Michel Foucault, Speaking the Truth about Oneself: Lectures at Victoria University, Toronto, 1982 – University of Chicago Press, October 2021, edited by Henri-Paul Fruchaud and Daniele Lorenzini, English edition established by Daniel Louis Wyche
A collection of Foucault’s lectures that trace the historical formation and contemporary significance of the hermeneutics of the self.
Just before the summer of 1982, French philosopher Michel Foucault gave a series of lectures at Victoria University in Toronto. In these lectures, which were part of his project of writing a genealogy of the modern subject, he is concerned with the care and cultivation of the self, a theme that becomes central to the second, third, and fourth volumes of his History of Sexuality. Throughout his career, Foucault had always been interested in the question of how constellations of knowledge and power produce and shape subjects, and in the last phase of his life, he became especially interested not only in how subjects are formed by these forces, but in how they ethically constitute themselves.
In this lecture series and accompanying seminar, Foucault focuses on antiquity, starting with classical Greece, the early Roman empire, and concluding with Christian monasticism in the fourth and fifth centuries AD. Foucault traces the development of a new kind of verbal practice—“speaking the truth about oneself”—in which the subject increasingly comes to be defined by its inner thoughts and desires. He deemed this new form of “hermeneutical” subjectivity important not just for historical reasons, but also due to its enduring significance in modern society. Is another form of the self possible today?
Stuart Elden, University of Warwick “This is a crucial text in the development of Foucault’s ideas about technologies of the self and the question of parrēsia, especially for his contrast of Greco-Roman antiquity and early Christianity. Particularly notable is that as well as a partial record of his Toronto lectures, this volume also includes a rare record of how he conducted his seminars. Skillfully edited from surviving materials, this is a valuable addition to our understanding of Foucault’s final projects.“
David Halperin, University of Michigan “These newly recovered lectures and seminars constitute an important chapter in Foucault’s work on what he called ‘the history of subjectivity in the West.’ They show Foucault poring over the details of texts from classical antiquity so as to describe how the philosophical schools that flourished at the height of the Roman Empire produced distinctive practices of self-examination and self-cultivation. He thereby expands our sense of the possible relations among truth, speech, desire, and the self. The seminars in particular cast new light on Foucault’s late work on sexuality, parrhesia, and early Christianity.”
Updated May 2021 with revised publication date and the two endorsements