But I’ve also been slowly working on the last of this series, The Archaeology of Foucault. It’s been over three months since the last update on its writing. It’s been very hard to make much progress on this during term-time and even over the Easter break. But most of my marking is now complete apart from some moderation and a few pieces of work where students have extensions. As the last update said, much of the work in the first part of 2021 was on connected projects. I am well behind where I’d expected to be on this book, partly because of the inability to get to archives, but also because the teaching this year has been much harder, and I’ve just not had the time. I’d expected that the end of term 2 would be the beginning of a long period of research leave, but that was postponed and it’s still not clear when it will be reinstated. I’d thought I’d be nearly finished with Foucault by now. The danger is that my head is already beginning to be in the next project, when this one isn’t complete. But while the logistics of doing this work remain complicated I will focus here on what I have managed to do.
In the last couple of weeks of term 2 I did manage to send off two of those shorter pieces to the editors of the volumes in which they will hopefully appear. These have now come back with initial comments, and I have a bit of work to do on them. I took part in a discussion of “Foucault and the Social Contract” with Mark Kelly and Christopher Watkin on 13 April, in which I talked about some themes from the Foucault and Dumézil paper. The video of the talks and discussion is on Youtube, and it also available as a podcast.
I also applied for a no-cost extension to the small grant I have to fund archival work on Foucault. It took a while to get a positive decision, which concerned me, given the cuts to other funding that has been in the news recently. This grant will be used to fund some trips to Paris and the USA which were already booked in 2020 when the first lockdown meant they all had to be cancelled. But I now have quite a bit more time to try to reschedule them. I’m hopeful I can get to Paris sometime in the summer, and then can plan a US trip. Initially I’d planned to do Yale, Princeton and New York in one trip, and the west coast in the other, but I might now combine them. But at the moment even getting to Paris is complicated. I also submitted a fellowship application for what I hope will be the next big project after the Foucault work is complete.
Some of the manuscript is in quite good shape, which has somewhat surprised me, given the disjointed way in which it’s been coming together. Other parts have substantial holes where I need to write a section on a text, often one I can’t access at the moment with restrictions on international travel. But there are also sizable parts which I just need to knuckle down and write. In recent days I’ve made some good progress on the chapters on literature and art for which most of the key texts are available. Although not knowing when I can get to Paris to do the archival work with unpublished materials is difficult, I am going to try to get this manuscript except for those sections completed this summer.
With Birth of the Clinic, Raymond Roussel and the published versions of Les mots et les choses/The Order of Things and The Archaeology of Knowledge there is no reason why I can’t write those parts. The discussions of the draft materials for The Archaeology of Knowledge, the early version of Les mots et les choses which Foucault gave in Brazil, and the surviving materials from Tunisia and Vincennes will have to wait. I have looked at all that material at least once, but I want some time with those files again. There are a load of things I want to look at in other Paris libraries, and several references I want to check there, but those too will have to wait.
I had a few days in the British Library once that reopened in April. I’m certainly grateful for the way the staff have made this possible. But it also made me appreciate how much I used this before, and how little I can do in a three-hour slot. I had two days in the Rare Books room, mainly looking at some memoirs of Foucault’s students and others from his time in Tunisia, and one day in the Newsroom working though some microfilms of old French newspapers, mainly in relation to his time at Vincennes. I also checked some original language sources for the Foucault and Dumézil work. I have a few more days booked in June and hope to make more visits over the summer.
I’ve mentioned before that one very long-running project, the collection of Lefebvre’s works on rural sociology and political economy, has finally gone into production. There are some more details on that work, co-edited with Adam David Morton and forthcoming in 2022 with University of Minnesota Press, here. I did realise recently that of the eleven books by Lefebvre or collections of his work to be translated into English in the last 20 years, I’ve been involved in seven in some way. This has either been that I’ve co-translated (Rhythmanalysis, State, Space, World), edited or co-edited (Key Writings, State, Space, World, Metaphilosophy, On the Rural), and/or introduced them (all the previous ones, plus Marxist Thought and the City and Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche).
There are two other possible Lefebvre volumes which I’ve had preliminary discussions with publishers about. This kind of work is interesting, and I hope useful to others. But it is very time-consuming, especially given how bad Lefebvre’s referencing is, and the work that goes into checking, completing and adding these can be substantial. It’s poorly recognised institutionally, and in terms of research assessment, though that isn’t a great concern to me now. And while I’m not always successful at this, I do try to encourage publishers to translate works, or bring out-of-print ones back into circulation. I’ve been more successful with this with Lefebvre than anyone else.
The next editing project will be the latter kind of work, and with a new thinker for me to work with. I proposed a reedition of Georges Dumézil’s Mitra-Varuna to HAU books, and they enthusiastically accepted. The plan is that we use the existing but out-of-print translation by Derek Coltman as the base, but that I compare this carefully to both the French text of the 1948 edition which he translated, and the original 1940 edition. Depending on that work, I’ll add editorial notes. I may also add detail to Dumézil’s own notes, and I’ll certainly write an Introduction. Mitra-Varuna is a text which Foucault certainly knew, and to which he makes an oblique reference in one of his lectures. There are other texts by Dumézil which he explicitly discusses at different points in his career. I discuss some of this in my piece on Foucault, Dumézil and sovereignty, and give some indications in the Monash talk mentioned above. But I thought Dumézil’s text deserved to be more widely available, so I took the work into my own hands. Since there is already a good quality translation, I’m hoping this won’t be too much work, and now looking forward to being able to get to a library with the 1940 edition to begin the comparative work.
Previous updates on The Archaeology of Foucault 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. The Early Foucault will be published in June 2021 in Europe and July 2021 in the rest of the world. The e-book is already available.