History of Sexuality | Study Guide

Michel Foucault

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History of Sexuality | Glossary

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ars erotica: Latin term literally meaning "erotic art." Foucault uses this term to describe the traditions in Eastern cultures of treating sex as an art to be cultivated; he contrasts it with the Western scientia sexualis.

charis: Greek word meaning "grace" or "kindness." Western thinkers of the first two centuries were concerned with the potential for charis in different types of sexual relationships.

confession: in the Christian tradition, the formal acknowledgment of one's sins. Foucault suggests that the spread of this religious practice led to a broader increase in discourse about sex.

degenerescence: the deterioration or weakening of a family's bloodline through successive generations. Nineteenth-century discourse on sex and procreation was often concerned with preventing degenerescence.

dietetics: literally, "the study of diet." For the ancient Greeks, dietetics encompassed not only food and drink but also physical activity and other aspects of someone's daily health regimen.

economics: a word originally meaning "household management." When Foucault refers to classical Greek economics, he means a husband and wife's government of their household affairs.

enkrateia: a Greek term meaning "self-control" or "self-mastery." In Greek philosophical writings, enkrateia meant power over one's desires and urges.

ephebe: in ancient Greek cultures, a young man, aged about 18, who was ready for military training and full citizenship. An ephebe underwent a period of initiation to prepare him for life as an adult male citizen of Greece.

erastes: in ancient Athenian culture, an adult male citizen who took an adolescent boy, called an eromenos, as his companion. The erastes was expected to mentor the eromenos and prepare him for the responsibilities of citizenship.

eromenos: in ancient Athenian culture, a freeborn youth who was the beloved of an adult male citizen. The eromenos was a citizen-in-training whose lover (or erastes) was meant to model wisdom and virtue.

kairos: Greek term indicating the opportune time to do something. Ancient writings on sex are often concerned with finding the kairos that will maximize its benefits and minimize its dangers.

nosography: the description and classification of diseases, often with a view to assisting diagnosis. The nosographies of various sex-related illnesses supply one of Foucault's sources of information about sex in the ancient world.

scientia sexualis: Latin term literally meaning "science of sex." Foucault uses this term to describe the clinical approach toward sex in the Western cultural tradition; he contrasts it with the Eastern ars erotica.

sōphrosynē: a Greek word meaning moderation or temperance. The cultivation of sōphrosynē was important to Socrates and his followers.

techne: Greek word literally meaning "art," but more accurately translated as "craft" or "technical skill." Foucault explores the different bodies of techne, such as medicine, which dealt with sex in the ancient world.

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