Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-Century French Hermaphrodite” as Want to Read:
Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-Century French Hermaphrodite
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-Century French Hermaphrodite

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  848 ratings  ·  69 reviews
With an eye for the sensual bloom of young schoolgirls, and the torrid style of the romantic novels of her day, Herculine Barbin tells the story of her life as a hermaphrodite. Herculine was designated female at birth. A pious girl in a Catholic orphanage, a bewildered adolescent enchanted by the ripening bodies of her classmates, a passionate lover of another schoolmistre ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published June 12th 1980 by Vintage (first published May 26th 1978)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  848 ratings  ·  69 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-Century French Hermaphrodite
Bogi Takács
My review is online now at Bogi Reads the World! Read about the first ever intersex #ownvoices book! (And why it has non-ownvoices bits too, and which parts of the book to avoid.)

I really liked this short memoir and I recommend it, but some of the bonus material attached to it was just weird, and not in a good sense:

http://www.bogireadstheworld.com/memo...

Source of the book: Present from Amazon wishlist (thank you!)
...more
buttercup
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
heartbreaking. rip herculine
DoctorM
Fascinating and sad--- the story of an intersex tragedy of the mid-1800s. Herculine is raised female, and, after confessing her love of women, is examined, found intersexed, and "re-assigned" by doctors as male. She has no idea how to be male, how to play the male role in ways society understands, and the career possibilities for someone whose sex has been altered aren't good. It ends badly, yes, in misery and suicide. Foucault touches on so many of the points made famous in his other works: the ...more
Alan
Jun 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018
Doctors are a nasty bunch
Erica Abela
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i thought i reviewed this. i cried
Mikki Fisher
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting read for the most part, although I wasn't at all enamored with novella which was included with the book. Still, I can recommend this story to anyone who doubts the reality of the human condition called hermaphrodism. It's fortunate that today we have mostly a more understanding climate surrounding the issue of gender identity, not to mention sexual preference. However, I believe depression can still result in such individuals today because of lack self-knowledge and self-toler ...more
Sara
May 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Abigail Tarttelin
God I wish I could grab Alexina's hands and tell her everything is alright!! It's so sad to think she missed out on our times by a mere 150 years and thus has to live such a wretched and vexed life. On the other hand, I wonder if a story like this is possible now, still, maybe somewhere rural. As luck would have it, Herculine aka Alexina was a really brilliant writer and storyteller, so this is an engaging read. Such a sad story. I wish she could have stayed with her friend. The medical notes fr ...more
Kate Esten
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Simone
Dec 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
good book. why do we need a gender...
Caterina Pierre
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read Herculine Barbin because it is widely accepted as the influence for the basis of the pop singer Prince Rogers Nelson’s alter ego Camille. First published in English in 1980, the book contains writings related to the historical figure and hermaphrodite Alexina Herculine Barbin (called Camille in her memoirs). Michel Foucault discovered (or, actually, rediscovered) the memoirs, and presents them alongside a “dossier” of historical documents related to Barbin’s life, and a fictional story (“ ...more
Beata
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Important text that shines light over danger and wrongness of insisting on simultaneity of one sex and one gender. Herculine's "Memoirs" give us an insight into how homosociality and heterosexuality determine one's interpretation of his/her gender. As a teenager, Herculine was surrounded by nuns and young teachers where she was accepted as a normal girl - homosociality gave her an opportunity to get closer with other women which she couldn't have done as a man. She starts to discover that she ha ...more
Lee Kofman
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The memoir was heartbreaking. I was a little put off by Barbin's very emotional style at the start but once I got used to the way she expressed herself, which I think was true to that era, the main feeling that remained was deep respect for her and sorrow that she wasn’t born later, when she wouldn’t have to ‘impersonate’ a man, something that went completely against her grain. The graphic descriptions of hermaphrodite genitalia in medical reports on one hand satisfied my curousity but on the ot ...more
Skylar
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer
Rating this is bittersweet, because out of respect for Barbin I want to rate this highly, however I hold serious resentment towards Foucault and Panizza for their additions to Barbin's memoirs. Foucault, by including Barbin's medical dossier and including the graphic details of the medical examinations they underwent feels gratuitous; seeming to imply that understanding Barbin's anatomy is crucial to our ability to sympathize with them and reducing Barbin to a medical case study. and Panizza's d ...more
Brendan
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating study in gender differences and abnormalities in the 1800s. Perhaps not as erudite and detailed as some of Foucault's other works, I am, nonetheless, glad that I picked this up to read.
Denise
Oct 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-books-2019
more like 3.5
-for class
Ella
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking. A must read for gender and the body students!
Jack
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like a mix between Lolita and The Bell Jar, not in content, just in how it made me feel.
Lindsey
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting first hand account
Bianca
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
heartbreaking.
Julia
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly sad, but very important for intersex rights.
Ruth
Jan 02, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ruth by: Alex
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mary Kate
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library
This story broke my heart. I read this as an assignment for my class on queer history in Europe, and until this point, it had been largely theoretical and abstract. With Herculine Barbin, the history was grounded and sympathetic. My heart positively ached for Herculine and Sara.
Kevin
Oct 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating read, that I as a modern reader could only prematurely compare Alexina's detriment to the likes of someone today. We do live in a very different world were the ideas of the freedom of choice and individualism is an exalted public cry, but what can be gathered in this book is how the notion of human nature is formed and exercised. Foucault was not concern with human nature in and of itself, albeit more concerned with the surrounding factors that create "human nature(s)" at specific ...more
Prithvi Shams
Aug 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sex and Gender are two different things. Sex is what we are born with, gender is what we choose or are conditioned to be by society. But even sex is not a fixed entity; as the case of the hermaphrodites clearly illustrates, sex can also be a compound phenomenon. If the male-female binary is falsified by the phenomenon of hermaphroditism, then it follows that there is no "true" sex, other than what the person in question identifies himself/herself with. This is something that was not acknowledged ...more
Tyra
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Serendipitously spied Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Eugenides as a guest on Oprah, discussing his acclaimed novel Middlesex. So I decided to read the book and found it most fascinating. I did some research on why Eugenides would be inspired to write such a book with an intersex as his topic. Turns out he himself is not of ambiguous genitalia but was captivated by his readings on the memoirs of Adélaïde Herculine Barbin, a male pseudohermaphrodite.

The memoirs are written by an individual ostensib
...more
♥ Sarah
Feb 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was about a French hermaphrodite named Alexina, who later changed his name to Abel. The book was divided into three parts: the memoir, a medical journal, and a "retelling" of Alexina's story. Once I started the memoir, I could hardly stop. The second part was extremely informative (and carefully detailed), but the third part really rubbed me the wrong way... Alexina was portrayed scandalously, as practically having raped her lover. All in all, if this book wasn't assigned reading, I wo ...more
Nik
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a terribly sad tale of an intersex born person deemed at birth to be a female, and later reassigned as male. It is so difficult to think of the psychological torture Herculine must have experienced in feeling so ostracised and separated from all whom s/he loved.
The edition I have includes a brilliant introduction by Foucault, a writer of esteemed brilliance, includes the papers from the autopsy which give incredible insight into the physical body (though made me feel somewhat uncomfortab
...more
graycastle
Jun 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
The full title of this one is "Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-Century French Hermaphrodite," and it pretty much does what it says on the tin. It's nonfiction, the memoirs of an intersex person who was assigned a female gender at birth, was raised in an all-girl's school, and became a teacher at the same all-girl's school when she was eighteen or so. Then she gets a female lover, and of course they get found out, and Herculine is forced to reassign as male ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
This book called an "erotic diary" was actually assigned reading in a political science course. This is the memoir of Herculine Barbin, a hermaphrodite who lived from 1838 to 1868, designated female at birth and then forced to take on a male identity when an affair with a women resulted in her physical examination and reassignment of gender as male by the courts. And no, it's not by Michel Foucault (thankfully--it's much more readable than anything by him I was forced to read in college.) Rather ...more
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction
  • Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us
  • The Pure and the Impure
  • The Last Messiah (Nihilistic Buddhism, Antinatalism, Pessimism)
  • Sarrasine
  • Quicksand
  • The Woman of Colour
  • The Bassett Table
  • Revenge of the Asian Woman
  • I, Pierre Rivière, having slaughtered my mother, my sister, and my brother...: A Case of Parricide in the 19th Century
  • The Bacchae
  • The Archaic Revival
  • Soft Science
  • Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity
  • The History of Sexuality, Volume 3: The Care of the Self
  • The Rover
  • Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
  • Undoing Gender
See similar books…
3,760 followers
Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas. He held a chair at the Collège de France with the title "History of Systems of Thought," but before he was Professor at University of Tunis, Tunisia, and then Professor at University Paris VIII. He lectured at several different Universities over the world as at the University at Buffalo, the University of California, ...more

Related Articles

Famous people! Are they really just like us? In the case of these individuals, the answer is a resounding yes when it comes to loving book...
3 likes · 0 comments
“May you hear my feeble voice! It will tell you that here below there is a heart full of the memory of you.” 6 likes
“Oh! To live alone, always alone, in the midst of the crowd that surrounds me, without a word of love ever coming to gladden my soul, without a friendly hand reaching out to me!” 4 likes
More quotes…