Foucault’s Last Decade – fifth update

Foucault 24 Nov

Having put together rough drafts of chapters 1 and 2 (see previous update), I was now able to move to the real focus of the book. But there is no simple break, and even as I go onto these chapters there was some material from previous courses that was best discussed here. This was especially the case with the material on hysterics and children in Psychiatric Power. While the primary aim of the book is a chronological exposition, it’s not slavishly so.

The idea was that the next chapter (number 3 on the new plan), under the working title of ‘Pervert, Hysteric, Child’, incorporates material from Psychiatric Power and Abnormal into a coherent whole. The next step was, of course, the 1974-75 course Abnormal (incidentally I don’t know why it has this title instead of the more literal The Abnormals). Again, I wrote a piece on this when it first came out in French – a book review essay commissioned by Paul Bové that was in large part the beginning of this whole project. That piece appeared in boundary 2 in 2001 (open access here), and led to an invitation by Paul to speak at the University of Pittsburgh about the Society Must be Defended course, which also appeared in boundary 2 (open access here). But that course is for Chapter Four. So the key task was to go through Abnormal, to check to what I’ve already written on this, and rework this in relation to the sections left over from Psychiatric Power.

I spent quite a bit of time looking into Foucault’s source material for some of the cases he analyses, and this led me back to the collaborative work that led to the publication of the Pierre Rivière dossier. It’s now clear to me that much of the preparatory work for these two lecture courses was done in the seminars of previous years at the Collège. I wrote a short piece on the work Jean-Pierre Peter did, in part inspired by the seminars, and providing Foucault with details of some of the cases he would examine a few years later.

I then got a little side-tracked by going back into some of the pieces Foucault wrote in the 1960s that form a kind of bridge between his work on madness and medicine in books written at the beginning of that decade and his return to those topics in the 1970s. In particular, I became interested in two pieces – “Médecins, juges et sorciers au XVIIe siècle” and “Religious Deviations and Medical Knowledge” (I say more about these here and here). I wrote a bit about these in Chapter Two.

I found it really revealing to read The Abnormals immediately after reading Psychiatric Power – they were published in reverse order, and I initially read and worked on them as they came out. So it was very interesting to see the themes in Psychiatric Power get taken up again in the other course. I suspect that when La société punitive is finally published that too will be interesting in relation to subsequent courses as well, of course, in relation to Discipline and Punish.

I still have quite a bit of work to do on Chapter Three, but it is taking shape.

This entry was posted in Foucault's Last Decade, Michel Foucault. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Foucault’s Last Decade – fifth update

  1. I liked this so much. The Abnormal Lectures were about the first think I read by Foucault straight.

    • stuartelden says:

      It’s interesting for me to think about someone who comes to Foucault via the lecture courses, rather than the books he published himself. They are such a different style, content, etc. For me, reading them after all the books and shorter pieces, they added in a lot of detail – I wonder how it is the other way round.

  2. Clare O'Farrell says:

    Reblogged this on Foucault News and commented:
    Update on Stuart Elden’s work on his book on Foucault with lots of links to his other work on Foucault

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