Didier Eribon weaves together a set of remarkable reflections on the class system in France, on the role of the educational system in class identity, on the way both class and sexual identities are formed, and on the recent history of French politics

Image result for Didier Eribon, Returning to Reims
Didier Eribon, Returning to Reims, Trans. by Michael Lucey, Semiotext(e), 2013.




A memoir and a meditation on individual and class identity, and the forces that keep us locked in political closets.
On thinking the matter through, it doesn't seem exaggerated to assert that my coming out of the sexual closet, my desire to assume and assert my homosexuality, coincided within my personal trajectory with my shutting myself up inside what I might call a class closet.
―from Returning to Reims


After his father dies, Didier Eribon returns to his hometown of Reims and rediscovers the working-class world he had left behind thirty years earlier. For years, Eribon had thought of his father largely in terms of the latter's intolerable homophobia. Yet his father's death provokes new reflection on Eribon's part about how multiple processes of domination intersect in a given life and in a given culture. Eribon sets out to investigate his past, the history of his family, and the trajectory of his own life. His story weaves together a set of remarkable reflections on the class system in France, on the role of the educational system in class identity, on the way both class and sexual identities are formed, and on the recent history of French politics, including the shifting voting patterns of the working classes―reflected by Eribon's own family, which changed its allegiance from the Communist Party to the National Front.
Returning to Reims is a remarkable book of sociological inquiry and critical theory, of interest to anyone concerned with the direction of leftist politics in the contemporary world, and to anyone who has ever experienced how sexual identity can clash with other parts of one's identity. A huge success in France since its initial publication in 2009, Returning to Reims received enthusiastic reviews in Le Monde, Libération, L'Express, Les Inrockuptibles, and elsewhere.


An eminent Parisian intellectual, gay and politically progressive, from a conservative, working―class provincial family, Didier Eribon has written a book that will be of great interest to those concerned with questions of social class, sexuality, and intellectual community. Returning to Reims is a fascinating and courageous account of how one of France's leading writers has negotiated a complex, frequently conflicted confluence of social and psychic identities.―Leo Bersani

This intensely personal account of Didier Eribon's family is a fascinating and compelling read...The book is beautifully written (and as beautifully translated). It is at once pleasureable and edifying to read.―Joan W. Scott


The Paris intellectual tells what drove him to write his influential memoir, Returning to Reims


“Returning to Reims”: A German Theatre Company’s Meditation on the Politics of Working-Class Families


‘Returning to Reims’ and Those European Working-Class Blues


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Didier Eribon, Insult and the Making of the Gay Self, Trans. by Michael Lucey, Duke University Press Books, 2004.


A bestseller in France following its publication in 1999, Insult and the Making of the Gay Self is an extraordinary set of reflections on “the gay question” by Didier Eribon, one of France’s foremost public intellectuals. Known internationally as the author of a pathbreaking biography of Michel Foucault, Eribon is a leading voice in French gay studies. In explorations of gay subjectivity as it is lived now and as it has been expressed in literary history and in the life and work of Foucault, Eribon argues that gay male politics, social life, and culture are transformative responses to an oppressive social order. Bringing together the work of Jean-Paul Sartre, Pierre Bourdieu, Judith Butler, and Erving Goffman, he contends that gay culture and political movements flow from the need to overcome a world of insult in the process of creating gay selves.
Eribon describes the emergence of homosexual literature in Britain and France at the turn of the last century and traces this new gay discourse from Oscar Wilde and the literary circles of late-Victorian Oxford to André Gide and Marcel Proust. He asserts that Foucault should be placed in a long line of authors—including Wilde, Gide, and Proust—who from the nineteenth century onward have tried to create spaces in which to resist subjection and reformulate oneself. Drawing on his unrivaled knowledge of Foucault’s oeuvre, Eribon presents a masterful new interpretation of Foucault. He calls attention to a particular passage from Madness and Civilization that has never been translated into English. Written some fifteen years before The History of Sexuality, this passage seems to contradict Foucault’s famous idea that homosexuality was a late-nineteenth-century construction. Including an argument for the use of Hannah Arendt’s thought in gay rights advocacy, Insult and the Making of the Gay Self is an impassioned call for critical, active engagement with the question of how gay life is shaped both from without and within.




“Best known in the United States for his biography of Michel Foucault, Didier Eribon is well known in France as an eloquent and influential gay critic and advocate. This stunning analysis of the continuing power of antihomosexual insult to shape gay lives shows us why. A tour de force of cultural criticism, erudition, and social engagement, Eribon’s work demonstrates the intellectual breadth and radical potential of queer critique.”—George Chauncey, author of Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940



“Didier Eribon’s new book is a brilliant study of the ways in which gay subjectivity is at once constituted by homophobic discourse and, from within that discourse, finds the terms with which to forge a queer resistance and a queer freedom. Not only does it add an invaluable dimension to queer theory in the United States; it will be read by an even wider audience for its incisive and original analysis of the relation between culture and subjectivity.”—Leo Bersani, author of Homos, The Culture of Redemption, and Caravaggio's Secrets (with Ulysse Dutoit)



“With lucid and exemplary patience, Didier Eribon dissolves more than a century of transatlantic thought-blockages. The result is a deeply clarifying book.”—Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, author of Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity

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