This is the 26th and probably final update on the writing and production of Foucault’s Last Decade, as I received an advanced copy of the physical book a couple of days ago. Copies should be available in online stores and elsewhere in the next few weeks. A short post on the book is on the Polity blog. Here’s the backcover description.
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.
The book comes with generous endorsements from Eduardo Mendieta and Paul Bové. Eduardo was the first person to read a complete draft of the book; and Paul in an important way initiated the project, as he asked me to write a review essay on Foucault’s Les Anormaux when it was first published in 1999, and invited me to the University of Pittsburgh the following year when I also spoke about Foucault’s lectures. That began a process of my working on most of Foucault’s courses as and when they were published, with a long-term view of a book when they were all available.
The research in this book took me to Caen, Paris, Berkeley and New York to consult archival material, and also involved some correspondence and conversations with people who knew Foucault. One of the highlights for me was a long discussion with Daniel Defert in Foucault’s old apartment.
As people who have followed the updates I’ve been posting on the writing will know, this project eventually developed into two books – this one treating the period 1974-84, and Foucault: The Birth of Power which looks at the period 1969-74. That second book, while chronologically the first, was written second, drawing on material originally intended for the opening chapters of Foucault’s Last Decade, but substantially developing it. It was written second in part because the earliest lecture courses were some of the last to be published. It also made use of newly available archival material in Paris. The Birth of Power is under review, and will hopefully appear in early 2017.
In time I may return to the earliest works of Foucault, the few from the 1950s and the substantial writings of the 1960s, to write a third book completing this study of his work. But this will be dependent on pre-Collège de France courses being published, and/or the archive being completely opened up. But given that it took 18 years for the 13 Collège de France courses to be published, this may take some time. I may begin this work with studies of the new courses, as and when they appear.
The immediate Foucault-related task will be the revisions for The Birth of Power, and a return to a late and neglected book by Foucault for a chapter in an edited book. The main focus now concerns Shakespeare. But for now, it’s great to have a physical copy of the book. Being sent a pdf or e-book just wouldn’t be the same…
For more information on these two books, see the descriptions here. Audio and video recordings relating to them are here; and a full list of the updates I’ve been posting on the process of writing here.
Some translations, bibliographies, scans and links are available at Foucault Resources.