The Archaeology of Foucault update 13: drafting the chapters on The Archaeology of Knowledge and sexuality; moving to work on madness and medicine

My optimistic idea of having a complete, even if very rough, draft of The Archaeology of Foucault before Christmas didn’t happen. I’d liked the idea of having a complete text, which I could then print and leave for a while when on holiday, and return to edit before term started again. But end of term stuff, a pile of marking, and some home renovation work which meant I couldn’t work properly derailed that plan. In addition, I was given access to some lectures which I didn’t know still existed, and that took up a lot of time – valuable, certainly, but unexpected.

I did have a good break over Christmas, without looking at the files or Foucault books, and returned to work for two weeks either side of the New Year before the start of term. The break helped get the momentum to complete the draft of the chapter on The Archaeology of Knowledge and related texts. It’s a long chapter, since it discusses all the draft material for that book and an abandoned parallel project, as well as the period in Tunisia and Foucault’s teaching there.

There were then two chapters which then needed a lot of work: the one on the sexuality lectures and related material, and one on Birth of the Clinic and Foucault’s work on madness after the History of Madness. The sexuality chapter was a tricky one, since the two extant series of lectures are from 1964 and 1969, and a lot happens between them, but thematically it makes sense for them to be treated together. At the moment I’ve decided to move it to after the chapter on The Order of Things, since Foucault says at one point it will be the next project. Although sexuality is still the main focus of the chapter, it also now discusses the limited sources for some related teaching on psychology and biology. I had a lot of draft material for this, and had already co-authored a review essay on the lectures with Alison Downham Moore in Theory, Culture and Society (open access here; Alison’s video abstract here). But I comprehensively reworked my discussion for this chapter, and used a lot of notes I had from Paris to supplement it, especially from Foucault’s notebooks. I think this chapter is now in fairly good shape.

The next step is working on the madness and medicine chapter. There is a lot to discuss here, though I had really hoped to get to see some archival sources in the USA to help with this. Most of these visits were ones I had booked back in March-April 2020, when they had to be cancelled. There was a brief moment in November 2021 when it might have been manageable, after UK citizens could go to the USA, but before Omicron took hold. But teaching and a wish to prioritise time in Paris meant that couldn’t happen. At the moment getting to the USA is challenging – travel is allowed, but difficult, and to use grant funds I need to go through Warwick and get insurance approval. The Paris trips were complicated enough (and at present, impossible). With teaching it’s probably March before I could imagine a transatlantic trip. So, I’ve been in touch with some archives to inquire about remote access. So far, the responses have been extremely helpful. 

But there is plenty to do with this chapter which doesn’t require access. The chapter will discuss Birth of the Clinic, and the two editions of that text; a few occasional pieces on madness and some unpublished manuscripts and lectures. I already discuss the initial reception of History of Madness in Chapter 8 of The Early Foucault, but here I want to discuss Derrida and Althusser’s readings. The Foucault-Derrida debate is of course very well known, and I won’t be going into much detail about the published parts, but I hope archival sources allow me to say a little more about this and its aftermath. Althusser’s reaction to reading the book is mentioned in some of his letters and the book analysed in an unpublished seminar. IMEC has Etienne Balibar’s notes from this seminar and also has Althusser’s marked-up copy of the text – I’ve seen all of these, fortunately, and so can do the analysis without a repeat visit. 

Some of the work behind this chapter is quite mechanical – the comparison of the two editions of Birth of the Clinic and the peculiar English translation which is of neither one nor the other but parts of both; and how Foucault used the library in Uppsala for the book. I had already done a lot of this, and there have been a few moments when I’ve been grateful I did some painstaking work properly in the past. 

So as term begins on Monday, I have all but one chapter drafted, and substantial parts of that chapter in place. I’ll be speaking about this book in an online Modern French research seminar at the University of Cambridge on 31 January 2022, and about The Early Foucault for the Genealogy in the Humanities project (Syracuse University and Cornell University) in March. I’ll share further news on these when I have it.

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 Jacques Derrida, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Foucault, The Early Foucault, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Archaeology of Foucault update 13: drafting the chapters on The Archaeology of Knowledge and sexuality; moving to work on madness and medicine

  1. Clare O'Farrell says:

    Reblogged this on Foucault News.

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