Four more papers from the ‘Foucault before the Collège de France’ special issue of Theory, Culture & Society

Four more papers from the ‘Foucault before the Collège de France’ special issue of Theory, Culture & Society, which I’m co-editing with Orazio Irrera and Daniele Lorenzini, are available online first. These require subscription.

Rainer Nicolaysen, Foucault in Hamburg. Notes on a One-Year Stay, 1959–60, translated by Melissa Pawelski

This article provides a detailed account of the year that Michel Foucault spent as Director of the Institut Français in Hamburg and as a guest lecturer at the Romance Studies Department at the University of Hamburg. It discusses the beginning of Foucault’s time in Hamburg, the courses he taught at these two institutions, his interactions with German students in his classes, and events with invited guests from the French intellectual sphere. But it also sheds light on the friendships he made in Hamburg, in particular with Rolf Italiaander; the completion of his own projects including Histoire de la folie and the translation of Kant’s Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View; and finally his nocturnal wanderings through Hamburg’s red light district, Sankt-Pauli.

Arianna Sforzini, Foucault and the History of Anthropology: Man, before the ‘Death of Man’

In the unpublished manuscript of a lecture course probably given by Foucault at the École normale supérieure of Paris in 1954–5 (‘On Anthropology’; the dating is still uncertain), Foucault undertakes an erudite and detailed reconstruction of the history of anthropological knowledge, from modernity (Descartes and Malebranche) to 20th-century Nietzschean commentaries (Jaspers and Heidegger), including analyses by Kant, Feuerbach, and Dilthey, among others. My article explores this lecture course to emphasize the importance of anthropological criticism for the young Foucault, addressing in particular the anti-anthropological significance of the encounter with Nietzsche’s philosophy, which becomes an output power (puissance de sortie) both of the figure of man and the notion of truth in which he was involved. These unpublished manuscripts will therefore allow me to find a common thread in Foucault’s work in the 1950s and 1960s (and even beyond): the exploration of new potentialities for thought opened by ‘the death of man’.

Elisabetta Basso, Foucault’s Critique of the Human Sciences in the 1950s: Between Psychology and Philosophy

This paper is based on the archives of Michel Foucault collected (since 2013) at the manuscripts department of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris. Our investigation focuses in particular on the documents of the 1950s, in order to study the role of the reflection on anthropology and phenomenology at the beginning of Foucault’s philosophical path. This archival material allows us to discover the tremendous work that is at the basis of the relatively few works that Foucault published in the 1950s. The access to the 1950s documents enables us at last to investigate the reasons for the seemingly sharp break that divides these works from the works published by Foucault in the 1960s and the 1970s, in which emerges the archaeological refusal of phenomenology and anthropology, as well as the strong criticism against any form of psychopathological discourse.

Azucena G. Bianco, Foucault on Raymond Roussel: The Extralinguistic Outside of Literature

Madness, Language, Literature (2019) brings together a series of unpublished works on literature that belong to Michel Foucault’s first stage of production. This article focuses on those works that express a concept of madness as social partition or outside, and also on those that elucidate the concept of the ‘extralinguistic’ of literature. The combined reading of these texts sheds light on a concept of the extralinguistic outside of literature that enables Foucault to overcome a concept of ontological outside and, therefore, using literature, think on this discourse’s historical possibilities of resistance. As a result of this new reading, I analyse some fundamental aspects of this early Foucault. First, his development of a politics of literary form in the 1960s. Second, I propose that Foucault’s studies on literature in the 1960s were a kind of laboratory in which he was already raising some questions concerning his political history of truth. And, lastly, I examine the capacity of literature to make visible a part of reality that remains hidden (the excluded), the processes by which literature creates (language’s mechanism of self-representation), the possible forms of subjectivation that the fiction of every episteme allows (what Foucault calls verisimilitude), and the formulation of novel forms of being (that he later developed as aesthetics of existence).

My own article, Foucault as Translator of Binswanger and von Weizsäcker, is open access. Several other articles for this issue, which I’m editing with Orazio Irrera and Daniele Lorenzini, are in production or under review.


Bernard E. Harcourt, Five Modalities of Michel Foucault’s Use of Nietzsche’s Writings (1959–73): Critical, Epistemological, Linguistic, Alethurgic and Political (requires subscription)

In a series of essays, conferences, and lectures over the period 1959–73, Michel Foucault directly engaged the writings of Nietzsche. This article demonstrates the five different modalities of Foucault’s use of Nietzsche’s writings: namely, critical, epistemological, linguistic, alethurgic, and political. Each of these modalities is tied to a particular intellectual turning point in Foucault’s philosophical investigations and can be located chronologically in five important texts from that period.

Daniele Lorenzini, Philosophical Discourse and Ascetic Practice: On Foucault’s Readings of Descartes’ Meditations (Open Access)

This paper addresses the multiple readings that Foucault offers of Descartes’ ‘Meditations’ during the whole span of his intellectual career. It thus rejects the (almost) exclusive focus of the literature on the few pages of the ‘History of Madness’ dedicated to the ‘Meditations’ and on the so-called Foucault/Derrida debate. First, it reconstructs Foucault’s interpretation of Descartes’ philosophy in a series of unpublished manuscripts written between 1966 and 1968, when Foucault was teaching at the University of Tunis. It then addresses the important shifts that took place in Foucault’s thought at the beginning of the 1970s, which led him to elaborate a new approach to the ‘Meditation’s’ in terms of ‘discursive events’. Finally, it argues that those shifts opened up to Foucault the possibility of developing an original reading of Descartes’ philosophy, surprisingly close to his own interest in ancient ‘askēsis’ and the techniques of the self.

This entry was posted in Friedrich Nietzsche, Immanuel Kant, Karl Jaspers, Ludwig Binswanger, Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Foucault, The Early Foucault, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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