The English language sources of Foucault’s L’origine de l’herméneutique de soi

foucaultLast year a little book of Foucault’s lectures at Dartmouth College in 1980 was published in French – L’origine de l’herméneutique de soi: Conférences prononcées à Dartmouth College, 1980, edited by Henri-Paul Fruchaud and Daniele Lorenzini, Paris: Vrin, 2013.

[Update: A full translation appeared in 2016 from University of Chicago Press – details here]

The texts in the book are French translations of lectures and other material originally delivered and/or published in English. The text comprises four texts by Foucault:

  1. ‘Subjectivité et vérité’, 17 November 1980 lecture at Dartmouth College, with variants from 20 October 1980 Howison lecture at University of California, Berkeley
  2. ‘Christianisme et aveu’, 24 November 1980 lecture, with variants from 21 October 1980 lecture at Berkeley
  3. ‘Débat sur Subjectivité et vérité’, 23 October 1980 discussion from Berkeley
  4. ‘Interview de Michel Foucault’, 3 November 1980 interview with Michael Bess

The two Dartmouth lectures first appeared as ‘About the Beginning of the Hermeneutics of the Self’ in Political Theory in 1993, edited by Mark Blasius (requires subscription, but easily available elsewhere); and were reprinted in the collections The Politics of Truth and Religion and Culture. The Berkeley lectures are available as audio recordings here; with transcripts available at IMEC and Berkeley. The Political Theory version (and the reprints) note some of the variants between Dartmouth and Berkeley. The texts did not appear in Dits et écrits as they were not published in Foucault’s lifetime; the versions in this French book are therefore their first publication in French. The editorial note says that “Some transcription errors have been corrected”. There are some helpful notes added to the translation.

The third text is a new transcription from the recordings held at UC Berkeley library. As far as I know this is previously unpublished in any language, and the key draw of this volume. It’s a very good discussion with some particularly interesting comments on Christianity.

The fourth text was originally published as “Power, Moral Values, and the Intellectual”Interview with Michael Bess, History of the Present 4.1-2, Spring 1988, 11-13 – available online here. That text is a translation from the French; the text in this volume is based on the recording archived at IMEC. As far as I know, this is the first publication of the French original, which is also not in Dits et écrits.

The book also has some helpful notes and an introduction. The title of Foucault’s lectures at Berkeley – the Howison lectures – was ‘Subjectivity and Truth’; the Dartmouth lectures were entitled ‘Truth and Subjectivity’ and ‘Christianity and Confession’. The French book is entitled L’origine de l’herméneutique de soi (close to the English title in Political Theory, itself taken from a remark Foucault made at Berkeley) to avoid confusion with the forthcoming lecture course  Subjectivité et véritéwhich was delivered in Paris between 7 January and March 1981. In this instance Foucault delivered material in Paris after trying out some of this work in the first of these US lectures – he usually did this the other way round. The second lecture draws on material from the 1980 course Du gouvernement des vivants – presented here in chronological order, as he intended with the History of Sexuality itself, even though the research had been done in the opposite order. Foucault also used some of this material for the April-May 1981 Louvain lectures Mal faire, dire vrai, translation forthcoming as Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling.

The other available text from this crucial period in the USA (October-November 1980) is ‘Sexuality and Solitude‘, delivered as the James lecture on 20 November 1980 at New York University with contributions added by Richard Sennett. (There are reports of a more substantial seminar too.) The English text of Foucault and Sennett was published in The London Review of Books (open access), and there are various reprints, though without Sennett’s contributions. There are substantial overlaps with the Berkeley/Dartmouth material. The English text is reprinted in Essential Works Volume I, and in Religion and Culture where it is heavily abridged but with some variants from the original manuscript. A French translation is in Dits et écrits, again without SennettThere is a slightly different version of the text, based on the original manuscript rather than the transcript, in Marshall Blonsky, On Signs – the source for the Religion and Culture variations. These variants are not in French, as far as I know, presumably because On Signs was published in 1985, and therefore the version there counts as a posthumous text.

From Daniel Defert’s ‘Chronology’, we know there were also seminars at Berkeley in October 1980 on ‘Sexual Ethics in Late Antiquity and Early Christianity’; and a talk at Princeton on ‘The Birth of Biopolitics’ in November 1980. These remain unpublished. From the announcement at the beginning of the Howison lectures it appears the seminars at Berkeley were on the 22 and 27 October.

This is a crucial period because it is the moment between the shift of Foucault’s focus from  Christianity to antiquity – but this is a return, not a turn, because we now know of the content of Lectures on the Will to Know from 1970-71, and Oedipus returns in other places, not least Du gouvernement des vivants. All Foucault’s subsequent Collège de France courses would have antiquity as their focus. And in late 1980 Foucault decided to cancel his seminar at the Collège, so there were no parallel projects going on there.

I’ve pieced this together from various sources, including all the books, journals and recordings mentioned above, Defert’s chronology and Richard Lynch’s bibliography of Foucault in English. Corrections or additions welcome.

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7 Responses to The English language sources of Foucault’s L’origine de l’herméneutique de soi

  1. Pingback: Foucault’s Last Decade – Update 11 | Progressive Geographies

  2. Pingback: Foucault’s Last Decade – Update 12 | Progressive Geographies

  3. Pingback: Foucault’s Last Decade – Update 13 | Progressive Geographies

  4. Pingback: Foucault’s Last Decade – Update 16 | Progressive Geographies

  5. Pingback: Foucault, About the Beginning of the Hermeneutics of the Self – forthcoming in December | Progressive Geographies

  6. Pingback: Foucault, About the Beginning of the Hermeneutics of the Self: Lectures at Dartmouth College, 1980 | Progressive Geographies

  7. Pingback: Foucault, About the Beginning of the Hermeneutics of the Self: Lectures at Dartmouth College, 1980 | Progressive Geographies

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