Skip to content

Harvard Colloquium for Intellectual History & European Politics Seminar

Confessions of the Flesh: Michel Foucault’s Final Volume of "The History of Sexuality"

December 5, 2019
9:00am - 6:00pm
Lower Level Conference Room, Adolphus Busch Hall
December 5, 2019
9:00am - 6:00pm
Lower Level Conference Room, Adolphus Busch Hall

In February 2018, the fourth and final volume of Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality project—Confessions of the Flesh—was published for the first time in French by Éditions Gallimard. This is an extraordinary publishing event since the book was not supposed to have been printed at all.

This one-day conference will assess the reception and impact of this missing volume of Foucault’s History of Sexuality. It will highlight the text of Confessions of the Flesh, its place in Foucault’s oeuvre, the context in which he wrote, and the contemporary relevance of this new work. It is far enough away from the Foucault-overload of past decades that it is now possible to freshly examine the enduring value of this influential thinker—a re-examination inspired by the belated publication of his final book.


Breakfast | 9:00 am-9:30 am

Opening Remarks | 9:30 am-9:45 am

Annabel Kim (Harvard University)
Julian Bourg (Boston College)

Panel 1 | 9:45 am-11:15 am
Confessions of the Flesh and Foucault’s Oeuvre

Bernard Harcourt ( Columbia; EHESS) The Subject of Law and Desire in the Trilogy Savoir-pouvoir-subjectivité
Comment: Annabel Kim (Harvard University)

Panel 2 | 11:15 am-12:45 pm
The Christian Optic

James Bernauer S.J. (Boston College) Why is a Virgin Sexually Significant?
Agustín Colombo (Boston College) The Experience of the Fathers: The Confessions and the Historical Formation of the Flesh
Comment: Edward McGushin (Stonehill College)

Lunch (for participants only) | 12:45 pm-2:00 pm

Panel 3 | 2:00 pm-3:30 pm
Religion, Gender, and Sexuality

Mark D. Jordan (Harvard Divinity School) Lust in Paradise as Prequel to the Sexual Subject
Lynne Huffer (Emory University) Foucault’s Queer Virgins
Comment: Durba Mitra (Harvard University)

Coffee break | 3:30 pm-4:00 pm

Panel 4 | 4:00 pm-5:30 pm
Foucault After the Confessions

Rey Chow (Duke University) Confession as a Contemporary Cultural Form
Austin Sarfan (Duke University) Confession and Ascesis in Contemporary TV Serial Dramas
Comment: Julian Bourg (Boston College)


  • Harvard Colloquium for Intellectual History
  • European Politics Seminar
  • Department of Romance Languages & Literatures, Harvard University
  • Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University
  • Department of Philosophy, Harvard University
  • Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Harvard University
  • with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States