Language, Counter-memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews

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Cornell University Press, 1980 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 240 pages

Because of their range, brilliance, and singularity, the ideas of the philosopher-critic-historian Michel Foucault have gained extraordinary currency throughout the Western intellectual community. This book offers a selection of seven of Foucault's most important published essays, translated from the French, with an introductory essay and notes by Donald F. Bouchard. Also included are a summary of a course given by Foucault at College de France; the transcript of a conversation between Foucault and Gilles Deleuze; and an interview with Foucault that appeared in the journal Actuel.

Professor Bouchard has divided the book into three closely related sections. The four essays in Part One examine language as a "perilous limit" of what we know and what we are. The essays in the second part suggest the methodological guidelines to which Foucault subscribes, and they record, in the editor's words, "the penetration of the language of literature into the domain of discursive thought." The material in the last section is more obviously political than the essays. It treats language in use, language attempting to impart knowledge and power.

Translated by the editor and Sherry Simon into fluent and lucid English, these essays will appeal primarily to students of literature, especially those interested in contemporary continental structuralist criticism. But because of the breadth of Foucault's interests, they should also prove valuable to anthropologists, linguists, sociologists, and psychologists.


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Introduction l
A Preface to Transgression
Language to Infinity
The Fathers No
Fantasia of the Library
What Is an Author?
Nietzsche Genealogy History
Theatrum Philosophicum
History of Systems of Thought
Intellectuals and Power
Until Now

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About the author (1980)

Michel Foucault was born on October 15, 1926, in Poitiers, France, and was educated at the Sorbonne, in Paris. He taught at colleges all across Europe, including the Universities of Lill, Uppsala, Hamburg, and Warsaw, before returning to France. There he taught at the University of Paris and the College of France, where he served as the chairman of History of Systems of Thought until his death. Regarded as one of the great French thinkers of the twentieth century, Foucault's interest was in the human sciences, areas such as psychiatry, language, literature, and intellectual history. He made significant contributions not just to the fields themselves, but to the way these areas are studied, and is particularly known for his work on the development of twentieth-century attitudes toward knowledge, sexuality, illness, and madness. Foucault's initial study of these subjects used an archaeological method, which involved sifting through seemingly unrelated scholarly minutia of a certain time period in order to reconstruct, analyze, and classify the age according to the types of knowledge that were possible during that time. This approach was used in Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, for which Foucault received a medal from France's Center of Scientific Research in 1961, The Birth of the Clinic, The Order of Things, and The Archaeology of Knowledge. Foucault also wrote Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison, a study of the ways that society's views of crime and punishment have developed, and The History of Sexuality, which was intended to be a six-volume series. Before he could begin the final two volumes, however, Foucault died of a neurological disorder in 1984.

Donald F. Bouchard is Associate Professor of English at McGill University.

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