Michael Lucey

Michael Lucey

Fellow: Awarded 2002
Field of Study: French Literature

Competition: US & Canada

University of California, Berkeley

Michael Lucey was educated at Wesleyan, Oxford, and Princeton universities before beginning to teach at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is now Professor of French and Comparative Literature. His first book, Gide’s Bent: Sexuality, Politics, and Writing (Oxford UP, 1995), investigated the place of sexuality in André Gide’s writing of the 1920s and 1930s—the years in which Gide first chose to write openly about his homosexuality and also the years of his most notable left-wing political activity. Gide’s Bent interrogated both the political content and the rhetorical effects of Gide’s writing about sexuality, clarifying the ways in which Gide understood his sexuality to be somehow expressive in its own right, a force preoccupying and shaping the expressive acts he undertook.

Mr. Lucey’s next book, The Misfit of the Family: Balzac and the Social Forms of Sexuality (Duke UP, 2003), could be taken to be an appreciation of the immense sophistication with which nineteenth-century French novelist Honoré de Balzac approached the question of sexuality in his novels. Misfit uses the notion of “social forms” to illuminate how Balzac understood and portrayed the field of social possibilities through which sexual interactions, practices, and identities come to be imagined or enacted. A French translation of Misfit was published in 2008: Les ratés de la famille: Balzac et les formes sociales de la sexualité (Fayard).

Never Say I: Sexuality and the First Person in Colette, Gide, and Proust (Duke UP, 2006), completed with the help of his Guggenheim Fellowship, investigated the uneven establishment of what have become the dominant social forms for modern lesbian and gay identities in France, and the construction of certain genres and rituals, of certain literary and social practices, that enabled those identities to be taken up and elaborated in the first person (both in public life and in literary texts)—the first person being itself understood as a social form or artifact that is collectively produced, sustained, and ratified.

Michael Lucey is continuing to work in the vein of both Misfit and Never Say I in his current project: Someone: The Pragmatics of Misfit Sexualities, dealing with French literature and culture from the 1930s to the present. He is particularly interested in the odd fate of those misfit figures who seem destined to live out a sexuality that fails to correspond to the most easily recognized social forms in the world around them, inhabiting instead tenuous forms that are somehow out of place or anachronistic, coming perhaps either too late or too early.

Future writing projects include an investigation of novels which are explicitly or implicitly conceived as instruments of critical thought, and an investigation of a number of ways in which practices of literature and practices of music bump up against each other in certain times and places. Mr. Lucey is also a committed practitioner of music and yoga. His activities are chronicled irregularly here: http://assortedpracticalities.blogspot.com


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