Since the last update on the writing of this book a couple of months ago, I’ve been continuing work on this manuscript. Some of this was following up on things that I discovered when in Switzerland in November, especially relating to Roland Kuhn, who Foucault knew in the mid-1950s. Foucault’s links to psychology in this period are important, and not just because of the work on Ludwig Binswanger. Kuhn is a significant figure, as is the clinical work Foucault did with Georges and Jacqueline Verdeaux. There are some important indications of these links in the biographies, but I think a bit more can be done exploring them.
I had a few days in Paris in December, when I worked at the Bibliothèque nationale on some of the early papers deposited by Foucault’s nephew, which are filed separately from the main Foucault fonds. The boxes I’ve looked at so far mainly contain materials relating to his early publications from the mid 1950s – drafts and typescripts. There are quite a lot of boxes in this fonds for me to work through still, and so I’ll be back in Paris next week to continue with them. I also had a morning at the École normale supérieure to look at the Jean Hyppolite archive, which has a copy of Foucault’s secondary thesis on Kant along with a few other things.
Melissa Pawelski has also been doing some research work for this project, including finding some archival sources in Hamburg. These have been comprehensively explored by the historian Rainer Nicolaysen, and Melissa has made a translation of his important article on Foucault’s time there between 1959-60. More news when that translation is available. Following up on some of the sources that Nicolaysen identified has been helpful for my work.
Back in the UK, as well as a few days at the British Library, I also made trips to two of my favourite London libraries to work in – the Warburg Institute which has the Ernst Cassirer edition of Kant that Foucault used alongside the Akademie Ausgabe; and the Wellcome library for some texts relating to von Weizsäcker. I then took a real break over Christmas and the New Year.
Earlier this week I was in Tübingen for a few days at the University library which holds the Ludwig Binswanger archive. There I looked at the correspondence between him and Foucault as well as the much more extensive files of letters and postcards with Jacqueline and Georges Verdeaux. I also took a look at the correspondence he had with Heidegger and Kuhn. I’ve realised that a lot of the story of Foucault’s relation to Binswanger is in need of emendation, especially around dates, and so I’ve got quite a long discussion of this. Obsessing over a very small detail led me to send off a speculative request, and a very helpful reply which has opened up a little window on the past. It is remarkable how generous some people can be if you ask politely.
The Bonatzbau of the University of Tübingen, which houses the Binswanger archive
The big news is that I have a contract with Polity to write the final book in this series, covering the 1960s from Birth of the Clinic to The Archaeology of Knowledge. The working title is The Archaeology of Foucault. There is a lot of archival material that I plan to treat in this book – lectures, courses, and drafts of The Archaeology of Knowledge, among other things. Some of this material is due to be published over the next few years.
I’ve been working on the manuscript of The Early Foucault, on and off, for over three years now. The first post about the project was made on 2 December 2016. One of the reasons for the slower progress is that I put the manuscript aside to write the book on Canguilhem, and to complete the revisions for Shakespearean Territories, but the other is the huge amount of new material that is being made available either in published form or in archives. All this meant that 2019 was the first year in quite a few when I didn’t complete a book manuscript. My hope is that I can complete this book in the spring, in about three-months’ time – after some more archival work in France, Sweden and the USA. But I will also be doing some preliminary work for the book on the 1960s on those trips. Korean, Chinese and Serbian translations of some of the earlier Foucault books are also in process.
I didn’t do a ‘year in review’ post for 2019, partly because I didn’t feel I had much to say, partly because some people seem to hate them, but also because there isn’t much in the production pipeline as, at the moment, all the focus is on the Foucault work. There is another important, slow, editing project in process; I’m co-editing a journal special issue; and I have ideas for a couple of things further beyond. The Foucault work feels like a significant thing to be bringing toward a conclusion (on the basis that the third of four books is not far from being done, and the fourth has parts sketched out). It’s certainly not there yet, but I can imagine the end. And so alongside all this work I’m beginning to think about what the next big thing after this might be. It might be the terrain work, maybe not. I have one slightly crazy idea that I keep being drawn back towards. I am looking towards the 2021/22 year, which I hope to take as a sabbatical, to begin working on the next major project.
But for now, and I expect for most of the next 18 months, I’ll keep chipping away at the Foucault material.
The previous updates on this project are here; and the previous books Foucault’s Last Decade and Foucault: The Birth of Power available from Polity. The related book Canguilhem came out in 2019, and is discussed a bit more here. Several Foucault research resources such as bibliographies, short translations, textual comparisons and so on, produced while doing the work for these books, are available here.