The Early Foucault update 8: two days in the Carolina Rediviva library, Uppsala

Carolina Rediviva

Carolina Rediviva, Uppsala

My ongoing research into Foucault’s research and the writing of his History of Madness has taken me to Uppsala, where Foucault worked between 1955 and 1958. This was just a very brief reconnaissance trip – made possible as a side-visit following the Nordic Geographers Meeting in Stockholm. I have been working in the Carolina Rediviva library of Uppsala University, which among other things houses the archives of the Alliance Française. Foucault directed their cultural programme and taught French literature at the University. I found all the course records giving titles and topics for Foucault’s teaching – though none of the content seems to have survived, unfortunately – and some information on events which took place while he was here. I also found some photographs of Foucault and various newspaper clippings, preserved in the scrapbooks of the president of the Alliance.

Maison de France

Former site of the ‘Maison de France’ [Update October 2019: this is not correct – the street numbering has changed and it was actually in a different building. See the comment from Petra below.]

Foucault ran the cultural programme from the ‘Maison de France’, which is just a few minutes walk from the Carolina Rediviva library. The current address is an unassuming building, and it’s certainly no longer used by the Alliance Française, but I thought I would take a quick look at the site.

Foucault also made extensive use of the library collection, especially the ‘Bibliotheca Walleriana’ – a massive collection of works on the history of medicine bequeathed by Erik Waller. Foucault’s biographers note that the Bibliotheca Walleriana was catalogued in 1955 – the very year Foucault arrived in Uppsala. I’d imagined that the catalogue would be some kind of paper document, perhaps now available online, or a card index, but it’s actually a massive two volume book. There is now a dedicated search engine, but the printed book is invaluable. Of course the library here has a copy – the one I used in the reference library was a later facsimile bound as a single volume – but it is also available in some other research libraries. The catalogue will be a useful guide as I try to do some more work in this area.

Because of renovation work the library was only open for three hours each day, and was entirely closed for the midsummer’s eve holiday on Friday. I therefore didn’t have nearly as much time as I’d hoped, but as an initial trip it was very useful, and I hope to get back at some point.

The previous updates on this project are here; and Foucault’s Last Decade and Foucault: The Birth of Power are now both available from Polity. Several Foucault research resources such as bibliographies, short translations, textual comparisons and so on are available here.

This entry was posted in Michel Foucault, The Early Foucault, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Early Foucault update 8: two days in the Carolina Rediviva library, Uppsala

  1. Pingback: Books received – Bibliotheca Walleriana, Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Garcia, Shakespeare, Lacan, Delanda and Harman | Progressive Geographies

  2. Petra says:

    Hi! I’m currently working on a book about the history of Uppsala from an LGBTQ perspective, and have done some research on Foucaults time here. I just wanted to let you know that the building in your photo is in fact not the address where Maison the France once was. One of my interviewees pointed this out to me, and after a little bit of research I found out the street numbering has changed since the 50’s. The right building is in a block close to the river.

    • Petra says:

      Sorry, too many languages at the same time. Maison de France.

    • stuartelden says:

      Thank you. Yes, I realised I was wrong just recently when I read a description of the building from the time. I hope to be back in Uppsala in 2020 and will take another look.

    • stuartelden says:

      Do please share information about the book or other work when available – would be interesting to see what you discover.

      • Petra says:

        According to my research, Didier Eribon is also wrong about which building it was, in his biography of Foucault. The building he apparently describes (S:t Johannesgatan 3) is next to the building (number 5) my interviewee, as well as old maps, point out as the right one.

  3. Pingback: The Early Foucault Update 31: IMEC, Paris, Uppsala and the impact of the coronavirus | Progressive Geographies

  4. ar2076 says:

    You also confuse the Alliance Francaise with the institute that Foucault was in charge of, Maison de France. Alliance Francaise is a network organisation that still exists, in Uppsala and elsewhere, according to their website. Foucault however, met and cooperated with people in the local Alliance Francaise (see Eribon’s biography.)

    • stuartelden says:

      Thanks, but I don’t think that’s quite accurate either. I’ve been through the archives of the Alliance française in Uppsala, which has some reports on Foucault’s work there, and a book of reports on its work. In the manuscript of my book I think I’m more careful in how I refer to them. This blog post was an interim research report on my first work in Uppsala, but I’ve been back since and hopefully there is no confusion in the book itself.

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