While the start of term was as busy as ever, I have managed to keep a bit of time each week to work on this project. So far at least this term seems more manageable than the equivalent last year, and teaching is mainly in-person, with only one seminar on Teams for those students unable to come to campus for medical or travel reasons.
With the writing, some of the initial work was picking up on a few things left over from Paris, where I’d made notes to check things when back home. Although these were generally small things, ticking each of them off helped with a sense of making little, incremental progress.
One task was stitching the different sections of the chapter on The Order of Things together. While I usually work on chapter drafts as a whole, with this one I felt fairly happy with some sections, and so had a working for the bit on the Brazil course that I could work on while in Paris. It was similar with the Nietzsche chapter, where most of it was in good shape except for the bit on the Vincennes course. These chapters are now reintegrated and largely complete drafts.
With the Vincennes course I had to do quite a bit of reconstructive work. The materials are fragmentary, and not necessarily sequential. Only some pages are numbered, and while there is a flow to some arrangements of notes, others are more disorganised. And even the consecutively numbered sections seem unlikely to have been delivered in the order they appear. Fortunately, a student posted their notes online (now unavailable), and while I follow general practice in not relying on those notes for content, they do help with a likely sequence. My discussion uses these notes to establish a framework, within which the details come from the extant manuscripts. There are enough passages where the student notes accord with Foucault’s that I think this is a valid way to proceed. There are a lot of references to Nietzsche’s works in Foucault’s notes, and so I spent a bit of time looking at these in the translations Foucault used in the classroom, as well as the German and English for my own quotations. Interestingly, Foucault often used older translations, which were available to his students in cheaper pocket editions, rather than, for example, the Pierre Klossowski one of Le Gai savoir which he had co-edited a couple of years before. But he also indicated issues with these translations. It helps that some time back I was able to see Foucault’s reading notes on Nietzsche from the 1950s which helped indicate which editions he used – principally the Großoktavausgabe and the Henri Albert translations, as well as some of the others then available. Elsewhere in this chapter I have a discussion of Foucault’s involvement in the French translation of the Colli and Montinari edition, then just beginning in German and Italian.
I discuss the early 1970s American Nietzsche lectures – Montréal, Buffalo and Rio – in Foucault: The Birth of Power, but I return to these briefly here as I think there are some interesting textual issues, particularly relating to how Foucault reused material from Paris when lecturing elsewhere, and how this sits in relation to the currently published versions of this material. In relation to this I’ve written a longer research note on “What is an Author?” which can be read here. In brief, I don’t think one of the two texts in English, and the one with the widest circulation, is what it says it is. This is the Buffalo version of the lecture in Textual Strategies, which has been reprinted in The Foucault Reader and Essential Works, without the important qualifications in the editorial material of the original. That English text is the sole published source, because despite the lecture being given in French, the French version in Dits et écrits is a back-translation. Instead of it being the Buffalo lecture, it’s actually a different translation of the Paris lecture, cut and part-supplemented. On the basis of what is currently published we don’t really know what Foucault said in Buffalo.
I have a short draft section on Foucault’s work with the Fouchet commission on education reform, but I’m not sure I can add much to Eribon’s foundational account, which used the commission’s archives. Macey’s biography here is largely drawing on Eribon, and so I feel what I might say is very familiar. There are a couple of interviews where Foucault talks about education around this time, but they are both in English and so fairly well-known. Étienne Burin des Roziers – who had been Foucault’s boss in Poland – briefly recalls this in his tribute to Foucault, as he was now working for the government. (In the process of looking at this tribute, I realised to my horror that I misspelt his name in The Early Foucault…)
I am back in Paris for a few days in early November, over reading week, hoping to complete some more of the archival work. For that to be worthwhile I had to do quite a bit of work with the chapter on The Archaeology of Knowledge, which also discusses Foucault’s time in Tunisia. Since time in Paris is so precious, especially at the moment, I want to do work there which I can only do there.
With Tunisia, there are a lot of reports of what he taught there, which are not entirely consistent. I ended up making a table of all the bits of evidence I could find – biographies, newspaper announcements, reports by friends and students, the archival traces – and using this to work out what he probably taught, and to some extent when. Some reports which appear to be of different things are possibly the same course; one reference to a course is probably to a document which looks like an abandoned draft of a book. I am now fairly content with the narrative I have, though still need to add a lot of detail. The best records of his teaching are parts of the university course on Descartes, along with student notes and an outline, and the public course on ‘The place of man in modern Western thought’.
I’m now looking forward to examining, again, the draft material leading up to The Archaeology of Knowledge. That’s the main task for the days in Paris. If time allows, I will try to look at the archival material relating to the 1960s sexuality courses.
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.