Foucault and Sedgwick: The Repressive Hypothesis Revisited

  • Lynne Huffer Emory University


This essay examines the Foucauldian foundations of queer theory in the work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. The essay argues that Sedgwick’s increasing disappointment with Foucault’s critique of the repressive hypothesis is in part produced by the slippery rhetoric of The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction. Specifically, Foucault’s use of free indirect discourse in that volume destabilizes both the theory of repression and the critique Foucault mounts against it, thereby rendering ambiguous any political promise his critique might seem to offer. Returning to the fraught relation between Foucault and Sedgwick, the essay concludes by reading Foucault and Sedgwick together through the lens of a reparative ethics in which the felt experience of knowing the world is also an experiment in new ways of living.

Author Biography

Lynne Huffer, Emory University
Lynne Huffer is Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University. She is the author of Mad for Foucault: Rethinking the Foundations of Queer Theory (2010); Maternal Pasts, Feminist Futures: Nostalgia and the Question of Difference (1998); Another Colette: The Question of Gendered Writing (1992); and numerous articles on Foucault, feminist philosophy and theory, queer theory, post-structuralism, and literature. Her newest book, Are the Lips a Grave? Queer Feminist Reflections on the Ethics of Sex (forthcoming 2013), is a genealogy of the ethical stakes of queer versus feminist conceptions of sexual practices, laws, norms, and artistic production.
Special Issue on Foucault and Queer Theory