History of Sexuality | Study Guide

Michel Foucault

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History of Sexuality | Key Figures

Key Figure Description
Michel Foucault Michel Foucault (1926–84) is the author of The History of Sexuality. A French philosopher, he applied philosophy to investigating the way topics in the modern human sciences developed through history. In addition to sexuality, he wrote on topics as wide-ranging as the history of madness, the birth of the clinic, and the development of the prison system. Read More
Aristophanes Greek playwright Aristophanes (c. 450–388 BCE) was best known for his raucous, no-holds-barred comedies. A gentler side of this comedian appears as a character in the Symposium, one of Plato's most famous dialogues.
Aristotle Athenian philosopher Aristotle (384–22 BCE) was a student of Plato and, in his own right, a foundational figure in Western philosophy. He wrote on a truly vast array of subjects, but his best-known works concern ethics, literature, and political life.
Artemidorus Ephesian soothsayer Artemidorus (c. 101–200 CE) is best known as the author of the Oneirokritikon, an ancient text on the interpretation of dreams. His writings are purportedly collected from a survey of contemporary dream interpreters and thus offer a broader window into the fortune-telling practices of the time.
Jean-Marie Charcot French physician Jean-Martin Charcot (1825–93) is known as the father of modern neurology. At his Paris clinic, he treated patients for a variety of disorders that were then poorly understood, including hysteria.
Demosthenes Athenian statesman Demosthenes (384–22 BCE) is widely considered to have been the preeminent orator of his time. Several of his speeches were written down for posterity, providing valuable insight into the place of oratory within Golden Age Athenian culture.
Epictetus Born a slave, Epictetus (c. 55–135 CE) became one of the leading Stoic philosophers of his day. Stoics believed that rationality and logic should be emphasized over passionate emotions and that virtue is central to happiness. His teachings are collected in two major works, called the Discourses and the Handbook.
Epicurus Athenian thinker Epicurus (c. 341–270 BCE) was the founder of the Epicureans school of philosophy. His teachings placed great weight on pleasure, but he cautioned that this was to be found in self-cultivation rather than mindless overindulgence.
Sigmund Freud Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) pioneered a type of therapy in which patients would talk through their problems. Freud saw repressed sexual desires as a key to many of the neurotic thoughts and behaviors experienced by adults.
Galen Galen (c. 129–216 CE) was a Greek physician whose writings on medicine and physiology shaped Roman and later European medical thought. For well over a millennium after his death, Galenic theories of health and disease were central to Western medicine.
Lucian Lucian (120–after 180 CE) was an ancient Greek author best known for his works of satire. Born in Samosata (part of present-day Turkey), he became a noted public speaker under the early Roman Empire.
Marcus Aurelius Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121–80 CE) was the central ruling figure of Rome's Golden Age. He was also a philosopher and a devotee of Stoicism.
Plato Plato (c. 428–347 BCE) was the greatest Athenian philosopher of the generation following Socrates, his mentor. His reflections on society, the virtuous life, and a vast range of other topics are presented in a series of fictionalized dialogues featuring Socrates and other Greek thinkers.
Plutarch Greek-born author and historian Plutarch (46–after 119 CE) is best known for his Parallel Lives, short biographies of famous Greeks and Romans. More germane to Foucault's purposes, however, are the dozens of philosophical essays Plutarch penned, known as the Moralia.
Seneca Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 4 BCE–65 CE) was a Roman statesman and philosopher during the early days of the empire. Many of his surviving writings take the form of letters to friends and relatives.
Socrates Socrates (c. 470–399 BCE) was a vastly influential Athenian philosopher whose ideas were collected in the writings of his students. He appears as the main character in the dialogues of Plato, whose works are the central texts of the Socratic tradition.
Queen Victoria The namesake of the Victorian Age, Victoria ruled the British Empire from 1837 to 1901. During her reign, Britain reached the apex of its imperial and economic power. Foucault calls into question the stereotype of the Victorian Age as a time of stuffy propriety and strict, repressive sexual mores.
Xenophon Xenophon (c. 430–350 BCE) was an Athenian philosopher working in the tradition of Socrates. Like his better-known contemporary Plato, Xenophon used fictionalized dialogues as a way of writing about philosophical issues from multiple perspectives.
Zeno Greek philosopher Zeno of Citium (flourished c. 300 BCE) was the founder of the Stoic school. His teachings emphasized the cultivation of a calm mind and freedom from one's feelings and desires.
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