It’s been a while since the last update, and I’d hoped that the Christmas break, a slightly lighter teaching load in term 2 and a reading week would see me make a bit more progress on this manuscript. I haven’t done as much as I’d hoped, and it’s mainly been on connected projects.
Probably the most significant is that the proofs and index of The Early Foucault are complete, and I’m now just waiting for its publication. It’s due out in June 2021. There are three really generous endorsements on the back-cover. Another book manuscript, this one co-edited, has been resubmitted following some minor revisions. More on that soon.
I did some work on Foucault and Georges Dumézil for a book chapter which looks at their views on sovereignty, and returned to Foucault’s course The Punitive Society for a brief contribution to an online seminar (see my blog contribution ‘From Dynastics to Genealogy’, and recording of discussion here). The question of dynastics has developed into a draft of something longer. I’ve also promised an article for a special issue on Georges Canguilhem. I felt I’d said what I wanted to say about him in my book, but I found a way to connect him to some other interests, so in this piece I’m looking at his readings of Georges Dumézil and Jean Hyppolite. A lot of these writing projects are dependent on access to London libraries and Paris archives. The British Library is currently closed and is likely to be for some time. I’m glad I did the short trip I did in mid-December. Although the BnF is open, I can’t travel in the current situation, and there are now new challenges with Brexit. All of this is making archival work much more challenging. While I’m hopeful I can eventually get through what I need to do for The Archaeology of Foucault, I’m doing some reassessment of future projects in these more challenging times.
Working on Hyppolite again has been interesting. I discuss him in The Early Foucault, as one of Foucault’s teachers, and as the supervisor of Foucault’s diploma thesis on Hegel and rapporteur for his secondary doctoral thesis on Kant’s Anthropology. But he is mainly known for his crucial work on Hegel – he was translator of the Phenomenology of Spirit, and wrote a long commentary on it, as well as the 1952 book Logic and Existence and a briefer study of the Philosophy of History. Canguilhem wrote about this aspect of Hyppolite’s work in an important piece called ‘Hegel en France’. A discussion of that is the key part of my piece. But Hyppolite also wrote on quite a number of other topics, and many of these pieces are collected in the posthumous collection Figures de la pensée philosophique. I’d had the two volumes of this checked out from Warwick for ages, but now have my own copy. Foucault led the tribute volume Hommage à Jean Hyppolite, to which Canguilhem contributed a chapter; and Hyppolite’s final seminar was also published after his death – with contributions from Derrida and Althusser, among others. I say a bit more about his teaching here. Exploring Canguilhem’s biographical and intellectual links to Hyppolite is a new and for me interesting way into his work. Canguilhem’s reading of Dumézil is more limited, but it comes up in his reading of Foucault’s Les mots et les choses, a couple of other minor mentions, and in his role as a respondent to a seminar to which Foucault contributed from autumn 1970. That seminar is not in either of their collected works, because their contributions are only summarised, not written out. It’s not widely discussed but I think it is quite interesting.
In terms of the book itself, it’s been more of a case of reading, adding in some references and reworking details, rather than any substantial new sections. I’ve been increasingly drawn to Claude Lévi-Strauss, André Martinet, Émile Benveniste as well as Dumézil, and this is helping with contextualising some of Foucault’s relation with linguistics and so-called structuralism in this period. I’m hoping I can make some more incremental progress on this in the second-half of the term, and then get to some more sustained writing in the Easter break.
Previous updates on this book are here, and updates for The Early Foucault here. A list of the resources on this site relating to Foucault – bibliographies, audio and video files, some textual comparisons, some short translations, etc. – can be found here. The earlier books Foucault: The Birth of Power and Foucault’s Last Decade are both available from Polity, and The Early Foucault is forthcoming in June 2021.