces, hailing from the 13ththrough 20thcenturies, promises (in the same breath) both the (bio)political violencerequired to synthesize/secure stable régimes of truth, and the possibility of resistinghegemonic iterations, reiterating norms differently. Insisting that the borders of modern sexuality and subjectivity are equally rigidified and ruptured through such historical repetitions – which (un)found historical time itself – Sex and Truth offers an original Nietzschean rereading of Foucault that hopes to contribute to discussions of identity and temporality spanning continental philosophy, queer theory, and sexuality studies. 

Table of Contents

 

Table of Contents

Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………… 1

Chapter 1: Ceci n’est pas une Histoire: Genealogy as an Experience of the Eternal Return……………4

§1. Coup de Marteau, Coup de Foudre: Foucault’s First Engagement with Nietzsche…………..9

§2. The Return of the Return: Foucault’s Second Reading of Nietzsche…………………..36

Chapter 2: Eternal Recurrence in History of Sexuality………………………………………………56

Epilogue…………………………………………………………………………………………..91

Bibliography……………………………………………………………………………………. 100

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