This has been the period between submitting the Foucault’s Last Decade manuscript and waiting for reader reports. I’ve largely been doing other things – talks on terrain and urban territory; editing a Lefebvre translation and writing its introduction; writing a response to a review forum on The Birth of Territory; a review of David Farrell Krell’s The Phantom of the Other for Derrida Today; short pieces on ‘Theory and Other Languages’ and ‘Writing by Accumulation’ (a little more here) – and not fully embarking on Foucault: The Birth of Power just yet. But this isn’t to say I haven’t done anything concerning Foucault.
I became particularly interested in Foucault’s 1983 seminar at Berkeley, which ran alongside the parrēsia lectures that became Fearless Speech. I’ve previously shared a “who’s who” of the people in the well-known ‘cowboy hat’ photograph. As a result I spoke to Keith Gandal by phone, and Arturo Escobar, David Horn, David Levin, Jerry Wakefield, Mark Maslan and Paul Rabinow by email, about their links to Foucault. I also had a brief but helpful email exchange with Peter Brown, the historian of late antiquity, in terms of his relation to Foucault in the 1980s.
I’ve also been doing some audio editing. Alongside my own writing projects on him, I’ve been working with some archive recordings of Foucault which will hopefully be published for the first time. The recording of one lecture is not great quality – think rock bootleg from the fifteenth row and you’re about there. Lots of noise, a very squeaky chair, laughs, coughs and what sounds like a dog barking at one point. The applause is much louder than anything else, so the recording clips. Much is very quiet, but hugely variable quality. I use Audacity to format the recordings of my own lectures, but I’m working with a much better source file then. This has challenged my ability much more – I want to get a fairly good, clear recording to give to a transcriber. More on these when publication possibilities are clearer.
I also tracked down the last few remaining pieces and submitted my bibliography of ‘The Uncollected Foucault’ to Foucault Studies, and it should be out later this year. It aims to be a comprehensive list of pieces which do not appear in Foucault’s books, lecture courses or the Dits et écrits collection – 95 pieces in total. In the meantime, links to many of the pieces I uncovered can be found here. I also wrote a long review of Théories et institutions pénales for Berfrois, and a short review of the new translation Language, Madness, and Desire: On Literature for Cultural Geographies. I’ve been writing a short piece on ‘Foucault and Shakespeare’, which will be given as a talk at the King’s College London event on ‘Theatre, Performance, Foucault!’ in July, but it’s clearly becoming more than a conference paper. It’s quite a nice link between the Foucault work and the ongoing Shakespeare project.
The reader reports on Foucault’s Last Decade have now arrived, so I have some work to do to address them. But I’m looking forward to getting this book into production and turning to the earlier period. Here’s the draft cover blurb for Foucault’s Last Decade. We’re now discussing the cover.
On 26 August 1974, Michel Foucault completed work on Discipline and Punish, and on that very same day began writing the first volume of the History of Sexuality. A little under ten years later, on 25 June 1984, shortly after the second and third volumes were published, he was dead.
This decade is one of the most fascinating of his career. It begins with the initiation of the sexuality project, and ends with its enforced and premature closure. Yet in 1974 he had something very different in mind for the History of Sexuality than the way things were left in 1984. Foucault originally planned a thematically organised series of six volumes, but wrote little of what he promised and published none of them. Instead over the course of the next decade he took his work in very different directions, studying, lecturing and writing about historical periods stretching back to antiquity.
This book offers a detailed intellectual history of both the abandoned thematic project and the more properly historical version left incomplete at his death. It draws on all Foucault’s writings in this period, his courses at the Collège de France and lectures elsewhere, as well as material archived in France and California to provide a comprehensive overview and synthetic account of Foucault’s last decade.
You can read more about these books, along with links to previous updates, here.