Foucault’s seminars at the Collège de France – a list of their pre-announced titles

All of Foucault’s lecture courses at the Collège de France have been published and translated into English. Thirteen courses were delivered over a fourteen-year period from 1970-84 – Foucault took 1976-77 as a sabbatical year.

Much less is known about his seminars. Until 1981, Foucault ran a seminar class in parallel to the lectures. It was usually held on Monday afternoons or early evening. From 1981-82 he opted to increase the number of lecture hours instead, which is why the courses from The Hermeneutic of the Subject onwards have first and second hours for each week. In the course summaries which Foucault wrote for the Annuaire du Collège de France each year he reported both on the lecture course and, usually, on what had been done in the seminar. These summaries were available as pdfs on the Collège de France site but they seem to have been removed (several were mislabelled when they were available). They were collected in Résumé des cours in 1989, included in chronological order in Dits et écrits in 1994, and translated in the first volume of Essential Works in 1997. They were also included in each of the published courses.

But the Annuaire does not just report on what had happened in the current academic year, but also lists the courses to be delivered in the next. With his lectures, Foucault usually stuck to the announced topic, but occasionally not – ‘The Birth of Biopolitics’ in particular doesn’t reflect the topic very well, though Foucault kept the original title even if the material changed. Some of the course summaries did not provide the course title, but the editors took the ones pre-announced.

As far as I know, the seminar titles which were announced have not been collected, and it took a little work with the Annuaire to find them, so I’ve put this list together in the hope someone else might find it useful. 

Foucault’s Seminars at the Collège de France [pre-announced titles]

1970-71: Le fonctionnement du système pénal en France à partir du XIXe siècle

1971-72: Psychiatrie et pénalité au XIXe siècle

1972-73: Pierre Rivière et ses œuvres

1973-74: Explication de textes médicaux et juridiques du XIXe siècle

1974-75: L’expertise médico-légale en matière psychiatrique

1975-76: L’Utilisation des techniques psychiatriques en matière pénale

1976-77: no seminar [sabbatical year]

1977-78: La médicalisation en France depuis le XIXe siècle

1978-79: Problèmes de méthode en histoire des idées

1979-80: Libéralisme et Étatisme à la fin du XIXe siècle

1980-81: Problèmes du libéralisme au XIXe siècle

1981-82: no seminar

1982-83: no seminar

1983-84: no seminar

With regards to the seminars this is interesting for a few reasons – mainly that Foucault usually had a clear idea of what he intended, but that his reports suggest he didn’t always follow that exactly. In English, the I, Pierre Rivière book and The Foucault Effect give some indications of what was done. Foucault of course would publish on the ‘dangerous individual’, and some of the early seminars provide material he discussed in his lectures. In French, several of the people who presented their work went on to publish it.

[Some of these seminars led to collaborative publications, which I’ve listed here.]

I discuss some of this in my books Foucault: The Birth of Power and Foucault’s Last Decade, but I think a lot more could be done to uncover what actually took place in these seminars.

Perhaps the most interesting thing announced, but not ultimately fulfilled, was the 1978-79 seminar on ‘Problèmes de méthode en histoire des idées’.

And it’s striking to me, looking at the list, how much of this was focused on the 19th century.

The full list, with references, reports of what he says they actually discussed, and a few comments is here.

There are a lot more resources on this site relating to Foucault – bibliographies, audio and video files, some textual comparisons, some short translations, etc.

This entry was posted in Foucault's Last Decade, Foucault: The Birth of Power, Michel Foucault. Bookmark the permalink.

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