Foucault and Simeon Wade – and the elusive ‘Chez Foucault’ publication

Last week I posted about Time magazine’s profile of Foucault from 1981. The piece included this photograph:

Michel, Simeon and Michael

James Miller‘s biography of Foucault says that this picture was of Simeon Wade, and Wade’s friend ‘Michael’ (The Passion of Michel Foucault, pp. 437-8 n. 1). Who is Simeon Wade? Well he’s an interesting figure in Foucault’s California story, because he was the author of an unpublished “121 page typescript”, ‘Foucault in California’, which recounts Foucault’s 1975 LSD trip in Death Valley. Miller discusses this in Chapter 8 of his book. I’m somewhat sceptical about this story and what has been made of it. I discuss it briefly in a 2005 piece that was a kind of prelude to the work I am now doing in much more detail – I am not sure if that particular discussion will make it into the book.

[Update 2017: Wade is interviewed by Heather Dundas in Boom California – see also my comments here]

But Wade is also interesting for another reason: he interviewed Foucault in 1976 in a piece which was first published in 1978 in a publication he edited – Chez Foucault, Los Angeles: Circabook, 1978, pp. 4-22. This text is translated into French for Dits et écrits (online here). My practice with texts originally published in English, and for which the Dits et écrits version is already once removed, is to try to find the original. This is often challenging, but in this case, it’s proved impossible. Dits et écrits describes the publication this way – “The Circabook is a sort of campus polycopié” – a handout or pamphlet, a mimeograph. I’ve been told by a reliable source that it was effectively a fanzine. I can find no library that has a copy.

So, has anyone ever seen this in the original? I’ve been unable to find contact details for Wade. Any information gratefully received.

Update: 21 Feb 2015 – I now have a scanned copy of this rare document, which can be downloaded here.

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

13 Responses to Foucault and Simeon Wade – and the elusive ‘Chez Foucault’ publication

  1. Pingback: Top posts this week on Progressive Geographies | Progressive Geographies

  2. Simeon Wade was my favorite teacher at Otis/Parsons in Los Angeles 1984/85/86. Chez Foucault was maybe half-letter sized, stapled through the middle, not very large. The cover consisted of a drawing Simeon Wade did himself with hand-lettering “Chez Foucault!” in grayscale. The book was a truly precious thing. Unfortunately my copy was misplaced along with much of my work from that period sometime in-between moves. If it is ever found, (or indeed, if Simeon Wade could be found, is he still alive?) it would be wonderful.

    • stuartelden says:

      Thanks Sarah. I am trying to get a scanned copy of this and will share when available. I’m afraid I’ve been unable to track down Wade himself – a few people said they had lost contact, so I can’t help with information there.

  3. Pingback: Simeon Wade (ed.) Chez Foucault – the 1978 fanzine with a 1976 interview with Foucault | Progressive Geographies

  4. Michael McMahan says:

    I was a Philosophy grad student at Claremont Graduate School in 1975 and a student in a seminar on Foucault taught by Simeon Wade. An unusual seminar in that Simeon was more of a acolyte and fan of Foucault rather than a dispassionate academic. Foucault stayed with Wade and Wade’s partner Michael prior to a lecture he was to give at the colleges (Scripps, I believe) The lecture occurred I believe the day after Foucault returned from Death Valley with Simeon and I recall it as sometimes mind boggling and other times as somewhat incoherent. The theme was ‘ Pouvoir’ and I recall themes from ‘Surveillir et Punir’ as well as Archaeology of Knowledge , although I do not remember specifics. I did get the sense that Foucault was still somewhat under the influence of the drug. I recall Simeon telling me that they had dropped acid, which really surprised me. I knew Simeon to be eccentric but I hadn’t supposed that Foucault would be so adventurous.
    Simeon I recall left Claremont a few years afterwards and I saw him once more at a conference in LA on the Pentagon Papers whose speakers included Daniel Ellsberg and William Colby. He was living in Sun Valley, California in what seemed to be a communal group and teaching at
    Otis /Parsons .
    Simeon mentioned Chez Foucault , which I was not able to find, and seemed to be very proud over his role in introducing Foucault to LSD as well as the gay subculture of Southern California .
    You mention ‘skepticism’ over this episode, specifically of what ?

    • stuartelden says:

      Thanks for this Michael – an interesting story. My scepticism is to do with what Foucault allegedly revealed on this Death Valley trip, and the elaboration that James Miller makes about it in his biography. It was clearly an important event for Foucault – David Macey says almost everyone he spoke to knew about it. But Miller uses it as a lens through which to view Foucault’s work, and that seems far too strong.

  5. Alan says:

    I studied under Simeon Wade and Michael Stoneman in 1981 at a private school in the San Fernando Valley called Belmont College Prep. School. Studied Foucault and other philosophers with Dr Wade and Latin with Michael Stoneman both pictured above. I am in possession of two Dr Wade publications….Chez Foucault and Letters from Susan. I also would be very interested in finding out what happened to Dr Wade. Thank you

  6. Pingback: Michel Foucault’s acid trip in Death Valley: Interview with Simeon Wade with great archival photos | Progressive Geographies

  7. 4tset says:

    For others who stumble across this thread, here is an update from 2017, an interview about the 1975 Death Valley ‘trip’ with Foucault:

    “Simeon Wade is now retired and living in Oxnard, California, where he writes and plays the piano.”

  8. Pingback: Foucault in California [A True Story—Wherein the Great French Philosopher Drops Acid in the Valley of Death] – Heyday 2019 | Progressive Geographies

  9. ajanigian says:

    I have a copy of Chez Foucault which I inherited from Professor Albert Friedman who taught English at Claremont. He knew Foucault, and indeed, invited him to Claremont (they’d met in France, per his report) and recalled for me in detail all the shenanigans that went on—love affairs and desert experiences—during Foucault’s visits to Claremont. They were both gay, neither openly, obviously, so they shared clandestine stories and adventures together, both in Southern California and Northern.

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