Re: Saint Foucault (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 7 Jul 1995 12:43:20 -0700
From: mjackson.DOMAIN1 <mjackson.DOMAIN1.oramail@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: owner-foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: Saint Foucault

In-Reply-To: ORUNIX:owner-foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx's message of 07-06-95 17:23

Blaine Rehkopf writes that the "queering of F" is essential to an
understanding of F's writing. I've not read the Halperin book yet,
but I have a reaction to the post anyway. If Blaine means that
Foucault's ideas about power, knowledge, the subject, etc. are clearer
on the basis of any knowledge about Foucault's life, I disagree
strongly. I read about 3/4s of Foucault's major texts before I
discovered he was gay, and I must say my understanding of his texts
did not change at all after that. For instance, regardless of F's sexual
identity, his analysis of the historical production of sexual categories
(e.g., the 'homosexual', the 'heterosexual') stands on its own, as it
were. Knowing about F's life adds nothing interesting to the analysis.

However, I hear people say, certainly F's life inflenced his work, and it is
necessary to trace the connections between his work and his personal life.
Only with this sort of analysis can we truly understand Foucault's work.
All this hinges upon a definition of 'understanding' a text. For people
trained in lit crit or related disciplines, understanding a text seems
to be the relation of a text to its author, the corpus of an author, etc.
I suppose we can treat Foucault as an Author of Texts in a traditional
lit crit sort of way, but we should keep in mind that Foucault was never
very interested in this sort of analysis. Indeed, he actively discouraged
people interested in his work from glorifying him as an Author. For
instance, Jana Sawicki reports in _Discipling Foucault_ that when
she told F that she was writing her dissertation about him, "he suggested
that I not spend energy talking about him and, instead, do what he
was doing, namely, writing genealogies". What is important are
Foucault's theoretical tools, not the fellow--as Foucault was the first
person to point out.

It is ironic to me that F spent his life fighting against the notion of
the sovereign author, trying to get people to think about the relation
between discourse, text, subject positions, power relations, truth, and
when he dies he becomes yet another canonic Idol, a famous Author
whose life is gone over with a fine tooth comb to "understand" his
texts. I agree with Foucault: if you're interested in Foucault's
writings, generate and critique genealogies, genealogical methods, and
so on. Doing lit crit style analyses of F's life, I would even go as
far as to say, betrays a fundamental lack of comprehension of F's work.

Miles jackson


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