‘No Posthumous Publications’ – responses to some questions about Foucault and the future publication of the History of Sexuality Vol IV

In the German interview with Daniel Defert I linked to earlier this week, it was revealed that the fourth volume of Foucault’s History of Sexuality will eventually be published. This is my attempt at answering some of the common questions – some I’ve received by mail, twitter, etc. and some that have been asked before.

[Update 29 August 2017: the book is now scheduled for publication in early 2018]

Didn’t Foucault want ‘no posthumous publications’?

– yes, but this wish has been interpreted more and more liberally over the past several years, and has been broken repeatedly recently, so this is not surprising. Dits et écrits in 1994 was a literal following of the wish – a posthumous collection, but only of pieces which were published in some form in his lifetime, or a few which were authorised but appeared later due to publishing delays. It brought a number of pieces into/back into French which had been published in other languages. But it missed a few pieces which were published in his lifetime, and there were several more published soon afterwards which did not appear due to the strict interpretation.

What about the lecture courses? Aren’t they posthumous publications?

– Initially there were unauthorised Italian versions of ‘Society Must be Defended’ and I think The Abnormals, which the family tried to stop. When they failed, they decided to do the lecture courses properly, in critical editions. Initially the line was that these were transcripts of material already in the public domain as recordings – archived at the Collège de France, IMEC, Berkeley etc. The earliest published courses were very literal; as they continued editors began to use the course manuscript more and more to fill in missing details or provide variants or unspoken passages in notes. Then with the very early courses – Lectures on the Will to KnowThe Punitive SocietyThéories et institutions pénales – the editors used either a transcript of now lost tapes or the manuscript alone to reconstruct the course. In the first of these, an entire manuscript, ‘Oedipus Knowledge’ is appended. So you could say there has been a gradual erosion of the wish.

What other posthumous publications have there been?

–  Quite a few. Some interviews have appeared, some lectures given outside of Paris, documents relating to political activity, etc. Some small books have appeared in French of texts, some of which previously had appeared in English, and many of which are now being translated. I’ve linked to several ‘uncollected notes, lectures and interviews‘ on this site, and have a piece forthcoming in Foucault Studies which is an attempt at a comprehensive bibliography of ‘The Uncollected Foucault‘ (i.e. stuff that isn’t in Dits et écrits).

– What’s in the fourth volume?

It’s entitled Les aveux de la chair – Confessions, or Avowals, of the Flesh. It’s the book on the early Church that Foucault frequently talks about. It likely links to the work presented in the On the Government of the Living course, and the ‘Battle for Chastity’ essay says it is from this volume. Foucault presented work given elsewhere as related to this – the ‘Sexuality and Solitude’ essay, for instance, or one of the two 1980 ‘About the Beginning of the Hermeneutic of the Self’ lectures. But as to what the text itself contains, very few people know for sure. The only people who have seen the manuscript, as far as I know, are Foucault’s family and Daniel Defert.

– Was it a finished text? No, but nearly. Foucault drafted it in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and then put it aside to concentrate on the work on antiquity, which appeared in volumes II and III. He felt that material was needed to set the work on Christianity in its proper context. In the last months of his life he returned to the typescript – itself a telling sign as his texts were handwritten until very late stages – and edited it. He says that he expects it to appear in October 1984, and indicates there was little work to do. But that final work is interrupted by his illness, and then death.

What else might be forthcoming?

– We know of some courses which exist, including ones from Vincennes and Tunisia (there is an entire course published in Arabic, for instance). There are other lecture courses given outside of Paris where tapes exist. The editors of the Collège de France courses mention several other manuscripts – a dossier on hermaphrodites, ‘Liberalism as a way of government’, material on technologies of the self. Philippe Chevalier found a fragment of the original second volume of the History of Sexuality, on medieval Christianity… There is material available as audio recordings in archives which has not been transcribed. There are reports some Collège de France seminars were recorded, though I’ve never seen the tapes listed anywhere. As yet, the Bibliothèque Nationale has only made limited material available to researchers, so more may yet be found.

It is also worth noting, while newly available material has been translated quite quickly, that a lot of short pieces Foucault published in his lifetime have still not been translated into English.

When can we expect it?

– Not sure. It may be several years, since it seems likely that some of the other material, including the lecture courses, will appear first. Vrin also continue to publish work, and I understand the next volume will be a critical edition of the ‘Discourse and Truth’ lectures from Berkeley in 1983 – which appear in English as Fearless Speech. [Of course, now – August 2017 – we know that it will appear in January 2018. Vrin continue to publish new volumes of material, and there are plans for some other lecture courses underway.]

There is much more about this, as well as all the sources for these claims, in my forthcoming book Foucault’s Last Decade.

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6 Responses to ‘No Posthumous Publications’ – responses to some questions about Foucault and the future publication of the History of Sexuality Vol IV

  1. Clare O'Farrell says:

    Reblogged this on Foucault News.

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

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

  4. Pingback: Foucault, History of Sexuality Vol IV, Les Aveux de la Chair scheduled for January 2018 | Progressive Geographies

  5. Pingback: How to really ensure ‘no posthumous publications’ – Pratchett vs Foucault | Progressive Geographies

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