The Early Foucault Update 19: A Writing and Cycling Retreat in the Peak District

Top of Ewden Bank-Midhopestones Bank

Top of Ewden Bank/Midhopestones Bank on Mortimer Road – did this bit both ways (it’s horrible)

I’m just back from a couple of weeks in the Peak District, in the south near Bakewell and the north in Holmfirth. The idea was to have a consolidated period of work on this book. The internet connection was somewhere between poor and non-existent, which helped with the focus. I also did quite a bit of cycling, for which, aside from an Ordnance Survey map, my guides were Simon Warren’s Cycling Climbs books. While I was there I did 26 of his categorized climbs, only 6 of which I’d done before.

In terms of the writing I redrafted the section on Foucault’s early course on anthropology, based on my reading of the manuscript and student notes, helped enormously by a transcription of one set of these. I went over the discussion of the other early courses and think the section on them is probably as good as it can be in advance of their publication.

I then went back over all the early publications from 1954 to 1957, and am now fairly happy with the discussion of them. The new part written was a sustained discussion of the Binswanger introduction, and I also reworked the discussion of the Binswanger and von Weizsäcker translations. Rereading the Binswanger introduction in the light of the lecture courses was really helpful for me. The next task will be a discussion of the new parts of Maladie mentale et psychologie from 1962.

I also worked a little bit on the discussion of the 1964 abridgement of Histoire de la folie. When I wrote my PhD in the mid 1990s the full text was not in English, so I worked with the full French text as well as the Madness and Civilization translation. At the time I made notes on what was only in French, and what was translated. Although Madness and Civilization is not quite the same as the French abridged version, it’s close, and so my detailed notes from the time are a good start in the process of textual comparison. While for the discussion of the book itself, I’ll be using the full French text and the complete History of Madness translation, I also want to discuss the abridgement as an object of study in itself. There is also a very brief text by Foucault in the abridgement which I’d previously overlooked, but has an interesting remark in it.

I returned, again, to Didier Eribon’s Michel Foucault et ses contemporains, which for this period, has some valuable discussion of Foucault’s relations to Dumézil and Althusser. It’s a shame that we only have a translation of first edition of Eribon’s biography of Foucault, when there is much additional material in the later editions, and no translation at all of Michel Foucault et ses contemporains.

I also read two remarkable collections on Foucault and Derrida – Olivia Custer, Penelope Deutscher, and Samir Haddad (eds.), Foucault/Derrida Fifty Years Later: The Futures of Genealogy, Deconstruction, and Politics (Columbia University Press, 2016) and Yubraj Aryal, Vernon W. Cisney, Nicolae Morar and Christopher Penfield (eds.), Between Foucault and Derrida (Edinburgh University Press, 2016). I had thought the Foucault-Derrida ‘debate’ over the History of Madnesswas largely sterile, in that while it was interesting, there was little left to say. But both books convinced me there was more at stake. They alerted me to important textual issues in Derrida that I’d previously overlooked, and led me to further published or archival sources to consult. So I have drafted a short section on this, at the moment located in relation to the discussion of the different editions of Foucault’s text. I’m not quite clear where I should put this. This is because the debate straddles the years – Foucault’s book in 1961, Derrida’s critique in 1963, its republication in 1967, Foucault’s replies in 1972, and Derrida’s partial return to the topic in 1991. It could be in the chapter where I discuss the book and its reception; or perhaps in the chapter where I discuss the 1964 revision (there is an argument that some of the changes relate to this debate.) But equally the discussion may end up in the book on Foucault in the 1960s, even though it perhaps should have been in Foucault: The Birth of Power. In that book (p. 205 n. 20), I briefly mention the debate in relation to the 1972 revision of Histoire de la folie, which includes Foucault’s second response as an appendix, but I essentially thought there was no more for me to say than I did in my 2001 book Mapping the Present (pp. 189-90 n. 17). I’m not quite sure that this is the case.

Chew Road

Chew Road from the reservoir – unsealed parts and drainage channels

The Derrida debate, and some other things I worked on, reinforced my sense that there is a book on Foucault in the 1960s to be written. I started to sketch out some ways in which I might do that.

It was a productive couple of weeks, and I am now looking forward to the next Paris visit where there are more things to follow up. In the meantime I’ll be trying to fix a few things I can resolve in London libraries. I also need to plan another trip to IMEC to consult some materials there, but that’s probably a bit further off.

The previous updates on this project are here; and the previous books Foucault’s Last Decade and Foucault: The Birth of Power are both available from Polity. My study of Canguilhem is forthcoming in early 2019, and is discussed a bit more here. Several Foucault research resources such as bibliographies, short translations, textual comparisons and so on are available here.

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