Foucault: the Birth of Power Update 7 – working at the Bibliothèque Nationale and a meeting with Foucault’s nephew

Last week was spent at the Bibliothèque Nationale again, continuing the work on the Foucault papers archived there. I worked through four boxes – the last of the five boxes of preparatory notes for Surveiller et punir that also relate to the 1971-72 and 1972-73 courses – and then three boxes of notes for his seminars and the Pierre Rivière project. Most of what I’ve found will be used for Foucault: The Birth of Power.

FBP update 7 copy

One box was a surprise. It did not contain notes for a Collège de France seminar, as I’d though from the catalogue entry, but according to the index in the box they are notes for some seminars he gave in Toronto in 1982. There are various reports about these, and transcripts of some are at in the archives at IMEC and Berkeley, but they have not yet been published. The ones I have seen are quite close to the Vermont seminars from later that year that appear in the Technologies of the Self volume. The notes at the BNF contain detailed readings of early Christianity – Encratism, St Basil of Caesarea, Evagrius Ponticus, Jean Chrysostome, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, St Augustine, Jerome, Cyprian, and Ambrose. There are lots of references to primary texts in Greek and Latin, with long passages copied out and some photocopies, plus references to secondary literature in French, German and English. As with all the notes I’ve seen so far they are undated, so it’s hard to be too specific about them, but they clearly relate to the work planned for the volume of the History of Sexuality on Christianity and the 1979-80 course Du gouvernement du vivants. One note is to a journal article on Augustine published in 1980, but given Foucault filed notes thematically and not chronologically that just gives a first possible date for that page alone, though it is a good indication for the work as a whole. Foucault says that he prepared notes on Augustine for his October 1980 seminars at Berkeley but did not have time to deliver them – either there or at Dartmouth in November. But he discusses Augustine a little in the ‘Sexuality and Solitude’ lecture at NYU between these two short courses. The material here would certainly reinforce that work, but goes far beyond what we have as a published record. In the last two folders of the box there are materials that appear to be from a slightly later date – they include a copy of a journal article from 1982 – on Christianity in relation to parrēsia and cynicism.

Boxes 20-23, which I’ve yet to look at, are catalogued as being on ‘Réforme, Pères de l’Eglise, etc.’, so these notes in Box 24 could simply just be a continuation of those. There is no indication in Foucault’s own handwriting that there is any other break: the only thing that indicates that there is one comes from the BNF catalogue and the archivist’s description in the box.

Box 25 does contain seminar material from the Collège de France, with the first few folders relating to the project on hospital architecture from 1974 running in parallel to Psychiatric Power. The key outputs from this work were the three lectures from Rio from late 1974 on medicine and health, and then 1976’s Les machines à guerir, including Foucault’s essay ‘The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century’. (That book relates to an earlier 1976 report, and is reissued with amended material in 1979.) Most of this box at the BNF contains photocopied extracts of source material, and several reproductions of architectural diagrams. There are some notes that are not in Foucault’s handwriting, in I think three hands. I think one of them is Blandine Barret-Kriegel. Some of these notes (unlike Foucault’s) are dated – all to late 1973, which makes sense given the date of the seminar. In folder 4 a note signed by Bruno Fortier, one of Foucault’s collaborators on this work, begins a sequence of photocopied plans and descriptions of prisons and asylums. Folder 5 includes material on plans for ‘twelve ideal cities’, and lots more articles on prison design, some sent to Foucault by Fortier, and including some photocopy requests from Royal Institute of British Architects (to Fortier) and the Institut National de Recherche et de documentation Pedagogues (to Foucault). We know that Foucault says it was his work on hospital architecture which led him to Bentham’s Panopticon, though there is no trace on this here.

Folder 26 contains materials relating to the Pierre Rivière project – Foucault’s seminars on the topic, the collaborative volume that appeared with Gallimard in 1973, and the 1976 film. I’d hoped there might be the transcription of Rivière’s memoir that Jean-Pierre Peter made for the seminar, but it is not here. I’d also hoped there would be details of how the seminar worked – they discovered the case in the first year, worked on it in the second year, and prepared the dossier for publication in the third. Nonetheless there is some interesting material in this folder, including a very detailed map of Rivière’s journey between the murder and the arrest. I had a discussion of the project in Chapter Six, and it’s allowed me to fill out the account a bit more.

I’ve now had four visits to this archive, each of about a week. In that time I’ve worked through the five boxes of older material – NAF28284 (1-5), which comprise the drafts of Histoire de la sexualité volumes II and III, and the early draft of L’archaeologie du savoir – and eleven boxes of the more recently available material. There are some other boxes listed which I’d like to get through before I submit this book, especially the five boxes relating to “Pouvoir psychiatrique, Anormaux, etc. (Cours)”. I have a day and a half here again in early December, when I’m visiting IMEC, but I’ll need time beyond that. There are also several boxes relating to Foucault’s books from the 1960s that are outside the remit of the current project. I’m sure the material relating to Histoire de la folie and Naissance de la Clinique will be especially interesting. Perhaps in time I will write another book on Foucault in the 1960s that looks at this material, but I’d like the pre-Collège de France courses, especially from Vincennes and Tunis to be published first. There are also materials relating to later lecture courses at the BNF that became available after I’d finished the work for Foucault’s Last Decade, but which ideally I’ll get to work through at some point. One thing I’ve found is that the overall catalogue titles can be misleading. Given that, and that the thematic arrangement by Foucault incorporates notes from different periods together, there may well be valuable material on the 1969-75 period I’m now concentrating on almost anywhere.

Quite by chance, Henri-Paul Fruchaud – Foucault’s nephew and now one of his editors – was working at the desk next to me. I’d given Daniele Lorenzini some minor help for a volume he and Fruchaud are editing, and the archivist Marie Odile Germain had also mentioned I was working here this week, so Fruchaud knew who I was and introduced himself. We had a good conversation over a coffee about my work and the future publishing plans: there are several volumes in the works. The next one, due in early 2016, will be a critical edition of the 1983 Berkeley lectures on parrēsia, which we have in English as Fearless Speech. This will appear with Vrin in the same series as L’origine de l’herméneutique de soi and Qu’est-ce que la critique? suivi de La culture de soi which came out in 2013 and 2015.

This week I’m giving lectures on Shakespeare at UCL and Cambridge (details here), and then back up to Warwick to examine a PhD. I’ll be back in Paris at the end of the month, en route to Caen to work at the IMEC archive.

Links to my series of updates on the books’ progress can be found here and audio and video recordings of talks on the work are here.

Some translations, scans and links are available at Foucault Resources.

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One Response to Foucault: the Birth of Power Update 7 – working at the Bibliothèque Nationale and a meeting with Foucault’s nephew

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

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