foucault literature review

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Foucault literature review

The book also includes a valuable assemblage of notes and biographic information about the editors. The first section, Language and Madness, comprises two radio broadcasts presented by Foucault in Here Foucault re-examines the major themes that appeared in his writing on literature from the early s, referring to writers such as Bataille, Blanchot, Sade, Cervantes, Joyce, Jakobson, and others.

Here Foucault locates the historical emergence of literature in its modern form from the end of the eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. His excursus proceeds, from Gutenberg's invention of printing to the emergence of the book, where, finally, "literature finds and founds its being" p. What distinguishes literature is its transgressive language, "a mortal, repetitive, redoubled language, the language of the book itself" p.

The third section, titled 'Lectures on Sade' comprises two lectures given in at the State University of New York at Buffalo which illustrates and adds depth to Foucault's views on literature and which also signal many of the themes that were to emerge in his later book length studies. What is important about this book, and these lectures and radio broadcasts, is the indication they present at an early stage of Foucault's scholarly career, of the way his analysis of literature informs and is informed by the central themes to emerge later on in his major works.

The relationship with literature constitutes a magnificent testimony, claim the editors, to understanding the way Foucault's philosophical mind-set developed, as simultaneously "critical, complex and strategic". They point out how many of these literary gestures, insights and motifs are incorporated within Foucault's great works thus rendering "fiction and poetry as touchstones of the philosophical act" p.

While this is by no means original or untypical amongst French philosophers witness Bachelard, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty , Foucault, they argue, utilises such literatures narratives, epics, poetry, comedies to demonstrate and inform his archaeological conception of discourse in relation to "both the order of the world and its representations at a given moment" p. Literature, they point out, in Foucault's hands, becomes "strategic" p.

On the one hand it furthers the archaeological project to enquire into the distinctiveness of the literary discourse and position it in the field of discourses. But, more than that, Foucault seeks to assess the form and function of a literary discourse to reveal the "concerted incertitude of morphology" in the sense of "a rigorous and uncontrollable polyvalence of forms" Foucault, , p. This ontological thesis of radical linguistic or discursive indeterminacy which establishes the autonomy of discourse from the non-discursive is a thesis shaped by Foucault's early readings of literature.

The thesis of the literary then turns out to be the thesis of discourse as autonomous, strategic, and constitutive, which as the editors say "escapes the dynasty of representation. Finally, literature functions as strategy in that it opposes established and settled meanings "destroying the economy of narrative, which involves the construction of a battlefield against the hegemony of meaning" p.

Literature thus constitutes "the establishment of another mode of being of discourse" p. The editors' note that by the end of the s this "strange relationship to literature seemed to dissipate" p. They accept here the conventional understanding of Foucault's oeuvre as passing between distinct modalities each characterised by a different onto-epistemic figure or grounding. The early period is characterised by the priority of the discursive over non discursive practices.

The order of discourse constitutes an historical determined order through which actions and relationships and practices are organised. I doubt myself whether Foucault ever really jettisoned this heuristic, although he did seek to reassert the priority of the extra-discursive material practices, or rather he endeavoured perhaps to reassert the centrality of non-discursive practices whilst not abandoning the thesis of the autonomy of the discursive.

Both would be needed in order for Foucault to articulate a new model of determination about the world. This displacement of literature is a matter of record, however. As the editors say: "the gradual abandonment of the field of literature as a 'duplication' of Foucault's own research can be attributed to the desire to extend his enquiry to broader themes -- this time presented in terms of power and resistance" pp. From the end of the s it becomes apparent that "the muffled roar of battle is anything but a literary metaphor" p.

Finally, the editors note that at the end of the s, Foucault also abandoned the figure of the 'outside' and committed himself to a model of difference inside history, i. It is this problem they state, "very clearly revealed in his work on literature, that will continue to haunt Foucault: the possible overcoming of historical determination of what we are must be conceived not in terms of a contradiction, but in terms of compossibility" p.

The extent to which we can from within history "free ourselves of those determinations [that constitute us] and paradoxically establish a space [always internal] of a different speech or a way of life" p. It is this last suggestion that what was central to Foucault's philosophical project as a whole, including the possible overcoming of determination in terms of compossible futures, that suggests to me that Foucault's engagement with literature saw the preparatory development and fine-tuning of what is central to his oeuvre as a whole.

If so, there is an important sense in which Foucault's early engagement with literature continues to haunt even given its visible presence appears displaced by the end of the sixties. Not just parallels between the literary and madness as signifying phenomena whose infinitely flexible sign systems create spaces for secret, marginalised and chaotic discourses, but literature itself attests to the creative power of language to both traverse and transcend the social field.

A space of compossibility for divergent or heterogeneous developments; for chance occurrences, or 'branchings'; these core insights that inhabit the discursive in Foucault and were developed later in more philosophical terms by Deleuze in his books on Leibniz, Hume, and Spinoza, can be clearly seen here in these early lectures and talks on Foucault's engagement with the literary.

The importance of language is highlighted. Foucault said later in his interview with Claude Bonnefoy that "language is what we use to construct an absolutely infinite number of sentences and utterances" Foucault, , p.

Moreover, "the body itself. In 'Mad Language', Foucault invokes Freud, who understood well that 'our mind was a wit' p. In 'Why Did Sade Write? I will focus on this here because of the role it plays in enunciating Foucault's developing an onto-epistemic orientation that resists and escapes previous models of determination and which influences his project overall.

For Foucault, writing constitutes a "principle of repeated enjoyment. Foucault demonstrates here, with reference to literature, his own relational method of holism. It is not the classical Hegelian holism of old, but one where subject and object, ideal and actual, discourse and real, are prized apart in a conception of the discursive and extra-discursive, where difference is retained within a historical variable and contingent model of unity which is now defined by the limits imposed by the material; i.

Within this materially constituted unity, difference proliferates. Although Foucault does not utilise the concept of 'holism', as such, he does pointedly refer to Sade's concept of 'system'. As such this relational holism is articulated with reference to a concept of 'system' and to a principle of interconnectivity.

Writing plays a central role alongside a similar importance for language and speech. For one role of writing "is not simply to introduce indefinite repetition. Foucault's predilection for a correct onto-epistemic orientation causes him to classify himself in the interview with Bonnefoy as a "diagnostician" , p. In this, he claims to follow Nietzsche for whom "philosophy was above all else a diagnosis. Foucault 'uses' Sade to elucidate these points.

But the interest was no more in the author than it was in mental illness. As he argued in 'What Is an Author? Foucault's own article on the author was originally couched in the context of Roland Barthes essay 'La mort de l'auteur', written in Barthes asked:.

Who is speaking thus? Is it the hero of the story. Henceforth, MC with English and [French] page numbers in the text. Unfortunately this echo is lost in the English translation. Henceforth, BF, with English and [French] page numbers in the text. For a reading of this essay that gives it a great deal more importance, see Timothy Rayner Henceforth, HM, with English and [French] page numbers given in the text.

Henceforth, OD with English and [French] page numbers given in text. See, Beckett , p. These comments are not reproduced in the English translation. Michel Foucault , Henceforth, PR with page numbers given in the text. Pierre Macherey , p. Michel Foucault a , p. Google Scholar. Beckett, S. Three novels. New York: Grove Press. Blanchot, M. The infinite conversation trans: Hanson, S. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. During, S. Foucault and literature: Towards a genealogy of writing.

London: Routledge. Foucault, M. Young Ed. Untying the text: A post-structuralist reader. Boston: Routledge]. Bouchard ed. New York: Cornell University Press. Harmondsworth: Peregrine Books. Gordon Ed. New York: Pantheon Books. The history of sexuality, volume 2, the use of pleasure trans: Hurley, R.

Penguin Books [Foucault, M. Paris: Gallimard]. Kritzman Ed. Ewald Eds. Paris: Gallimard. Essential works. Faubion Ed. London: Penguin Books. The order of things. London: Routledge [Foucault, M. Les mots et les choses. The archaeology of knowledge trans: Sheridan, A.

Death and the labyrinth trans. Ruas, C. London: Continuum. History of madness trans: Murphy, J. Hunter, I. Culture and government: The emergence of literary education. London: Macmillan. Macherey, P. The object of literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Foucault, experience, literature. Foucault Studies, 5 , 5— Rajchman, J. Michel Foucault: The freedom of philosophy.


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Despite large differences, this belief in the epistemological and political role of advanced writing links Foucault with s contemporaries such as Derrida and Philippe Sollers—who are also heirs to the programme of older novelists and theorists such as Maurice Blanchot and Georges Bataille. It is far too simple to say that the events which caused this turn were the upheavals of May Later, he refused to locate himself in this way—insisting that at that moment he was in North Africa, writing a never-to-be-published book on the painter Manet.

Nevertheless, ripples of that moment and its preconditions were not easy to escape. He does so in part because the Leninist question of who the effective agents of social change are dominates political debate. Obviously, the question is complicated by the fact that avant-garde writing itself is avowedly not simply determined by conscious intention or authorial self-expression.

On another plane, Foucault began to believe that the grand theorization of writing and the mythology of the intellectual as the prophetic and privileged voice of large collectivities failed to take into account the way in which quite specific knowledges and techniques have proliferated. Some of these—nuclear science especially—now have effects of life and death, that is universal effects, though whose who have mastered and control them represent no sector of the public, have no clear ethical or political responsibilities or constraints, and may receive little or no fame.

After , he would almost always choose his topics not out of an academic interest, or simply as a writer, but as a specific intellectual whose historical techniques could help to change the formations whose genealogies he traces. This did not mean that he stopped being interested in writing or discourse in order to ground his politics on history. Rather, he turned to the production, circulation and intersection of discourses as events.

The policy advisors articulated views that emerge against a background of journals, clubs, debates in which a select number of figures were expected to generalize across a wide variety of subjects: history, philosophy, literature, sociology, psychology —a more recent figure of this kind would be Alain Minc, whose writings are almost unknown in the anglophone world. The universities were seen to be providing a perfunctory service to individual students.

It was directed towards bringing state institutions, like the universities and prisons, into closer contact with their clients, such as prisoners. Even if at the end of his life he wished for alliances with administrators, they remained subversive alliances.

It is less orientated towards offering policy analysis within established administrative and governmental frameworks than to reconceptualizing the structures of state administration from the outside —from the distance available to the academy and, eyen, the media.

Indeed, one of the ways he described the project of the latter part of his career was as a critical analysis of that form of political rationality for which the state, its preservation and security, comes first. They read him as if he were simply an academic, a philosopher or a philosophic sociologist rather than also an activist intellectual.

This becomes even more distorting in the very last phase of his career—which is, on the surface at any rate, the least political of all, and which has puzzled many of his admirers. In the second and third volumes of The History of Sexuality and in a series of related essays, Foucault turned to the ways in which individuals form themselves.

He had originally supported the opposition to the Shah. Probably more important than any of these was the coming to power of the French Socialist government in However, when Foucault comes to concede that the space of contestation in our culture is not primarily linguistic, then transgression and the ethical may—to some degree—reconcile themselves.

He can accept, what had in fact always been true for him, that a way of writing is also a manner of living, as he said about the clumsy style of the hermaphrodite Herculine Barbin Foucault d, xii. It was an attempt to invent a coherent self, to drag his voice out of the reach of the discourses of the authorities and to grab some fame—in which he was, belatedly, successful enough. This, as we have already seen in considering the role of the intellectual, generates more than linguistic difficulties.

Anyway, it is worth drawing attention to the more obvious ways in which the difference between French and Anglo-American histories and societies condition our reading of his work. We should note that he has been enormously successful in the United States and the United Kingdom as much because of, as in spite of, these differences. Generalizations based on French conditions stimulate and provide challenges to general claims based on Anglo-American conditions, and Foucault, unlike most traditional historians, does make such general claims about, for instance, the disciplinary archipelago and modern power.

To begin with history, France became bourgeois later and more violently than did Britain and only through a revolution that involves a takeover of the state apparatus. French state power, both under the Bourbons and Napoleon, controlled pedagogical, medical, and civil institutions to a much greater degree than in Britain.

It also has a past dominated by Catholicism rather than Protestantism which perhaps explains why, except for a few fleeting gestures, Foucault does not take up the Weberian connections between Protestantism and the emergence of the modern order. He works against a firmer background of absolutism and statism. France is still in many ways a more repressive as well as a more centralized or dirigiste society than Britain or America.

For instance, there is for us a moment of shock when we learn that there, as late as the s, only guards, lawyers and prisoners could enter a prison. Foucault, probably the most influential thinker about penal institutions in our era, had never been inside one until he visited Attica in the United States.

And, for France, unlike Britain, the nineteenth century really was a century of revolutions. At least until the s, the possibility of profound social change occasioned by mass protest and disruption pervades it, though in the Anglo-American tradition that expectation is almost impossible. It is directed against that thought at the same time as it absorbs certain of its hopes just because the PCF retained its prestige right up until , largely because of its important and courageous, if sometimes over-glorified role during the Second World War in resisting the Nazi occupiers and their collaborators.

Pocock has examined so rewardingly nor economism the insistence that economic determinants ultimately ground social events and transformations have much presence in his thought. Of course, one reason for this omission is that he emphasizes the neglected question of how power works outside the arena of the political. Quite apart from politics, historiography, philosophy and literary criticism all had and have a very different shape in France than in the English-speaking world.

In France philosophical texts are still taught in secondary schools, Jacques Derrida having helped resist recent technocratic onslaughts on this late gift of the Enlightenment. But literary criticism, as we know it, does not really exist there: that is very much an English discursive formation. In a work on Foucault and literature, it is important to give brief notice of some reasons for this, though it is a topic I will return to from a different direction and in more depth at the beginning of chapter 8.

Anglo-American criticism begins in the modern mercantile public sphere, with the eighteenth-century essayists, as part of a civilizing mission. It produces persons who govern themselves. In the second instance, it produces a notion of pure or essential literariness which cannot be reduced to, or explained by, other forms of knowledge. He worked in the week-by-week literary scene and retained state prestige outside the teaching profession as a member of the Academy and, for a while, as a Senator.

The French state officially ofFered culture an aura that the British public sphere, dominated by the needs of capital, did not. French culture was more a signifier of national identity than a traditional bulwark against democratic and technocratic drives and wants. And Hippolyte Taine, the other great French literary figure contemporary with Arnold, produces a science of literature based on psychology, racist biology and positivistic historiographical principles.

In his work, good literary texts are not thought of in ethical terms: ultimately they offer modes of knowledge which may drive admittedly, non-revolutionary national progress. So nothing in France prepares the way for modern Anglo-American literary criticism which in its purest forms, in T.

Eliot, I. This discursive practice to use a middle-period Foucauldian term barely existed in France even as a programme. He remains a historian whose work is designed to undo the conceptual bases and cultural-historical purposes of conventional historiography. To take up the first of these assertions: it is now widely accepted that post-structuralism was less a development from, and a break with, structuralism than a moment or a potential that exists within it.

This is the difficult language of Heideggerian phenomenology. For the young Derrida, structuralism must be understood in primal and ontological terms, in its relation to Being. As such, surprisingly, it comes to be regarded as a mode of responding to, and safeguarding oneself from, the menace of the world.

It works with ideal forms, finished, spatialized, and totalized objects, objects that exist without an origin. It also works in the clear light of the objective gaze. Thus, as Derrida notes, literary structuralism, in particular, cannot account for the force the effects of texts, though he concedes that to take this force into account is not to discover, once and for all, what a text means.

Very schematically, one can put it like this: structuralism carves the world up into large units—texts, genres, language, kin-systems, etc. In this move it formalizes and abstracts the relations that exist between structures, failing to account for them as transactions. It does so in the interests of truth. It uses structuralism to continue the work of destructuring in an ethico-political spirit, so as to undo the barriers to thought and action implicit in familiar labels, perceptions and purposes.

It attempts to undo the formal and bounded categories of structural and functionalist analysis so as to permit a more concrete less mystified—sense of the messy interactions and misfirings between events. And it also hearkens philosophically and, at its best with formidable technical skill, to the conditions of possibility of its own activities. These conditions of possibility turn out to be impossible to recuperate in any fully ordered manner.

On the other hand, Foucault interrogates the past and constantly encounters the difficulty of writing histories which have ethico-political purposes but make no transcendental truth claims. As we shall see in the last chapters of this book, both humanism and hermeneutics appeal to a wider category still, and one that is harder to escape— representation or mimesis.

It is only after having described modernity as the age of man that his earlier historical or archaeological analysis of knowledge could be transformed into his later critical or genealogical account of modern government. For humanism, human beings have a unified self in which consciousness determines behavior and in which thought and feeling can, at least potentially, mesh into a harmonious whole. Where consciousness fails to control action, and emotions fail to connect with reason, there humanists find alienation.

They invest immense cultural value in Bildung, a term which refers not only to the development that harmonious intermeshing of all human faculties within the individual, but also to the analogous development and harmonious intermeshing of all individuals within an organic society.

Thus humanism carries with it not only an analytic presupposition—that there are features essential to all human beings, but a morality—life-stories and history ought to tend towards completion as an interlocking of related but separate parts. Implicitly, humanism also carries an administrative protocol: society is to produce individuals who fulfil their human potential. This is the moral politics as one might call it that Nietzsche recognized in George Eliot for whom a faith in the perfection of God has been transformed into a faith in the perfection of Humanity.

In that context T. As soon as the novel sets itself against the old humanist order, it cannot return to those narrative techniques of resolution and rich characterization which depend on the particular set of over-arching relations already noted: a coherent individual completing his or her potential in a coherent and consensual society which, in turn, is to be regarded as having a specific place in a generalized, non-conflictual, and ultimately transhistorical, Humanity.

Most particularly, the existential analytic is not an analysis of the life-conditions of the post-Cartesian man of reason; indeed, it is intended to describe what reason itself presupposes. Dasein is thrown into the world, into time and finitude; in this sense it is ontologically contingent.

And this is why it cannot be properly expressed in any subject-object relations for which the subject operates in terms of a-temporal, masterful, principles, the clear light of reason for instance. This is why, too, it continually and restlessly transcends limits and origins. This anxiety separates Dasein from other beings in the world: it is individualized, as Heidegger put it, in its anticipation of death.

With anxiety comes a care Sorge for the otherness of things which in turn is linked to a learning in the process of doing rather than doing in line with what has been learnt. For them, the emphasis on rationality in the West helps such domination. This notion of the retreat of Being, along with a certain reading of Nietzsche, will lead to those later French theories of transgression described in chapter 4.

This may seem to take us some distance from poststructuralism. Which carries the implication, characteristic of Derrida, that so long as we do philosophy in the language that we inherit from the philosophic tradition, then we can never finally eradicate a residual humanism. Such a strategy can either try to work towards the outside from within current procedures and the languages that we inherit—and, of course, there is no other language available.

But this runs the risk of consolidating what we already have just because it claims the aura of the different, the outside, for the same, the inside. It requires a form of language not in the service of technology, power, will or self-discovery—a kind of poetry in fact. For him the large questions and large claims can only be articulated following careful attention to documents both well known and forgotten, and after deliberation on analytic methods.

In the archives, traditional concepts and debates take on a different appearance: they become discourses—sets of sentences with their own materiality. So do grandiose claims for the intellectual who now becomes what might be called a discursive technician. They have reduced liberty, beauty and risk. Liberty, beauty and risk may be reclaimed, if at all, in the techniques that people are able to apply to the shaping of their own existence. It lacks political tension or energy.

How could it be otherwise when the methods and analyzes of a great scholar who was also an outsider, a public figure, and a transgressor, and whose work depended on his being these things, have been taken up by a more or less selfenclosed and professional academy? There he studied philosophy under Jean Hyppolite and also came under the influence of the historian and philosopher of science Gaston Bachelard. The anxiety of this influence was especially intense as, by the s, Hyppolite, under the spell of Heidegger, was already able to articulate his position explicitly against both historicism and humanism.

Bachelard argues that justifications for the rationality of science cannot be considered independently of the history of scientific thought and practices. Science, which continuously breaks with common sense, creates its own objects. It deals not with things as they really are but with theoretical constructs: developing not as an orderly continuum, not as a gradual unfolding of increasingly rational theories, but in leaps and discontinuities. As old sciences are sedimented into new modes of common sense, new sciences break from common sense again.

Thus each past theory, each past epistemological frame, must be understood in its own terms and not, in the Hegelian manner, as anticipating the present and opening into the future. Yet the philosopher of science must account for past scientific theories from the standpoint of the present. Even from these summary remarks we can see that Hyppolite and Bachelard who work in quite different philosophic registers are both concerned with the question of the limit of science or philosophy and, indeed, the history not so much of knowledge itself as of its limits.

On finishing his degree, instead of continuing with philosophy or history— the traditional paths for entry into teaching or public administration—Foucault turned to psychology. The first half consists of a critique of both evolutionary psychology and Freudianism from the post-Heideggerian point of view.

So mental pathology is not simply to be regarded as a deviation from normalcy, it involves a flight from the world towards a radical solitude, an abandonment of meaning for incoherence. In its second part, however, the book has a different tone.

It urges a marxian analysis of the ways that the symptoms of mental pathology are determined by social contradictions. Foucault had not long left the Party at this time. These two approaches, which barely seem to belong in a single book, can never unite, because of what I want to call the historico-ontological gap. Foucault tries to sidestep this discrepancy by differentiating mental illness from madness.

Madness la folie becomes the name for a condition which expresses a basic, not to say cosmic, lack, while mental illness is the term used to describe how society conceives of, and controls, madness. It is important to grasp this move because it, and increasingly subtle versions of it, remain basic to his work right up until the work on power. This problematic is the confrontation between Freud and phenomenology, and the topic which highlights this confrontation most clearly is the dream.

Foucault suggests that the transcendental structure of Dasein can be connected to the concrete contents of that structure—that is, human existence Menschsein —by analyzing the conditions in which meaning is possible. The logic goes like this: being man means living in a world which had meaning or significance, so the conditions of possibility of being-man are also the preconditions of meaning.

Thus meaning is already embedded in a primordial world of space and time. And Binswanger, as a phenomenologist, also wants to give a fundamental account of these primordial experiences or forms embedded in space and time. Rather, it describes the way that the meaning of the image itself is shaped and constructed by experiences—as if signs must carry the traces of experiences of pleasures and pains in order for them, ultimately, to have meaning.

Foucault argues that to do so one must move, at least provisionally, from Husserl and Heidegger to Freud. Phenomenology has a deeper understanding of the processes of, structures of, and lacks in meaning than psychoanalysis, but it needs psychoanalysis to fill out these meanings, to show what they indicate. Where does psychoanalysis fail? Freud believes that the symbol fully connects the interior world of meaning to the exterior world of matter and sensation just because it is what it means and what it means is, ultimately, always desire —rather than how it feels or what it looks like.

We can put it like this: Foucault will come to envisage a poverty that is not a lack. In second generation phenomenologists like Binswanger, the basic, ontological conditions of existence are layered or broken: Being is folded in the Heideggerian sense. At one level, these conditions take the form of simple polar oppositions. The play of light and shade, the movement from large close spaces to distant ones, rising and falling—these become the contents of experience embedded in Dasein.

Or rather, deep experiential content is structured as the play of oppositions between dark and light, here and there, rise and fall and so on. He traces the story of dream-commentaries and the use of dreams for literature from Aristotle to the Romantics. Foucault sets out a narrative of the connection between the dream as primordial form and what is held to be the truth of the dream at particular epochs.

Truth about dreams becomes belief about what is true in dreams. Much more radically, it also presupposes that truth is more relative than the dream. And Foucualt differs from Binswanger in his account of what dreams indicate. As such it is not cinematic, for instance. Furthermore, dreams in their universality, solitude and sheer materiality are always closer to death than life.

This is why the dream is not so much constructed in and by images as trapped or weighed down by them. And psychotherapists are to the dream-work, what poets are to the tropes that language throws at them: both are limited by the finitude of their material. His history, necessarily, relies on texts which deal with dreams from Heraclitus to Novalis, via, amongst others, Shakespeare and Racine.

This has one important consequence: what Foucault finds in dreams is literature, not just in the sense that the task of the therapists has more in common with the practice of poets than it does, for instance, with that of medical practitioners, or in the sense that literary writing often attempts to appropriate the content and forms of dreams.

He finds literature in his own writing. How else to read lyrical passages such as this? The subject of the dream, the first person of the dream, is the dream itself, the whole dream…. The dream is an existence carving itself out in barren space, shattering chaotically, exploding noisily, netting itself, a scarcely breathing animal, in the webs of death.

It is the world at the dawn of its first explosion when the world is still existence itself and is not yet the universe of objectivity. To dream is not another way of experiencing another world, it is for the dreaming subject the radical way of experiencing its own world. Increasingly, though, it existed merely in his demand that his work express his life as in, say, a political commitment or in experiments with sexual or narcotic pleasures and intensities. And that cannot be true of the dream or of madness : they can only refer to work, they cannot be ordered by it.

A year later a revised version of his first book was published renamed Maladie mentale et psychologie. Is there not in mental illness a whole nucleus of significations that belongs to the domain in which it appeared—and to begin with, the simple fact that it is circumscribed as an illness? Here the emphasis turns firmly from phenomenological understanding or ontology towards the world, that is, towards the history of the fate of madness.

There are hints here that history will not be the history of thought but of practices: it is easy to see that madness is called an illness not just in a theory, but within a practice—the building of hospitals, the accreditation of doctors, a system of observation and so on. One reason for this is that madness, unlike dreaming, has a public face.

In its own broadest terms, this is a narrative of the loss of the tragic sense of madness within the secularization of the culture or, in the Nietzschean terms that Foucault repeats, the tragedy of the loss of tragedy. Similarly, and more concretely, attacks on psychiatry as a reduction of the power and meaning of madness were almost de rigueur in surrealistic circles.

This complex history is organized under an array of abstract headings interrupted by readings of specific paintings and texts chosen to instantiate particular eras or formations within eras. Foucault has learned from phenomenology—the phenomenology of the early Hegel meditated through Hyppolite—to freeze historical moments within constellations consisting of both abstract categories and concrete examples which are presented without interpretation, without reference to any tradition of scholarship and dispute.

It is interesting to note that Canguilhem thought the book Hegelian Eribon , Madness and Civilization pivots around two dates. Then, for the first time, the state took responsibility for the insane; an early move in that trajectory by which it will later take responsibility for the unemployed, the sick, the old, the sexually abused.

During this period the mad were incarcerated in large institutions often along with criminals and the destitute. In Madness and Civilization, the pre-classical era is born in the late fifteenth century as the medieval ravages of death—famine, plague and war disappear from the foreground of history.

The period before the fifteenth century functions as a negative plenitude, the epoch of death, from which modernity can emerge in an Oedipal act of which the book itself, by constructing an image of the pre-Renaissance period as a black monolith, is partly guilty.

The work is able to begin only by radically simplifying the epoch which predates its narrative: it is as if the complexities of its story and method would have no hold there. Foucault argues that as society and culture return to life and regain their confidence in the early modern period, the constant presence of death is replaced by an ever-present madness.

Madness mediates between life and death; to be mad is to be in the presence of death in life. It circulates through Renaissance society, not just figuratively, but in those actual Ships of Fools which sailed, quite haphazardly, from place to place. Madness has a meaning in the Renaissance; then contact with madness had value because it spoke of certain universal truths lacking in the everyday world.

In their vigour, they displayed the courage to confront, face to face, a meaningful evil and disorder. It is the mask of satire-as-critique. Most darkly, madness is the mind dominated by illusion, especially the illusion of autonomy and modernity. In the Renaissance, ambition or overweeningness are not far from madness, because they were not simply moral errors or psychological problems but refusals of human mortality.

Both as folly and as a sign of the void, madness represented a chink in human experience through which Being—the ontological—became socially accessible. Madness, thus, had its own reality and universality. In Shakespeare and Cervantes, madness can become a mask—like Hamlet one can pretend to be mad. Perhaps madly: here a secular economy of madness begins. Madness functions no longer as punishment or fate, but is tied to what we might call an imperialism of seeming, a social habit of using deceit for real ends—a kind of hypocrisy.

Not even God can judge whether Hamlet or Don Quixote are mad or not. Foucault argues that only with Descartes does writing enter the classical age and fall into step with the great confinement. Cartesian rationalism requires at its base a moment at which nothing is open to doubt thus all belief must be tested, soaked in scepticism by being reflected upon. That one has to be sane to ask this foundational question does not stop Descartes short—even though his demand for epistemic security now presupposes a division between madness and sanity that no act of pure reason can account for.

The important consequence of this, for Foucault, is that the sovereign subject of reason can no longer communicate or empathise with madness. But Foucault argues that the great confinement is basically a result of economic circumstances: the seventeenth century contained long periods of economic severity so that herding people off the streets into institutions was a means of dealing with that long depression, both by constraining them and by attempting to inculcate them with economically productive habits.

Indeed Foucault offers no conspectus within which the split between reason and madness and the emergence of the new institutions and apparatuses of control can be finally tied together. This tolerance of emptiness, of explanatory gaps, makes his book difficult but it also keeps it out of the marxian and sociological mainstream. Madness and Civilization is not interested in providing totalizing explanations of the phenomena it deals with.

Once madness loses all value and sense, all connection with order, then reason itself enters into a new crisis. Passion is a state which covers and connects the body and the mind, it is caused by love, shock and so on, these causes becoming more specific and proximate as the eighteenth century proceeds. On the other hand, delirium is a state solely of mind, and, as we shall see, is more pertinent to the cultural space occupied by literature.

Delirium is reason working not in its own light, but in darkness; reason seen under the sign of negation. It is a simulacrum of reason. It is mad to be learned and lucid even about madness. More particularly, under delirium the sovereign subject loses that power to doubt which, as we have seen, is the guarantee of Gartesian reason. Delirium, as right reason disconnected from being, remains everywhere present at hand even if there can be no exchange between it and the world of light.

Thus— for Foucault—the obsessive interest in the play of light and darkness in the Enlightenment, the work of the often forged painter Georges de la Tour, with its dramatic images of the power of shadow, being his favoured example in Madness and Civilization. Unreason finds its way back into the reason which excluded it. During the late eighteenth century the several possibilities of utter solitude, sheer appearance, and absolute plenitude are invoked under the sign of delirium —and not just by Diderot.

Is the world nothing but what we perceive Bishop Berkeley? Or—another alternative—is it the material emanation of a Universal Spirit pantheism? Yet where Being, now conceivable as utterly full or utterly empty, is thus torn from reason, the play of mediations themselves for instance, the structures which connect subjects to one another, which tie knowledge to the world, which permit appearances to correspond to reality themselves appear delirious. For they may express—ontologically—nothing, that is to say, mere chance.

In the Renaissance it did so as a negative bearer of value; at the end of the eighteenth century madness is exposed to the clear light of order as curable at first by morality, then, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, by medicine. The cessation of harsh physical restraint is possible because his patients are supposed to be open to moral persuasion and development. The moral cure produces guilt in patients through coercion and invigilation a, In a radical rejection of the Whiggish thesis that this represents an advance in civilized, humanitarian values, Foucault regards this new technique as working on new areas of subjectivity, the soul and mind of the patients.

They are placed in the countryside partly as a protection against contagious diseases but also to signify freedom and health. The mad are less likely to be found in ordinary prisons too. Yet gradually the asylums acquire their own modes of discipline. As their numbers increase, the new asylums cannot hold all those directed towards them.

Was it the pressure of modern life? Did it merely indicate that the institutionalized and shiftless population were being ejected from the workhouse to the asylum? The most plausible reason for the rise in the inmate population according to recent research is that the working class in particular became increasingly willing to institutionalize family members see Scull , — It is clear that such changes are not simply humanitarian, whatever the rhetoric under which they were inaugurated.

And Foucault argues that the causes of the move from confinement to the asylum must be looked for more in the history of the institutions and their contexts than in the ideals of the reformers. For a long time confinement in the horrific, fever-ridden classical institutions had been seen as a cause of, as much as a solution for, madness. But more importantly, views about work and productivity change during the eighteenth century. Idleness, which under the older Christian dispensation had been conceived of as a sin, is now seen as a failure to produce and contribute to the wider national prosperity.

The need to turn individuals into producers leads the mad back to the fold, the ability to work becomes more important than the absence of right reason. This in part orders the shape of their institutions, some of which now, vainly, aim for economic self-sufficiency. However, the mad, unlike the poor or criminals cannot be drawn into the new modes of production, and thus they require different institutions, indeed, they become the very type of the institutionalized subject.

After all the mad were to be dealt with morally rather than medically. Actually Foucault makes less of this point than do later historians. See Ingleby The madman becomes fully an object for doctors not because medicine was especially effective in dealing with such disorders, but because, first, doctors were already in the houses of confinement, and, second, they had a specific kind of authority.

Doctors had always fought against fever in the classical asylums, so they were in situ; but they also now gain particular prestige, they become signs of disinterested authority and social concern who can control and order the mad for their own good.

Are their acts mere symptoms? But what if such acts are illegal? In such questions, the competency and authority of two professions is in question: doctors and lawyers. Most radically, insanity is not just recognized in its spectacle, in hallucinations and delirium but in symptoms of an underlying condition which may only occur irregularly—in a single act of murder even. Such a condition was called monomania and, early in the nineteenth century, was diagnosed whenever an act could not be ascribed a motive.

Confronted with monomania, the forensic question could be posed dramatically: is this person insane and thus not responsible, not open to punishment, or a criminal deserving the full rigour of the law? Thus in the courts two opposing discursive practices contended for management of trials, sentencing and custodial practices: one borrowed from the old discourse of man as determined, the other from that of man as free.

Torn between these points of view a whole new species came into existence: the criminal insane. But despite this discursive instability the doctors who used these words had immense authority, at least in regard to their patients. It should be clear that this long story of madness is deeply embedded in the history of literature.

A will to valorize the others of reason is apparent. It is, far beyond dreams, beyond the nightmare of bestiality, the last recourse: the end and the beginning of everything. Not because it is a promise, as in German lyricism, but because it is the ambiguity of chaos and apocalypse….

As the power of the night, it is an adversary of the Enlightenment. We may think about this in terms of the following question: if there were no death what meaning would time have? One, Death and the Labyrinth, was a critical study of Raymond Roussel, a French poet, dramatist and novelist whose experimental works, written around the time of the First World War, were much admired both by the surrealists and by French new novelists of the sixties. The other, The Birth of the Clinic, was a history of medicine during the period of the French Revolution.

It is as if the two sides of Madness and Civilization, its literary or existential and its historical aspects, can no longer cohere in a single book when Foucault comes to focus on life and death rather than reason and madness. Because that work forms the basis for his later account of power in modern society, I have elaborated it a little by connecting it to the history of public health in Britain during the nineteenth century.

This history is not conceived of as a progressive heaping-up of discoveries, but as a series of shifts or breaks. The Birth of the Clinic is not telling the story of a subject—medical science—whose identity transcends the history being recounted or whose formation is the telos of the narrative. Like Madness and Civilization, The Birth of the Clinic is concerned with the interrelation between institutions, here, hospitals and clinics, and the theories and practices which emerge in them.

At least it comprised a form of reciprocity since a healthy man was able to read in it, as in a mirror, the imminent movement of his own fall. The gaze that Tuke now inaugurates as one of the major elements of existence in the asylum, is at once deeper and less reciprocal.

Foucault a, Here the gaze is not just an experience but a relationship between doctor and patient, a relationship which takes place in a space which is both real and discursive. It is a real space in the obvious sense that, at various historical moments, doctors examine patients using particular methods and tools, in different kinds of rooms, in different institutions.

The space is discursive in that the medical gaze is organized in terms of how relations between doctors and patients were conceived. It also includes the political and economic forces which operate on the construction of hospitals. Patients were contingent to their disease: their bodies merely provided an opportunity for the disease to appear, and did not demand close examination. It was the disease that was studied, not its concrete manifestation. In them, the patient was not a case, but an example of a condition.

According to Foucault, the classificatory approach comes to an end not because it was proved wrong or because of new discoveries, but through the impact of social and political events. In the Royal Society of Medicine in France decided to attempt to prevent outbreaks of epidemics, by collecting data on their occurrence and controlling the environments in which they happened.

In this move, the clinic proper forms. This shift reaches its climax during the Revolution: This medical field, restored to its pristine truth, pervaded wholly by the gaze, without obstacle and without alteration, is strangely similar, in its implicit geometry, to the social space dreamt of by the revolution, at least in its original conception; a form homogeneous in each of its regions, constituting a set of equivalent items capable of maintaining constant relations with their entirety, a space of free communication in which the relationship of the parts to the whole was always transposable and reversible.

When they were dismantled under the pressure of the Revolution and its uprooting of old institutions, the classificatory system which typified diseases began to disappear as well. Of course the new clinics are themselves institutions, and teachable skills are required in order to see the disease.

So when such clinics emerge a new split appears, this time between doctors trained in clinics and medical officers whose training largely consisted of mere curative practice, and whose domain was the working of disease in society, but who were forbidden, for instance, to perform complex surgical operations. Charles Bovary is the most famous literary example of this grade of the profession. On the one hand, he regards knowledge and language as continuous with reality and history in an uninterrupted line that leads from the elemental to the complex.

Doctors begin to intrude into the bodies of their patients in order to prise out their secrets. They begin, after Bichat, to work on the physical surface of the body and not on the body as a set of abstract, readable, phenomena. Their gaze penetrates, it becomes active. In this period the stethoscope is invented, the medical thermometer, percussion and ausculation comes into wide use and Bichat, in particular, gains an international reputation as a virtuoso of the knife.

As doctors open up bodies, both dead and alive, conceptions of its workings and disease change. Disease is no longer…a pathological species inserting itself into the body wherever possible; it is the body itself that has become ill. Physiology separates itself from classical anatomy. Each disease exists at a precise locality: it is a particular lesion, tumour, whatever secondary effects may exist.

Thus, for instance: a pulse rate is not first read as the sign of an already hypothesized general condition, but taken to ascertain whether further investigation is needed. In this shift from organs to tissue, from interpretation to intervention, from therapy to research, the relation between life and death changes for medicine. Whereas in classical medicine the table of diseases existed on the backdrop of nature, for pathological anatomy, they are present against the background of life.

But from this fact he formed an essential structure of medical thought and perception: that to which life is opposed and to which it is exposed; that in relation to which it is living opposition, and therefore life; that in relation to which it is analytically exposed, and therefore true. The absorption of death into life means that each patient will for the first time become an individual for medicine. Now, each case has its own pattern of pathology; for instance, each organ dies at its own time rather than death occurring at a stroke.

And now everyone has their own way of dying. In it, leeches and bleeding, particularly recommended by Broussais, make a marked return to fashion. At the deep level of tissue, each disease belongs to a single process of disorganization and morbidity.

In the clinics where corpses were dissected, where living bodies were increasingly carefully inspected, notions of salvation and progress overlap with a discourse on health, and the doctor and Bichat in particular acquires the power and prestige proper to a representative of historical emancipation. Before the eighteenth century, Western medicine had had little sense that it was in control of bodies and diseases. With Bichat this relation begins to be reversed. Medicine becomes an active force; diseases await their conquest, just as in the political arena old authoritarian institutions await their democratization.

These interrelations can only be sketched out briefly here, though they will be placed in a wider frame in chapters 6 and 7 below. To enable this shift, a new rhetoric is called upon. Clinical medicine gains its authority by its ability to renounce verbal tradition, the old lore of medical knowledge. Looking past the veil of the flesh sorts the saviours from the quacks.

The apotheosis of medicine occurred with different rhythms, and in rather different domains, in France and England. In particular, the English gaze emerges triumphant from two separate battlegrounds. The first is that of anatomy and the fight against ancient burial practices and attitudes to the dead; the second that of epidemiology and especially the fight against cholera.

Here what is combated is a death linked not just to disease but to unproductivity and social disorder. Let us begin with the less familiar of these two struggles, that of the anatomists. In Hugh Trevor, a Jacobin novel by Thomas Holcroft, the enlightened hero, fleeing at night from his enemies with his servant, finds himself in an outhouse and promptly falls alseep. What ails you? It is now at my neck. I trembled in sympathy with him.

At length I ventured. I was suffocated with horror! I struggled to overcome it; again it seized me; and I sunk half entranced! Holcroft , —90 It gets worse: some very shady characters throw another body into the room which turns out to be piled with dead organs. But daylight changes everything. This curiously clumsy manipulation of time attempts to harness Gothic terror to quasi-revolutionary preaching. Hopes were expressed that all medical students would dissect five subjects in order to become qualified.

And everyday life becomes invaded by strange cadavers: A young lady having been afflicted with the toothache, had the careous tooth extracted; but subsequently a disease arose in the lower jaw, from whence the tooth had been removed; the whole of the lower jaw became enlarged and continuing in magnitude for several years, until at length she seemed to have, as it were, a double head, formed by an immense secretion of osseous and cartilaginous substance, the rictus of the mouth intervening. In this state I saw her about three months previous to her death and after that catastrophe occurred, the cemetery and grave being pointed out to one of the resurrection-men, a party went in the course of a few nights, and disinterred the body; which they decapitated, bringing away the head only, but leaving the bleeding corpse exposed on the ground, the coffin lid and shroud being also left in different places, forming, with the empty coffin, a horrible exhibition to the public gaze.

An image, perhaps, which once again demonstrates how the knife, unable to dissociate itself from the castrating stroke, fails to settle the threat of the phallic woman? That, of course, is a very un-Foucauldian sentence to write. Gruesome descriptions such as these, veering between technical language and mythical sensationalism, were essential to the doctors who had to overturn traditional attitudes towards the sanctity of the dead.

Not only did they reveal that monstrous bodies were already massively out of place, neither consecrated nor hidden, exposed to the public eye and threats to the fragile public and perhaps psychic order; they also steered a shift away from the vulgar horror they induced towards an inspection of corpses by a science whose full legitimation they could only anticipate.

The task of the reformers was not just to argue that the use of the dead to the living overcame the older inviolacy of the dead in their graves, nor to overturn laws which in fact date back to interdictions on the use of cadavers by witches, but to organize a mechanism by which available bodies could be transported invisibly from the place of death to the clinic.

They were successful—in an Anatomy Act was passed by which the old witchcraft laws were superseded and bodies could legally be used by students. In a connected move five years later a General Registry was established in which all births, marriages and deaths were recorded, though it was only in in Scotland that civil registrations of births and deaths were made compulsory Wohl , Yet the scandal of corpses in the public sphere and the related question of their use-value did not completely die away until later in the century.

It is true that after body-snatchers disappeared. But the urban cemeteries remained hygiene problems which, as the reformers argued, required centralized state intervention. To counter such resistances, Chadwick who began as a crusading journalist used melodrama and sensationalism just like Smith. Historians have argued that revolutions followed outbreaks of the disease in Europe; in England there were riots against the doctors fuelled by the fear that cholera was being spread especially in order to provide the dissectionists with more corpses see Linebaugh Such fears were not confined to Europe: rumours about the techniques of inoculation against cholera and resistance to public health officials became an important, displaced form of colonial resistance in India Arnold First, it provided an impetus for an extremely detailed surveillance of proletarian conditions—a drawing of new social data into an information network.

The gathering of statistics which were, as M. Cullen points out, often analyzed crudely and falsely provided part of the impetus of reform because they presented a picture of immense social differences and, in particular, of the deprivations of the urban poor Cullen At the same time, they helped organize social existence into structures more capable of being ordered and known by the state.

The reason why the miasma theory was preferred seems to be linked to its sanctioning a need for surveillance and control as well as a rhetoric of horror firmly fixed to place. It was only in the s that the water-borne cholera bacteria was isolated, though statistical studies had long connected outbreaks to water. In his report on the urban cemeteries, he suggests that intramural burials that is, burial inside churches be banned, coffins sealed, cemeteries shifted from the inner urban localities.

This last was essential because it provided information on exactly how effective local authorities were in implementing the sanitation idea. A doctor peering into a corpse formed the keystone of state medicine. But in his earlier work, his suggestions for a bureaucracy had been relatively vague. Under such circumstances investigations of such kind [surveillance of criminal hang-outs], would be as attractive not only to the moralist and legislator, but to the magistrate, on account of the curious psychological facts elicited, as are the dissections of subjects to anatomists in cases presenting new and unexpected physical phenomena.

Thus it is over the corpses of the poor, that absolute site of non-resistance but a mine of information, in a rhetoric often borrowed from the popular fiction of the time, with the image of the doctor as enlightened conqueror of death in the background, that we find the English welfare state stirring. The end of this stage in the story of mutilation, corpses out of place and the struggle of medicine against sacred death, seems to have come with invention of a new technology: mechanical cremation in the s.

In an article published in , Sir Henry Thompson, an eminent medical researcher, argued that the problem of over-population and endangering the living world by the dead could now be solved. Not only was burial no longer simply a sanitation or space problem—corpses themselves could be used productively.

But the cremationists replied in different terms than those used by the dissectionists: for the latter the dead were primarily objects of knowledge, for the former they were economically valuable. The activity is chemical—so that the cremationists argued that the ashes of the dead could be substituted for bone imported into England as fertilizer.

They also pointed to bodies left on the streets— especially those of infants often victims of that common crime of the time, infanticide, and the New Poor Law bastardy regulations , and, apparently, treated by local authorities like the corpses of cats and dogs because of the cost of burial. Cremation could be used on these bodies too. It could also form part of an apparatus of further hygiene and information processing, its cheapness making it easier to establish medical certificates for each and every death.

Cremation could, thus, work towards further control of the social body. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. Skip to content November 17, November 17, shaneguineayblog. Like this: Like Loading Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:.

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