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.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.