The Early Foucault Update 22: Acéphale, Critique, Foucault’s thesis, Uppsala, Sussex

In the second half of term I felt I made little progress, but have done a little reading and research in and around teaching, marking, meetings and other tasks. I did write the Introduction to a translation, which should be out in 2019. More details soon, hopefully.

On the early Foucault work, among other things I’ve been reading the Acéphale journal. Acéphalewas a journal founded and mostly written by Georges Bataille in the late 1930s. I know from his notes that Foucault read the journal, which was largely about Nietzsche in its short life. The British Library has some issues although all are online. But there was a reproduction of all five issues with an introduction that appeared in 1980, which I was able to consult at the Tate Gallery library.

In 1955, Foucault’s book Maladie mentale et personnalité was reviewed in Critique. The book didn’t have much attention at all on first publication, so this is interesting. I had read this review a while ago, but wanted to recheck it in the light of some of the work I’ve been doing recently. The review was by Roland Caillois. Critique was a journal set up by Georges Bataille, which he edited until his death in 1962. Foucault joined the board the following year, as part of the reorganisation when Jean Piel became editor. I think Roland Caillois was the brother of Roger Caillois, who had worked with Bataille in the 1930s. Roland was the editor of the volume of Spinoza’s work in the Pléiade series, but I can’t find much else about him. I have generally been following up on a lot of things in relation to Critique, including the correspondence between Bataille and Eric Weil.

Perhaps the most exciting thing was that I found a book which I’ve been trying to locate for a long time and had almost given up hope of ever locating. The Plon edition of Folie et déraison appeared in 1961, shortly after the thesis defence. That’s the formal first edition, reprinted in 1964. (There are three subsequent French editions, abridged or with a new preface and appendices.) But there was an earlier printing before the thesis defence. Estimates of how many copies were made vary, but it was unquestionably a small print run. A reproduction of its cover appears in one of the collections of documents about Histoire de la folie and its legacy, but I’d never seen a physical copy. Some libraries claim to have a copy of Foucault’s ‘thesis’, but they generally mean the book, which was of course the text of the thesis. Often, they do have the 1961 first edition, although sometimes it’s actually one of the reprints. It’s difficult to know from most catalogues, because both the pre- and post-defence versions have the same title, publisher and year of publication. So, a copy of the actual thesis was very hard to find. But then I chanced upon a listing for a copy for sale. Fortunately, the rare book seller was in London, so I went over to their shop to have a look. They couldn’t find it! I explained the situation, and gave them my Warwick card and they said they’d be in touch if they found it. I imagined I’d never hear from them again. But a couple of hours later they got in touch, and said it was in their other store. I was able to have a look the next day.

I have now confirmed that the text is the same as the first edition, with the same pagination. The differences are just the cover and the inside title page, and the absence of the advertising pages at the end. I’d love to have been able to buy it, but at £4500 it was rather out of my budget…

I have also been working with a Swedish MA student as part of a Warwick research scheme. He’s been providing me with some translations and summaries of texts relating to Foucault’s time in Uppsala which were published in Swedish. This has been really helpful and given me some new leads to follow up on. I did the same last year with a Polish student who provided me with a very helpful summary of a book on Foucault’s time in Warsaw.

I also spoke about the work at the University of Sussex. This was an interesting event for me, as the talk was preceded by a small discussion with staff and students who had been reading Foucault: The Birth of Power. The talk was on the early Foucault, and I talked about sources and approach as much about content and findings.

An audio recording of the talk (not the discussions) is available here.

I have a visit to Paris booked for early in the new year, with a plan to visit IMEC at the end of the trip. In Paris I can do a lot of the work I need to do on this manuscript, though I will need to make trips to Uppsala, Tübingen, and possibly Hamburg to deal with all the remaining things.

Before then, I have a book review and a handbook chapter to write. But first a holiday.

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. 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.

This entry was posted in Baruch Spinoza, Foucault: The Birth of Power, Friedrich Nietzsche, Georges Bataille, Michel Foucault, The Early Foucault, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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