The problem of confession: The productive failure of Foucault's History of Sexuality

Stuart Elden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Utilising recently published lecture courses, some materials archived in Paris and the full range of the writings published in Foucault's life, this article traces the history of Foucault's last major project, the History of Sexuality. The guiding theme is the notion of confession, which was to be the subject of the second volume of the original abandoned plan and the fourth volume of the unfinished plan. Highlighting the problems of the original formulations of this concept, both in The Will to Knowledge ma the Les Anormaux lecture course, the article shows why Foucault needed to trace the theme much further back historically. Foucault's failure to complete the original project was, it is argued here, a productive failure, as it led him into new and fruitful avenues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-41
Number of pages19
JournalJournal for Cultural Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005
Externally publishedYes

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