Desire and Discourse in Foucault: The Sign of the Fig Leaf in Michelangelo’s David

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Human Studies

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The article focuses on philosopher Michel Foucault's views for assessing the meaning and significance of the fig leaf placed on sculptor Michelangelo's sculpture, David, examines the motif of the fig leaf in the story of Adam and Eve as a prototype of Foucault's idea of sex as a category of knowledge and employs Foucault's distinction between ars erotica and sciens tia sexualis as the basis for a comparison of classical and modern attitudes towards sex. Foucault suggests that sexual repression and its counterpart, censorship, are complicated facts that must be apprehended dialectically in relation to other less obvious facts, and not in isolation. Foucault denies the apparent attempt of censorship to silence and subjugate sexuality represents the simple intent to repress sexuality. A different interpretation is that the fig leaf may be viewed as the sign of an interpretation of both the human body and the human disposition in terms of the priority of sexual desire. Through the concept of bio-power, Foucault suggests that sex in the modern world represents the intersection of the fields of knowledge and power in that the idea of sex as a form of knowledge lays the groundwork for various techniques of control of the body.


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