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The Ars Erotica of the Ancient World & Early Christian Origins of the Modern Scientia Sexualis

The general narrative of Foucault's History of Sexuality

Public lecture organised by the section History of Philosophy

The Ars Erotica of the ancient world and the early Christian origins of the modern Scientia Sexualis
The general narrative of Foucault's History of Sexuality

by Danny Praet (University of Ghent)

Michel Foucault, as one of the grand-masters of suspicion, criticized the laudatores of the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies for not realizing that the so-called progressive movements actually enhanced the power-knowledge complex that constitutes modern sexuality. The emancipation from the Christian and bourgeois repression of sexuality was instrumental to a stronger pressure to express one’s sexuality.  His so-called “journey to Greece” in the second and third volumes of the History of Sexuality inspired him to suggest some possible escape-routes from modern sexuality. His line of thought can be studied in lesser known articles and interviews where he linked his interpretation of the ancient ars erotica with contemporary sexual experiments and subcultures. Although the volume on early Christian sexuality was never published (accept for one chapter on John Cassian), this paper will argue that he traced the modern power-knowledge-complex to the Christian experiments with sexual asceticism in Late Antiquity. This paper will further discuss the links between the emergence of panoptical power in ancient philosophy and early Christian ascetical literature. The rupture between the first outline of his History of Sexuality as published in The Will to Knowledge, and the volumes two to four, on Greek, Roman and Christian Antiquity, becomes less radical than many commentators have seen it, since he wanted to connect ancient Christianity with the emergence of modern sexuality

Danny Praet (° Wetteren, Belgium, 1968) studied Classics and Philosophy at Ghent University (Universiteit Gent), where he wrote his PhD on Michel Foucault and sexuality in spiritual biographies of late antique pagan philosophers and Christian saints. In Ghent, he teaches Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, and History of Christianity. He is director of the Centre for the Study of Christian Traditions (CSCT) and member of the Flemish Fund for Scientific Research specialist panel for Theology, Philosophy and Religious Sciences.
Among his general research interests are the interaction between ancient paganism and Christianity, and the reception of ancient religion and philosophy in modern philosophy and literature (Nietzsche, Foucault, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Cortázar). He recently edited with Kristoffel Demoen Theios Sophistes. Essays on Philostratus’ Vita Apollonii. Mnemosyne Monographs Series. Volume 305. Leiden & Boston: Brill Publishers, 2009. With Corinne Bonnet & Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge, he published Les religions orientales dans le monde grec et romain: cent ans après Franz Cumont (1906-2006). Bilan historique et historiographique. Actes du colloque de Rome, 2006. Rome, Institut historique belge de Rome. Etudes de philologie, d’archéologie et d’histoire anciennes. Brussel & Rome, 2009. He is preparing the edition of the Collected Papers (Scripta Minora) by Franz Cumont (in seven thematic volumes, with critical introductions, together with seven colleagues, in the Bibliotheca Cumontiana) and of the correspondence between Cumont and Loisy (with Corinne Bonnet, Annelies Lannoy and Sarah Rey).

Laatst gewijzigd:30 oktober 2012 20:39