‘Maurice Florence’ on Michel Foucault – the missing opening paragraph

One of the things I’ve been doing with the Foucault’s Last Decade project is checking the original publication of texts in several instances, rather than relying on the reprints in Dits et écrits. Sometimes this is because the company Foucault is in can be revealing, or where there were notes or introductions which are removed when it was reprinted. The editors of Dits et écrits sometimes include notes beyond those of Foucault’s, and these are not always marked. So it can be useful to check.

One interesting text which is different in the original to the version in Dits et écrits is the text written by ‘Maurice Florence’, i.e. ‘MF’, which is a thinly-disguised autobiographical work. Foucault co-wrote the text with François Ewald, who was one of the editors of Dits et écrits, along with Daniel Defert. Foucault’s text came from an early version of the introduction to Volume II of the History of Sexuality (for a discussion, see here). In the Dits et écrits version, the opening line is enclosed in brackets, with the note explaining that this was written by Ewald – presumably this alone then, and the rest by Foucault. The version in Essential Works Vol II replicates this format, in a translation by Robert Hurley. There are, though two earlier translations – one by Jackie Urla in History of the Present No 4, and one by Catherine Porter in 1994 for The Cambridge Companion to Michel Foucault. The second edition of The Cambridge Companion does not include this text, with the editor Gary Gutting suggesting that it would be redundant given it is available in Essential Works.

The original publication, in the Dictionnaire des philosophes, begins with this paragraph:

9782130455240FSIl est sans doute encore trop tôt pour apprécier la rupture introduite par Michel Foucault, professeur au Collège de France (chaire d’histoire des systèmes de pensée) depuis 1970, dans un paysage philosophique jusqu’alors dominée par Sartre, et ce que ce dernier désignait comme la philosophie indépassable de notre temps: le marxisme. D’emblée, dès l’Histoire de la folie (1961), Michel Foucault est ailleurs. Il ne s’agit plus de fonder la philosophie sur un nouveau cogito, ni de developer en système des choses jusqu’alors caches aux yeux du monde, mais plutôt d’interroger ce geste énigmatique, peut-être caractéristique des societies occidentales par lequel se trouvent constitutes des discours vrais (donc aussi de la philosophie) avec le pouvoir que l’on sait.

Dictionnaire des philosophes, edited by Denis Huisman, Paris: PUF, Two Volumes, 1984, Vol I, p. 941.

This paragraph is translated in The Cambridge Companion (first edition), but not in Essential Works.

case6.000x9.000.inddIt is doubtless too early to assess the break introduced by Michel Foucault, who has been Professor at the Collège de France (he holds the Chair of the History of Systems of Thought) since 1970, in a philosophic landscape previously dominated by Sartre and by what Sartre called the unsurpassable philosophy of our time, Marxism. From the outset, starting with The History of Madness (1961), Michel Foucault situates himself elsewhere. It is no longer a question of basing philosophy on a new cogito, or of developing a system of things previously hidden from the eyes of the world, but rather of interrogating the enigmatic gesture – a gesture that may be characteristic of Western society – through which true discourses (thus also those of philosophy) are constituted, with their familiar power.

Maurice Florence, “Foucault, Michel, 1926 – “, in Gary Gutting (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Foucault, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 314.

As a paragraph by Ewald, there is clearly a reason for its excision, though it could have been marked in the same way as the sentence by him that was included. Yet equally, Foucault approved the text for the Dictionnaire; it is part of an integral work; and this is an interesting way of positioning his work. Other texts included – such as discussions following lectures, or roundtables – have words from others alongside Foucault’s.

The Cambridge Companion first edition is, of course, out of print, as it has been replaced by the second edition. The Dictionnaire des philosophes is in print, and there is a 2009 edition – I’m not sure if the Foucault text in that is still the one by ‘Maurice Florence’. [Update: The full French text is available here.] Given the historical interest of this presentation, it seemed worthwhile to make this paragraph, in French and English, available again.

(This post is part of the Foucault Resources part of this site, which also includes bibliographies, links to audio and video recordings, some textual comparisons, a few brief translations, and some other pieces.)

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

2 Responses to ‘Maurice Florence’ on Michel Foucault – the missing opening paragraph

  1. Pingback: Foucault’s Last Decade – Update 18 | Progressive Geographies

  2. Pingback: Philosophie Magazine issue on Foucault, including extract of Les Aveux de la chair | Progressive Geographies

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