The Archaeology of Foucault update 12: archival work in Paris on drafts of The Archaeology of Knowledge and Foucault’s notebooks

As the last update on this book said, I was able to make a trip to Paris over reading week. I spent most of the time at the BNF working on archival materials related to The Archaeology of Knowledge. There is a manuscript on philosophical discourse, probably written in 1966, which seems to be an abandoned book project; a complete early draft of what became the book; and substantial fragments of another draft. The record is incomplete, and there are a lot of question marks around dating and sequence, but this is more preparatory material than any other of Foucault’s published books, with the exception of the second and third volumes of the History of Sexuality. In that case, this seems to be because Foucault was in hospital and unable to destroy these draft materials. I discuss those in Foucault’s Last Decade.

Some parts of the Archaeology materials are already published, with the introduction to one draft in Cahier de l’Herne, and the Introduction to the other draft in Les Études philosophiques along with a piece on Homer in La NRF. A forthcoming volume from Vrin will include more material, and the philosophical discourse text is being edited, along with a lecture course from Tunisia, for a volume in the EHESS/Seuil/Gallimard series of early courses and manuscripts. Those books are still a way off, so while I’m working with what is published, for the most part I’m reliant on the archive itself.

Martin Rueff edited two of the pieces mentioned above, and also edited the text of the book itself for its inclusion in the Pléiade Œuvres. His long text on the book in Œuvres, and the notes to the edited parts of the drafts are helpful, though I disagree with one of his claims. He also mentions that when L’archéologie du savoir went out of print in 1975, the reprint edition was slightly edited by Foucault. I didn’t know this before, and so I’ve now got to compare that to the 1969 edition. It’s a bit frustrating that the comparison wasn’t done for Œuvres, but then it wasn’t done properly for two other texts in that collection which exist in substantially distinct versions, so perhaps unsurprising. Some additional changes were introduced for the Tel reprint of L’archéologie du savoir, but since those were not made or authorised by Foucault, that’s less of a concern, and in any case they seem very minor.

It would be great to be able to say, with confidence, that this manuscript precedes that one, which leads to this one, and then the book. But that does not seem possible on the basis of the evidence available. Rather, it seems that there was simultaneous writing or editing of texts, that some intermediate versions were destroyed or lost, and that the arrangement of material in the archive does not necessarily reflect how Foucault left material in the late 1960s. While some manuscripts have page numbers, others do not, and their order isn’t clear. Foucault moved to Tunisia and back in this period too, which could have led to some textual confusion. Whatever else, there was certainly a version that was delivered to Gallimard, probably typed, and that would suggest a preceding manuscript, neither of which appear in the archive. But I’m now in a position to write the section on The Archaeology of Knowledge itself, which is the last major task for this chapter.

I also spent some time with the ‘intellectual notebooks’ of Foucault. While the majority of papers in the archive are on separate sheets of paper, grouped in folders or in folded sheets, these are school style cahiers, filled with writing – drafts of published texts, unpublished ideas, plans, reading notes, lists, more aphoristic entries, etc. An excerpt from one is in the Sexuality volume edited by Claude-Olivier Doron, who uses them in his notes and context to the text too, and they are occasionally referenced by Foucault’s other editors. Foucault often used the same notebook for two different purposes, writing from the start on one topic, and upside down from the back on another. They begin with notes on Birth of the Clinic and Raymond Roussel in the early 1960s, and run until the 1980s. Unlike almost everything else in the archive, Foucault puts dates before entries, though not always the year. I wish I’d had access to these when I did the research for Foucault’s Last Decade and Foucault: The Birth of Power. There is so much more material available now than when I wrote those books. But the notebooks are certainly a really helpful resource for this book on the 1960s, and so I concentrated on those on this trip.

Right at the end of my visit I looked at a couple of other boxes, including an older one which is a mix of different things. It includes parts of another course from Tunisia, and some material which possibly relates to a Vincennes course. I’d looked at this one before, but wanted to revisit it now I’d drafted sections on those periods. 

There is also yet another fonds of material, newly deposited and not yet catalogued, and I took a look at some of the material in here. It is fascinating and helps to resolve definitively something I’d been troubled with concerning the provenance of one published text (see here). In brief, the Buffalo version of the ‘What is an Author?’ lecture is very different from the one published. The version in Textual Strategies is a different translation of the Paris lecture, with some cuts and a bit of supplementary material from Buffalo. Unfortunately that’s the version in widest circulation in English, reprinted without the important editorial indications in the original English version. But the entire Buffalo lecture is not yet published.

Doing this work also helped to add some precision to some of the claims I’m making elsewhere in this book. This fonds also has a lot of correspondence, of which I looked at the material from universities and other institutions, including a couple of letters to Foucault about overdue library books. Much of the material dates from the early 1980s, shortly before Foucault’s death, so is outside the time period I’m now working on. But there is a lot of useful detail here about some things I discuss in my other Foucault books. There are some indications of what Foucault would have done in the 1984-85 academic year, had he lived. 

I also wanted to look at a few boxes of material relating to the early courses on sexuality, though I didn’t have time. This is not essential given those courses are now published, but there is other material in those boxes which I would have liked to see, though that’s on a different period and more for interest than necessity. But I squeezed a lot into this trip, and have a ton of notes to drawn on as I rework and add to the manuscript. 

I had hoped that I would be able to get back to Paris for one more visit, perhaps in mid-December or early January. But the Richelieu site of the BnF is going through renovation work – it’s been a building site all the years I’ve been going there – and the manuscripts room is closed from mid-January to early-March. Before that, the fonds I am using are being moved, and are unavailable from mid-November. I didn’t know this until I made this trip. I was already trying to squeeze in as much as I could, with a concern that travel might be more challenging in the winter if covid cases rise. As it was, this trip was just in time before the closure.

The two main chapters that still need work are the ones on sexuality, and on madness and medicine. I’ve already co-authored a review essay on the sexuality courses with Alison Downham Moore in Theory, Culture and Society (open access here; Alison’s video abstract here). For these chapters I have a lot of notes, and some finished text. But I think I can rework these without further archival work, and hopefully any new secondary sources I want to read can be found in UK libraries, so I hope to make progress on these chapters in the last part of term and the Christmas break. Submitting the manuscript in early 2022 still seems possible.

Previous updates on this book are hereThe 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.

This entry was posted in Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Foucault, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Archaeology of Foucault update 12: archival work in Paris on drafts of The Archaeology of Knowledge and Foucault’s notebooks

  1. Clare O'Farrell says:

    Reblogged this on Foucault News.

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