Foucault’s Last Decade – Update 18

Update 18

The last major task of the first draft was a discussion of the final two Paris lecture courses, The Government of Self and Others and The Courage of Truth. The first of these courses provides the basis for the October-November 1983 Berkeley lectures. These were first published in a privately circulated document edited by Joseph Pearson entitled “Discourse and Truth: The Problematization of ΠΑΡΡΗΣΙΑ: Notes to the Seminar given by Foucault at the University of California at Berkeley” in 1985, and later published as Fearless Speech by Semiotext(e). While the 1983 Paris lectures are somewhat schematic, and have very long readings of Euripides’ Ion and Plato’s Letter VII, the Berkeley lectures distill their key themes into a tighter whole, but also develop some new themes and link the analysis more explicitly to work on techniques of the self. The 1984 course is somewhat fragmented due to Foucault’s illness – it begins three weeks late and breaks off somewhat inconclusively. These two courses though, along with the Berkeley summation and some other materials, provide a sense of where Foucault was intending to go beyond the History of Sexuality. It is notable that, although he was drafting, redrafting and then working on the proofs of the second, third and unpublished fourth volume during the 1983-84 period, these courses make little reference to their themes. The historical period covered is the same, but the work on parrēsia is part of what he calls a historical and not merely formal analysis of “the ontology or ontologies of the discourse of truth”.

Alongside these courses there are also lots of interviews and short texts. In particular, I worked through, yet again, all of Foucault’s texts on Kant’s ‘What is Enlightenment?’ essay. I don’t say much about that here – there is a brief discussion in Mapping the Present and a wide secondary literature already – but I did want to check all the references. There is a list of the key pieces by Foucault on this text here. I also listened to various audio recordings from this time. I was especially struck by the April 1983 Regents’ lecture at Berkeley on ‘The Culture of the Self’ – an interesting synthetic text which has not been published in written form – and the long discussion with the History department which followed. The discussion, in particular, has given me some useful points. I also continued the work of checking original publication outlets for pieces, which occasionally throws up interesting things (see, for example, this missing paragraph from the ‘Maurice Florence’ piece).

In the end, I shifted the discussion of these two courses and related materials into a short final chapter, provisionally entitled ‘Speaking Truth to Power’, which also works as a brief conclusion to the book as a whole.

I also had another couple of days in the British Library checking (and rechecking) references and filling in some details. One thing that was especially interesting was consulting the Schizo-Culture: The Event 1975 book (edited by Sylvère Lotringer and David Morris, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2013). This includes a text by Foucault which appears in Foucault: Live, but not, as far as I am aware, anywhere else. In Foucault: Live this text is entitled ‘Infantile Sexuality – Schizo-Culture’, but in the Schizo-Culture book the title is ‘We are not Repressed’. The original lecture, given on 14th November at 8pm, was delivered in English by Foucault’s translator, Mark Seem. Foucault was in attendance. The reproduction of the conference program says the original title was “Nous ne sommes pas réprimés”, but as far as I can tell no other trace of the original French is available. It looks like the transcript is the same between Foucault: Live and Schizo-Culture. One error in both is that Foucault appears to refer to a writer called ‘van Hussel’, but this is really Jos van Ussel, whose book Histoire de la répression sexuelle (Paris: Laffont, 1972) Foucault refers to in some other places, including the lecture course Les anormaux. The French book is a translation of Sexualunterdrückung: Geschichte der Sexualfeindschaft (Rowolt: Hamburg, 1970) but I believe there was an earlier Dutch version. As well as primary texts Foucault is examining, and obscure pieces by him in their original context, I was also checking texts by people Foucault references – the likes of Pierre Hadot, Paul Veyne, Claude Vatin, Georges Dumézil and Sarah Pomeroy.

I also put out a request for help with some obscure texts of Foucault’s – please do have a look and see if you are able to help. A couple of things are already fixed. As far as I am able, I am sharing things I do uncover – they can be found here.

The next task is putting all the individual chapter files into a single document, and then fixing as many small things as I can before printing the manuscript for the first time.

You can read more about the Foucault’s Last Decade project, along with links to previous updates, here.

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5 Responses to Foucault’s Last Decade – Update 18

  1. Nathan Harter says:

    MF’s translator of the College de France lecture series spells “parresia” two different ways over the course of the last three years. Is there an explanation?

    • stuartelden says:

      The differences are in the French texts – as far as I can tell Graham Burchell is reproducing accurately the original. As I understand it, it is due to a choice in transliteration. The Greek ΠΑΡΡΗΣΙΑ or παρρησια translates as parresia, but there is an accent on the η, which is sometimes transliterated as ‘he’ not just as ‘e’ – if I understand it right it’s known as ‘rough breathing’. It’s more common at the start of words. I think this is the reason – Foucault is not consistent in his course manuscripts either, as far as I can tell.

      There are a few such inconsistent variants in Foucault’s transliterations – chresis and khresis, and charis and kharis are two others I’ve spotted between texts.

  2. Pingback: Foucault’s Last Decade – Update 19: a nearly complete first draft | Progressive Geographies

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

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