This manuscript is slowly coming together. I’ve continued working on the linguistics and literary analysis texts in Folie, langage, littérature. For space reasons, I’ve had to keep the discussion of these down, though in many respects they reinforce or supplement points made in the other, fuller texts. I also wrote a long discussion of the “What is an Author?” lecture, with some discussion of the changes between the 1969 Paris and 1970 Buffalo version, and a little on the Paris discussion (on the textual issues see here). The last part of this chapter is a discussion of the translation of the translation Foucault made of Leo Spitzer, with some discussion of the question about its dating, which continues to bother me. This chapter is now in pretty good shape.
I have developed the Coda a bit more, with some discussion of the other Buffalo lectures on Flaubert and Balzac. This led me down a little detour as I wanted to read or reread some of the texts Foucault discusses. I also developed the discussion of the 1970 visit to Japan, notably the “Return to History” lecture with its important discussion of Georges Dumézil. I also say a little about the 1970 inaugural lecture at the Collège de France, “The Order of Discourse”. With some of these texts I have already discussed them in the Introduction to Foucault: The Birth of Power, and there is some, probably inevitable, thematic overlap between the end of this book and the start of that one. While I hope people will read this series of books, I also need to make sure this book works as a standalone study. But the short treatment of “The Order of Discourse” allows me to admit to an error I made in Foucault: The Birth of Power, where I said that we only had the published version of the lecture. Foucault prefaces the French book with a note that some passages were not read for reasons of time. I said we had no way of knowing what Foucault said rather than what he wrote. That isn’t actually the case, as the Collège de France published the earlier version. I got a copy of this hard to find text a few years ago, and while a very detailed comparison (available here) is far too long for the book, it is good to correct my mistake.
So now the Coda discusses Jean Hyppolite’s death and memorial, the visits to Buffalo and Japan, and then has a closing section which looks at how power begins to come to the fore in Foucault’s work. I have also drafted something which acts both as an ending to this book, but also somewhat to the series as a whole, particularly looking at the sense of the term archaeology. It’s a bit odd to have written the end of the book before completing some of the middle. There are now some chapters in complete draft, and others which are just a lot of notes and draft bits.
I also finally put together the section in the Literature chapter discussing the Raymond Roussel book and some related texts. The Roussel book is a difficult one to summarise. Another irritation is that Foucault doesn’t provide any references to the Roussel texts he discusses, so where I say something about his analysis of a specific, I go looking for the reference to Roussel too. Warwick doesn’t have a complete set of his Œuvres, either in the 1960s edition or the more recent one, and what is does have is in the store rather than the shelves, so that slows things up. One passage isn’t from Roussel himself, and that took a bit of work to find. But apart from a few things to check, this chapter is now in good shape.
Alongside this work, one of the books I read was Benoît Peeters, Trois ans avec Derrida: Les carnets d’un biographe(Paris: Flammarion, 2010). Peeters is author of a substantial biography of Derrida (French and English). This book is his diary while writing the biography, discussing the scope of the book, the archival work, and interviews with people who knew Derrida. Lots of interesting things – and it made me wish I’d kept a diary through this Foucault work, rather than just this series of updates. I was particularly interested by his discussion of the different types of biographies that could be written of a figure, and what he was trying to do and avoid (especially pp. 186-90). Particularly striking was the discussion of what type of biography is possible early and what only becomes possible much later. He began his biography less than three years after Derrida’s death in 2004, and the book was published in 2010. He indicates the key issue of his having access to many people who knew Derrida, and how a later biographer would not have that, but that sources become available much later (p. 103). I’ve often thought about that when I’ve reflected on biography – either in Do we need a new biography of Michel Foucault? (requires subscription; or see here) or the afterword I wrote for the reedition of David Macey’s biography of Foucault. Although I don’t see my series of books as a biography, there are undoubtedly biographical elements, and I have access to an extensive archive which Macey, Didier Eribon and James Miller did not have when they wrote in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
I had a few more days at London libraries including the British Library and the Warburg Institute. Getting reader slots for other libraries proved difficult – numbers are still restricted, but the staff at the Tate Gallery were really helpful in providing a scan of one piece. The British Library now doesn’t need slots to be booked in advance, which should make the autumn easier.
I’ve done some more work on the Dumézil editing project, and some reference work on a text by Lefebvre has taken up some time. I’ve written before about the challenges of completing Lefebvre’s references, and may do so again. When editing Lefebvre I’ve always tried to complete his incomplete references, and to provide ones where he fails to do so. With this piece, as with the rural book we co-edited, I’ve been helped by Adam David Morton.
I’m now off to Wales for a couple of weeks, for a writing and cycling retreat. It’s the same place I went last year, with no WIFI and barely a phone signal for about a mile in any direction. It’s a great place to disconnect, read and write. I’m hoping to make progress with the chapters that discuss The Order of Things and The Archaeology of Knowledge, among other bits of the manuscript. I got a little ahead of the first of these with a brief note on the changes between the version of “The Prose of the World” chapter that was published beforehand and the one in the book itself. I’ll also need to incorporate a discussion of the version of the text Foucault used as the basis for his course in Brazil in 1965. With The Archaeology of Knowledge the comparisons are much more extensive, as there are two drafts of the book in the archive – one complete and one more fragmentary. For these I’ll need some more time in Paris. I’m now hopeful I can get there in September.
Previous updates on this book are here. The Early Foucault was published by Polity in June 2021, and updates for its writing are 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 in this series are Foucault: The Birth of Power and Foucault’s Last Decade, both available from Polity.
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