Foucault’s posthumous publications – review in Inside Higher Education, and some corrections

image_miniTwo volumes of Foucault’s posthumous publications are reviewed in Inside Higher Education by Scott McLemee. The review looks at Speech Begins After Death and  Language, Madness and Desire, both published by University of Minnesota Press.

The review doesn’t say very much at all about the books themselves, and there are unfortunately some inaccuracies here. Dits et écrits was a posthumous collection, not a posthumous publication in a strict sense. All the texts within it had been published in Foucault’s lifetime, or were authorised by him and appeared after his death – i.e. the texts in the Technologies of the Self volume. The key addition of these volumes, other than convenience, was the translation of works published in Foucault’s lifetime in languages other than French. Lots of texts were excluded because they violated Foucault’s wish (which wasn’t in a formal will). Some were missed due to simple omission. But Defert was planning this collection from at least 1986, possibly earlier and maybe even during Foucault’s lifetime, so it’s not justified to make the inference about his mind being changed.

I think the key break with the ‘no posthumous publications’ request was in the lecture courses – not in the transcriptions themselves, but in the editorial notes, which frequently, and increasingly as the series went on, quote from the course manuscripts. By the time of Lectures on the Will to Know (2011), an entire article-length piece on Oedipus was in an appendix, and by then it was clear that more and more material was likely to be published. (The French original of Speech Begins After Death  was published the same year.)

It is also worth noting that On the Punitive Society is not the last of the Foucault courses to be translated; because there are two more to come, both of which are out in French. Finally, though this is a difference of view, not of accuracy, to my mind, Language, Madness and Desire contains quite a lot of new material which wasn’t clear from previous publications, notably on Sade. (My review of this volume is forthcoming in Cultural Geographies.)

This entry was posted in Foucault's Last Decade, Foucault: The Birth of Power, Michel Foucault. Bookmark the permalink.

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