Lucey, Michael 1960–
Lucey, Michael 1960–
University of California, Berkeley, assistant professor, 1988-94, associate professor, 1994-2002, professor of French and comparative literature, 2002—, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Culture, 2001-05 and 2006-07, chairman of French department, 2005—.
National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, 1996; University of California President's Humanities Research fellowship, and John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, 2002.
The Misfit of the Family: Balzac and the Social Forms of Sexuality, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2003.
(Translator) Didier Eribon, Insult and the Making of the Gay Self (translation of Réflexions sur la question gay), Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2004.
Never Say I: Sexuality and the First Person in Colette, Gide, and Proust, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2006.
Contributor to books, including Gay Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia, edited by George E. Haggerty, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 2000; Dictionnaire des cultures gays et lesbiennes, edited by Didier Eribon, Larousse (Paris, France), 2003; and Columbia History of Twentieth Century French Thought, edited by Lawrence J. Kritzman, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2005. Contributor to periodicals, including Journal of the History of Sexuality, Comparative Literature, San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, and Nineteenth-Century French Studies.
Michael Lucey is a specialist in French literature and the culture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He has taught classes about social, literary, and critical theory; sexuality studies; and the literature and culture of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain, as well as the culture of America during the twentieth century. Lucey was the founding director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Culture at the University of California, Berkeley. Many of his writings also touch on the subject of sexuality. His published books include Gide's Bent: Sexuality, Politics, Writing, The Misfit of the Family: Balzac and the Social Forms of Sexuality, and Never Say I: Sexuality and the First Person in Colette, Gide, and Proust. Lucey is also the translator of Réflexions sur la question gay by Didier Eribon, which was published as Insult and the Making of the Gay Self.
In The Misfit of the Family, Lucey provides readers with an "original and significant" treatment of the writings of the French novelist Honoré de Balzac, according to reviewer Catherine Nesci in Modern Philology. One of Balzac's strengths as a writer was his ability to portray his characters as part of their larger social milieu. Sociology, for Balzac, was a novelistic practice. In his book, Lucey demonstrates how Balzac's imagination and his perception of historical and sociological events influenced his artistic efforts. The novelist's work is a wealth of information about the family structure, economics, social norms, and attitudes about gender and sexuality that were prevalent in his day, according to Nesci. Lucey's book "illuminates the ways in which Balzac novels question conventional constructions of sexuality, allowing a space for the representation of sexual subcultures, including nonhegemonic forms of affect and intimacy," said Nesci. She believes that The Misfit of the Family demonstrates the very modern nature of Balzac's commentary on human sexuality, as found in his novels.
Lucey's introduction to The Misfit of the Family establishes the historical and sociological setting for Balzac's work. In 1804, a civil code had been enacted in France that established new laws pertaining to marriage, family, property rights, and inheritance. The heir to a family's property was at the center of a web of social, psychological, and legal considerations. Balzac's work showed how the 1804 civil code had a very real impact on characters whose family ties were unconventional. As a case study, Lucey analyzes Balzac's novel Le Père Goriot, and according to Nesci, he presents it "as a polemical challenge to the normalization of new heterosexual families by addressing the various competing family forms and kinship relations that proliferate in this famous novel." The Misfit of the Family also gives a history of the Bohemian and homosexual subculture of Paris during the 1830s and 1840s, and questions basic psychoanalytic interpretations and theories about sexual development and other issues of identity. Sequels to Père Goriot are also subjected to Lucey's analysis, and he points out the alternative family groups portrayed in these novels by Balzac. In Nesci's opinion, "Lucey's The Misfit of the Family will change the way we read not only French realism but also the construction of intimacy and privacy in the making of Western modernist aesthetics." The book was also praised by Dorothy Kelly in Nineteenth-Century French Studies; she called it "one of those wonderful books to come along now and then that give us a fresh new perspective on texts long known and deeply studied. The subject itself is not really new—family, sexuality, money, class in Balzac—however the perspective taken on these issues provides rich and enlightening readings that rejuvenate our understanding of Balzac's textual practices and social representations."
Insult and the Making of the Gay Self, translated by Lucey from Didier Eribon's original French work, makes the point that insults have long been central to the development of a gay identity. Names can be used to impart shame, and in his book Eribon analyzes how gay characters in the works of Marcel Proust, André Gide, and Oscar Wilde respond to insults. The work of philosopher Michel Foucault on gay identity is also closely examined. John Garrison, commenting on the book in the Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, wrote: "The details and effects of the anti-gay insults that the author describes will undoubtedly resonate with many readers' experiences and life decisions. In this respect Insult and the Making of the Gay Self works not only as a history of gay identity but also as a vehicle to greater self-understanding."
In Never Say I, Lucey examines the development of the "science" of sexuality, and the subsequent classification of the homosexual as a distinct subspecies of human, with medical research and legal distinctions portraying them in an unfavorable light. In France, where homosexuality was more openly acknowledged and accepted than it was in other countries, three prominent French authors—Colette, André Gide, and Marcel Proust—helped establish new social categories and social groups centered around same-sex sexualities. "Since same-sex-attracted men and women still argue about how to define themselves and others today, it is all that much more interesting to see how three particularly masterful users of language went about doing so when the field was new and virtually wide open," commented Richard M. Berrong in the Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, February 1, 1996, F.C. St. Aubyn, review of Gide's Bent: Sexuality, Politics, Writing, p. 955; October 1, 2003, A.H. Pasco, review of The Misfit of the Family: Balzac and the Social Forms of Sexuality, p. 1084; August 1, 2007, C.B. Kerr, review of Never Say I: Sexuality and the First Person in Colette, Gide, and Proust, p. 2112.
French Review, October 1, 1997, Carol L. Kaplan, review of Gide's Bent, p. 110.
French Studies, January 1, 2006, Diana Knight, review of The Misfit of the Family, p. 130.
Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, March 1, 2005, John Garrison, review of Insult and the Making of the Gay Self, p. 44; May 1, 2007, Richard M. Berrong, review of Never Say I, p. 44.
GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, March 1, 2005, Carla Freccer, review of The Misfit of the Family, p. 153.
Journal of European Studies, March 1, 2005, Nicholas White, review of The Misfit of the Family, p. 131.
Modern Fiction Studies, December 22, 1996, Christopher Lane, review of Gide's Bent, p. 807.
Modern Philology, November 1, 2005, Catherine Nesci, review of The Misfit of the Family, p. 282.
Nineteenth-Century French Studies, March 22, 2005, Dorothy Kelly, review of The Misfit of the Family, p. 415.
Studies in Twentieth Century Literature, June 22, 1998, Jocelyn Van Tuyl, review of Gide's Bent, p. 385.
Center for the Study of Sexual Culture,http://cssc.berkeley.edu/ (April 18, 2008), author profile.
University of California, Berkeley, French Department Web site,http://french.berkeley.edu/ (April 18, 2008), author profile.