The Archaeology of Foucault update 14: working on madness and medicine and a complete draft

Although I’ve been teaching this term, I have also been working hard on the manuscript of The Archaeology of Foucault, in particular completing one chapter for which I had some draft material before. It’s the first chapter of the book, on madness and medicine, but I’ve ended up finishing it last. Part of the reason for this is that it is reliant on archival sources.

The chapter begins with a discussion of Birth of the Clinic. This is an interesting book – it seemed to receive limited attention at the time, compared to History of Madness before and The Order of Things afterwards. A bit of hunting around uncovered only two reviews. For a related piece and another account, see the discussion here. Its quite specific historical and geographical focus makes it one of Foucault’s most compelling books, though relatively little read. Even this 1963 text is quite political. (It reminded me of someone who once complained that Foucault never discussed the French Revolution. I did have to point out what this book was about). I think the discussion of this book, though necessarily brief, is in quite good shape for the chapter. 

I then say a bit about the 1972 second edition, with the important changes Foucault made. Some time back I’d marked up a copy of the book with all the changes – slow work, but valuable for this discussion. The English translation is a mess though, switching between editions sometimes in a paragraph or even a sentence. It really needs to be redone, either of one edition alone, or perhaps as a proper critical edition, which we lack even in French – François Delaporte’s notes in Œuvres are good, but not exhaustive. I’ve mentioned this before and have started a page on this site where I list the changes between editions and compare them to the English version. I’ve only done some of this so far, and doing the whole book will be a lot of work. I have a marked-up copy of the English translation as well as the French, but transferring them to this format is exhausting, especially since the page numbers change between different printings of the second editions and the English translation.

There are several other pieces by Foucault on madness in the 1960s. Some are published – “Religious Deviations and Medical Knowledge” and “Médecins, juges et sorciers”, for example – and several have appeared posthumously, including in Language, Madness, Desire and Folie, langage, littérature. There are more in the archive, including one on the demonic, which seems to be the start of the promised study on this theme mentioned in History of Madness. It begins with a brief quote from René Char, as do several of Foucault’s texts. Two of the pieces in Language, Madness, Desire are transcriptions of radio lectures, but there were five in the series, and the recordings of these are online. (They are listed here, along with other audio and video recordings online.)

I then turn to the discussions by Derrida and Althusser of the book. Derrida’s library is at Princeton, and his copies of Foucault’s books were one of the things I really wanted to see. I had a trip booked in April 2020, which had to be cancelled for obvious reasons, and I’ve been unable to make a trip since. The times it was possible without travel restrictions I was tied up with teaching; and the times I had breaks from teaching there were restrictions making it too difficult. I’ve recently had to make the difficult decision to abandon the hope of doing a US trip before I complete this manuscript. Fortunately, remote access is possible, which happened this week. The copy of the 1961 text is interesting, but so too is the copy of the 1972 edition which contains Foucault’s response.

Foucault’s copy of Derrida’s L’écriture et la difference, which contains the critique, is at Yale, and this I have seen. Althusser’s copy is at IMEC, which again I have seen. Althusser mentions the impact of the book in a couple of his letters to Franca Madonia, and discusses it in an unpublished seminar, for which Etienne Balibar’s notes are at IMEC. In this section I also very briefly discuss the importance of Jacques Martin for both Althusser and Foucault, which is helped by Martin’s thesis now being published as L’individu chez Hegel, edited with a very useful introduction by Jean-Baptiste Vuillerod. Vuillerod’s study La naissance de l’anti-hégélianisme: Louis Althusser et Michel Foucault, lecteurs de Hegel has also just appeared.

I was also given access to some of the Gérard Deledalle papers, which help with some aspects of Foucault’s time in Tunisia. This is another archive I’d hoped to visit, and may still do at some point. Fortunately, the archivist has been very helpful, and Yale’s Beinecke library also provided some information on material I wanted to consult. I’d been to the Beinecke before, and seen most of the key texts, but I was given scans of the dedications of a few more I wanted to see.

I do really feel I’m now on the final stretch, with the rereading of a few things, and a couple of discussions in subsequent chapters which I revisited in the light of some material which I’ve only been able to access recently. There were lots of things to check at libraries, but I’ve managed to do nearly all of those. The last major task is going through the whole thing and editing it, cutting in places and tightening up. I’ve printed the text for the first time – I do nearly all the editing on screen, but at a very late stage like to read it on paper. But I hope it is now relatively close to submission. 

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 Etienne Balibar, François Delaporte, Jacques Derrida, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Foucault, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Archaeology of Foucault update 14: working on madness and medicine and a complete draft

  1. Clare O'Farrell says:

    Reblogged this on Foucault News.

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