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Insult and the Making of the Gay Selfby Didier Eribon
Synopses & Reviews
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 André 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.
Published in English for the first time, Didier Eribon’ s well-received and celebrated work on a philosophy of and examination of gay life.
About the Author
“Best known in the United States for his biography of Michel Foucault, Didier Eribon is well known in France as an eloquent and influential gay critic and advocate. This stunning analysis of the continuing power of antihomosexual insult to shape gay lives shows us why. A tour de force of cultural criticism, erudition, and social engagement, Eribon’s work demonstrates the intellectual breadth and radical potential of queer critique.”—George Chauncey, author of Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940
“Didier Eribon’s new book is a brilliant study of the ways in which gay subjectivity is at once constituted by homophobic discourse and, from within that discourse, finds the terms with which to forge a queer resistance and a queer freedom. Not only does it add an invaluable dimension to queer theory in the United States; it will be read by an even wider audience for its incisive and original analysis of the relation between culture and subjectivity.”—Leo Bersani, author of Homos, The Culture of Redemption, and Caravaggio's Secrets (with Ulysse Dutoit)
“With lucid and exemplary patience, Didier Eribon dissolves more than a century of transatlantic thought-blockages. The result is a deeply clarifying book.”—Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, author of Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity
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