Fascinating Flesh: Revealing the Catholic Foucault

  • James Bernauer Boston College
Keywords: Anti-pastoral struggle, Catholic, Incarnate flesh, Seditious flesh, Virginity


The Catholic dimension in Foucault’s examination of the Church Fathers is featured because neglect of it may misrepresent the very notions of virginity and of flesh in Confessions of the Flesh. Failure to appreciate the tension between a seditious flesh and an incarnational flesh implicitly confines the Patristic vision to the limited modern field of “sexuality.” The fourth volume might be best interpreted against the background of the investigations that prompted Foucault to immerse himself in religious texts and spiritual experiences: his early writings on literature; the later interest of his lectures in pastoral technologies; and his witnessing of the political-spiritual movements both in Islam (the Iranian revolution) and in Catholicism (the anti-military protests in South America and the anti-Communism denunciations of Pope John Paul II).

Author Biography

James Bernauer, Boston College
James Bernauer is Kraft Family Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Boston College.  He is the author of Michel Foucault’s Force of Flight: Toward an Ethics of Thought (Humanities, 1990) and Jesuit Kaddish: Jesuits, Jews and Holocaust Remembrance (Notre Dame University, 2020).  He is co-editor with David Rasmussen of The Final Foucault (MIT, 1988) and with Jeremy Carrette of Michel Foucault and Theology: The Politics of Religious Experience (Ashgate, 2004).  Professor Bernauer attended Foucault’s 1980 lectures at the Collège and this course was the foundation of Les aveux de la chair.


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Special Issue: Foucault’s History of Sexuality Vol. 4, Confessions of the Flesh