L'hermeneutique du sujet

Some of you may be aware that there is a new Foucault lecture course out:-

L'hermeneutique du sujet: Cours au College de France, 1981-1982, edited by
Frederic Gros, Paris: Gallimard/Seuil, 2001.

I've had a chance now to have a look. It's much longer than i expected -
nearly 500 pages of Foucault, plus the apparatus and editor's Afterword. I
post here some initial ideas, thoughts and impressions - in no particular
order. Comments welcomed.

The course is different from those that are already published for a number
of reasons. The most obvious is the length. Foucault was contracted to give
26 hours of classes a year, of which no more than half could be seminars.
Until the 80s this was how he worked. There are 24 lectures in this course.
This accounts for the length.

On a superficial look at least, this course seems to be very close to the
summary in Resume des cours (also in Dits et ecrits and Vol I of the
'Essential' Foucault). This is somewhat different from the other courses
published so far. I'm sure on further investigation new things will be
thrown up, but so far no major surprises from what the summary promised, but
some of this i guess is my surmise of what had to be here given the date and
what i know of the other courses and Foucault's published works. Surprises
there are, but not on the scale of those in Les Anormaux and Il faut.

The course is orientated toward the question of the care of the self. It
therefore is comparable with Vol III of the History of Sexuality. In the
interview with Dreyfus and Rabinow for their book on Foucault, F suggests
that Le souci de soi [The Care of the Self] is 'a book separate from the sex
series'. It will be 'composed of different papers about the self' (Foucault
Reader, p 342)... Of course, Le souci de soi as it appeared was part of the
series, and wasn't structured in that way. L'hermeneutique du sujet though,
very much is. So, it would seem we have here a course that does what F
envisioned Le souci de soi would originally do (see LHS 496). As the editor
suggests, this course is in some sense an elaboration of Part Two of the
published book (LHS 489).

I sense that the course won't make full historical and contextual sense if
not read along with the courses of 1979-80 and 1980-1. These seem to have
led Foucault further and further back historically, with the Christian
notion of confession proving inconclusive in terms of what he was searching
for (this was my sense already from reading the relevant passages of Les
Anormaux). There are a few passages here that seem to refer back to previous
lecture courses, or at least to previous research. Short of listening to the
tapes in Paris i guess we'll have to wait.

Another thing that seems notable is that the course is officially authorised
by Foucault's literary executors. This wasn't quite the case before - the
courses circumvented the 'no posthumous publications' directive by
transcribing the tapes of the lectures pretty much verbatim. Whilst Daniel
Defert had provided some material of Foucault's to aid the editors, here he
seems to exceeded that. The editor, Frederic Gros, makes reference to 5
large dossiers of material that Defert provided. The first is the course
manuscript, which Gros has used to correct inadequacies in the tape
recording (unlike earlier courses which substituted '...' for inaudible
passages). The remaining dossiers are thematic and contain notebooks of
various elaborations of sections, ideas, etc. Some of these are drafts of
History of Sexuality chapters we have, some appear elsewhere, but several
are for this course. However, there are passages which appear worked out,
claims Gros, that don't appear anywhere. He bemoans this - some of them
would really help situate the later Foucault's work.

Indeed, in a number of places, Gros quotes long passages from these
unpublished sources. Great, but i don't think the legal interpretation would
have previously allowed this.

The role of Hegel is interesting, and might explain how Foucault came back
to this theme of the self and sexuality after a number of courses on the
state and government. Gros hints at this, but i wonder how far this could be
pushed. If power in these analyses, and centrally, the notion of police, was
totalising, it was equally individualising. Think of the Philosophy of Right
with the need to care for a particular interests within the universal. It's
the 'police', in that expanded sense, and the corporations again. I'm not
trying to say F is the same as Hegel here, but that he is trying to trace
the way these things work together and developed. Just a thought.

Also important, and something which confirms my sense of how important
Heidegger is for Foucault, is the response to a question from the audience.
Foucault is being pressed as to the way he is using Lacanian concepts. He is
more than a little resistant here, and suggests he is a bit Nietzschean too.
But then he suggests that when one is examining the issues of truth and the
subject, there are only really two key figures in the 20th century: "I see
only two of them. I see only Heidegger and Lacan. Personally, for me, it is
above all, as you sensed it, regarding Heidegger and starting from Heidegger
that I tried to think of all this. There you are. But it is certain that one
cannot fail to come across Lacan if one poses those kind of questions" (LHS
182). In a passage Gros quotes from an unpublished manuscript, Foucault is
more explicit:- "For Heidegger it is starting from the Western _tekhne_ that
the knowledge of the object sealed the forgetting of Being. We return to the
question and ask from which _technai_ was the Western subject formed, and
the games of truth and error, with the freedom and constraint which
characterize them, opened up" (quoted in LHS 505).

Okay, that's all for now. Comments very welcome, but please note these are
initial thoughts before i've really studied the work. But given its length i
thought that it might be a while before i have worked through the whole
thing, and in any case, the intention was partly to do a slow reading
together over time.

For that reason, I'd be interested in hearing from anyone interested in
joining myself and a few other people in an informal e-mail reading group.
The larger list is too unwieldy for this, and I guess that because the
course is only available in French (and not online!) the potential interest
is rather limited. Do let me know.

Best wishes


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