Elisabetta Basso’s Young Foucault reviewed in The Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences (behind paywall; some excerpts here)

I have a review of Elisabetta Basso’s excellent Young Foucault: The Lille manuscripts on psychopathology, phenomenology, and anthropology, 1952–1955, translated by Marie Satya McDonough (Columbia University Press, 2022) in The Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. The review is unfortunately behind a paywall, so here are some of the key bits:

Box 46 [of the Foucault archive] is especially noteworthy. It contains 400 pages of manuscripts, most of which have recently been published but await translation. There are notes for a course on the question of philosophical anthropology, probably delivered both at the University of Lille and the École normale supérieure (ENS) in Paris in the early 1950s, a manuscript with the title Phénoménologie et psychologie, probably from around 1953–1954, and another manuscript from a similar time, without a title but published as Binswanger et l’analyse existentielle (Foucault, 2021a, 2021b, 2022). The editor of the last text is Elisabetta Basso, and the book under review here is an exemplary analysis of the importance of these manuscripts. 

Basso’s work on Foucault’s relation to Binswanger’s approach to psychoanalysis dates from her Italian book Michel Foucault e la Daseinsanalyse (2007), through articles in English and French, as coeditor of the important collection Foucault à Münsterlingen: À l’origine de l’Histoire de la folie (Bert & Basso, 2015), and as editor of some important correspondence, including Foucault’s with Binswanger (in Foucault à Münsterlingen) and the Binswanger‐ Gaston Bachelard letters (Basso ed. 2016). She was, therefore, the natural editor of the Binswanger et l’analyse existentielle manuscript, and her contextualization in that book is a crucial guide. 

Young Foucault takes all of that work and deepens, reassesses, and expands it. It is a significant contribution to our understanding of Foucault’s intellectual development, focusing on the box 46 manuscripts, all written while Foucault was teaching in Lille between 1952 and 1955…

Basso is excellent on situating the Binswanger et l’analyse existentielle manuscript in relation to the published ‘Dream and Existence’ introduction, as well as to Foucault’s interest in psychology and a network of thinkers around Binswanger, especially Roland Kuhn. She shows how Jacqueline Verdeaux was not just significant as Foucault’s collaborator on the ‘Dream and Existence’ translation, but also for providing him with some clinical experience, working in a laboratory at the Hôpital Saint‐Anne and at the Fresnes correctional center. She reconstructs the story of Foucault’s visits to Switzerland to meet Binswanger and Kuhn, especially the first visit to Münsterlingen, in which Foucault, Jacqueline and Georges Verdeaux also attended a Mardi Gras fête des fous. Foucault mentions this festival of the mad, where residents in the asylum would parade in masks and costumes, obliquely later in life, but Basso shows how important this was in the connection to Binswanger and Kuhn. While Young Foucault is good on the story, Foucault à Münsterlingen should also be consulted for the valuable documentary and photographic record it provides. There are a few interesting photographs and manuscript pages reproduced in this book too. While Basso makes use of a large number of archival sources, she also uses some material still in private hands, including letters between Verdeaux and Foucault…

Basso is an invaluable guide to much of this rich new material. 

I’d be happy to share the full review with people if interested. Please email me.

This entry was posted in Gaston Bachelard, Ludwig Binswanger, Michel Foucault. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Elisabetta Basso’s Young Foucault reviewed in The Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences (behind paywall; some excerpts here)

  1. Pingback: Indo-European thought project update 9: Dumézil’s courses; Benveniste’s teaching records; Barthes, Lacan, Deleuze and Guattari, Derrida; and a forthcoming article on “Foucault and Dumézil on Antiquity” | Progressive Geographies

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