The Early Foucault Update 23: the Hegel thesis and other manuscripts, Jean Wahl and Maladie mentale


First edition (in a protective wrap), second edition, current edition and translation

I’ve been continuing work on The Early Foucault manuscript, which is coming together quite well. After the Christmas and New Year break, I submitted a book review and chapter on quite different topics. I’m now in Paris, where I’ve been spending time at the manuscripts room at the BnF-Richelieu, but also going to the BnF-Mitterand and Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève for books and journals. The main thing I’ve been doing with the manuscripts is working on Foucault’s Hegel thesis from 1949, and drafting a section of a chapter discussing this, and going back over some of Foucault’s notes from his own reading in preparation for his early books. To get an idea of what those notes look like, the contents of one box, of preparatory materials for Les mots et les choses [The Order of Things], have been digitized and are available here. These give a good indication of how Foucault took notes and organized them into thematic folders. I’ve been mainly working on the notes relating to History of Madness and Birth of the Clinic, but also looking again at his notes on German philosophy from the 1950s.

As well as the manuscripts, I’ve mainly been working with some of Jean Wahl’s courses, some of which Foucault attended and which I’m increasingly realising are significant in his development. Several of Wahl’s courses were published, some as proper books, others by the Centre de Documentation Universitaire as bound typescripts. I spent far too long trying to work out details of how Wahl had access to courses by Heidegger, which at that time were unpublished. Wahl died in 1974, the year before the Gesamtausgabe began publication, but he was referring to courses by Heidegger as early as 1946. The source for these seems to be Alexandre Koyré, who certainly attended some Heidegger’s lectures in the late 1920s. But accounts I’ve found are misleading about which course or courses Wahl was referring to. This has taken me through editions of Wahl’s courses, to recollections by him and Jean Beaufret, and Dominique Janicaud’s Heidegger en France. (Of course, some of Heidegger’s courses were published in his lifetime, but not the ones I’m concerned with here. In particular his 1935-36 course Introduction to Metaphysics was published in 1953, and Wahl gave a course on this this course shortly afterwards.)

Tracking down Wahl’s courses has been a bit of a challenge, since several of the BnF copies are only available to consult on microfiche, and the copy of one later course is missing from the library. (The copies of the ones I tried to order at the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève all seem to be lost.) The microfiche machines are ancient, and reading a whole course on one is hard work. But there are some real insights into how Foucault and fellow students would have been introduced to Heidegger’s work. At the time there were few translations of Heidegger into French, and only a relatively small amount of his work was published even in German. But Wahl is talking about the later Heidegger as well as Being and Time, and showing the development of his ideas. Holzwege was published in 1950, and Wahl was teaching it almost immediately. And contrary to how some of the later debates about Heidegger and politics have presented things, Wahl and his colleagues were well aware of Heidegger’s Nazism. I also spent a little time on Koyré’s work, since he wrote some important short pieces on Heidegger in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as being an important figure in his own right.

I’ve also been looking again at Foucault’s Maladie mentale et personnalité, and in particular the changes between that 1954 text and the 1962 revision as Maladie mentale et psychologie. Only the second is available in English translation, and it’s the second edition which is in print in French. Although I have copies of all these with me here, I ended up buying a copy of the recent printing of the book in order to mark it up with the changes between editions. James Bernauer has an appendix to his Michel Foucault’s Force of Flightwhich indicates five important passages where there are changes in the first half of the book. But this doesn’t exhaust the changes in that half, and he indicates that the changes in the second half are too extensive to do that kind of analysis. But with pen and highlighter, I’ve been trying to do that work.

I’ve been working through the two editions, line by line, and in so doing spotting lots of little changes that had escaped me before. Essentially, I’m making my own critical edition of the text since that doesn’t exist already – this book wasn’t included in the Pléiade Oeuvres. Although the text was reset for later editions, they made an effort to keep the pagination roughly the same for the first part. After that it gets more complicated. In the second half Foucault removes one 1954 chapter entirely (Chapter VI), and writes a new chapter for the 1962 version (Chapter V). The 1954 Chapter V is used as a resource for the 1962 Chapter VI. This is slow work, but I’m finding it useful. I may share my notes on this at some point, though I’m not sure how useful anyone else would find them. [Update: my detailed notes on this are now available here.] I need to do some similar work with the abridgement of Histoire de la folie and, in time, the two editions of Naissance de la clinique, though the latter will be helped by the critical edition in Oeuvres, as well as Bernauer’s earlier work.

I have a few days at IMEC in Normandy right at the end of my trip, to work on some different archives, but before I head there I’m hoping to have at least an initial look at some materials in Paris relating to Les mots et les choses and L’archéologie du savoir, as I develop plans for a fourth and final book on Foucault in the 1960s. Foucault gave a course on the material in Les mots et les choses in Brazil in the mid-1960s, and so I want to take a look at that, and there is a complete and partial draft of L’archéologie du savoir, some of which has been published already. With these it really will be a case of an initial read, planning a future project, rather than yet doing the hard work of detailed study and note taking.

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 very soon, 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 Michel Foucault, The Early Foucault, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Early Foucault Update 23: the Hegel thesis and other manuscripts, Jean Wahl and Maladie mentale

  1. Clare O'Farrell says:

    Reblogged this on Foucault News.

  2. Pingback: The changes between Foucault’s Maladie mentale et personnalité (1954) and Maladie mentale et psychologie (1962) | Progressive Geographies

  3. Pingback: The Early Foucault Update 24: textual comparisons and archive work at BnF, CAPHÉS and IMEC | Progressive Geographies

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