Michel Foucault Resources

Foucault's Critique Long Sleeve Dark T-Shirt

Foucault Quote Gifts

I can't help but dream about a kind of criticism that would try not to judge but to bring an ouvre, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires, watch the grass grow, listen to the wind, and catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it. It would multiply not judgments but signs of existence; it would summon them, drag them from their sleep.

Perhaps it would invent them sometimes -- all the better. All the better.

Criticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep; I'd like a criticism of scintillating leaps of imagination. It would not be sovereign or dressed in red. It would bear the lightning of possible storms.

     ~ Michel Foucault


Links to other sites
Recommended Reading
In the Nomadic Spirit

Foucault on the Web

Wikipedia :: Michel Foucault
The Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia is an exquisite result of the internet. This is a good Wikipedia page, which even makes the effort to begin defining the familiar terminology which Foucault so carefully redefined.

He is considered a postmodernist and a poststructuralist (though some consider his earlier works, like The Order of Things, to be structuralist - possibly reflecting a lack of distinction at the time).
-- Wikipedia
A Genealogy of Foucault
An Overly Simplistic and Wildly Inaccurate Genealogy of the Work of Michel Foucault
Simplistic and inaccurate perhaps, but still the best the net seems to offer. Plenty of Foucault content to be had here. And the site's The Foucault Pages at CSUN are a valuable resource, particularly the Foucault Discussion Lists.

Foucault, the "Author Function"
Another excerpt from Foucault's own hand, this time from the 1977 work, What is an Author?
"In dealing with the 'author' as a function of discourse, we must consider the characteristics of a discourse that support this use and determine its differences from other discourses. If we limit our remarks only to those books or texts with authors, we can isolate four different features."

See also: Foucault, What is an Author? (abstract)
John R. Durant's analysis of What is an Author?
"Foucault proceeds in a fashion that may be termed his signature, for he does not wish to really pin down exactly what is an author per se, and seeks to identify the author in terms of how an author exists."

Steve Shaviro's DOOM PATROLS
To Foucault one chapter of this book is dedicated. Bill Gates gets another. Shaviro says of his work:
This book is a theoretical fiction about postmodernism. A theoretical fiction, because I treat discursive ideas and arguments in a way analogous to how a novelist treats characters and events. About postmodernism, because the term seems unavoidable in recent discussions of contemporary culture.

Coursework Materials : Foucault
John Protevi's well developed and full-bodied materials for a rather delightful-looking course provides an excellent introduction to understanding Foucault and his works. An excerpt from Hints for reading Foucault
MF's books and essays through 1969 are quite difficult, as he adopts the style of writing common to French intellectuals in the 60s: complex syntax, a love of paradox, elliptical phrasing, an assumption of familiarity with a vast and deep culture--all designed to produce an effect of effortless brilliance. This can be partially explained by F's relative youth: he was a young normalien who wanted to break into the Parisian scene, and that's how intellectuals wrote then.

www.theory.org.uk Resources: Queer Theory
An approachable approach to Foucault.
This page gives a very brief introduction to Foucault's work (or the part of it that interests us), and then, in a hopefully user-friendly move, I try to explain the ways in which Foucault is useful and relevant by the sympathetic means of admitting how, when I was an undergraduate, I couldn't really understand why people seemed to think he was useful and relevant. Then you get a select bibliography and a bunch of links to some web resources on other sites.

On the other hand, this page oversimplifies Foucault's take on power. If you surf on over to Queer Theory, heed the passage from A Foucault Primer: Discourse, power and the subject, excerpted below.

"I'm Not Lying, This is Not a Pipe":
Foucault and Magritte on the Art of Critical Pedagogy
Applying Foucault to the analysis discourse.
My aesthetics of critical pedagogy model derives from Foucault's descriptions of the paintings of the surrealist Rene Magritte. My purposes here are to a) lay out Foucault's analysis of Magritte's aesthetics and b) apply this model to the California Readiness test given to kindergarten children. The intent is to show the critical power of Foucault's Model discovering how the implementation of this standardized test fits what Foucault calls a repressive normalizing practice.

Power Goes to School: Teachers, Students, and Discipline
Another application of Foucault to the classroom.
As long as schools are places where part of a child's education takes place, helping children develop discipline will be one of the "problems" - that is, legitimate tasks - that schools face. However, when used in school-talk, "discipline" often is translated into terms of control and power, not development or education. "Discipline" is often, perhaps usually, synonymous with "classroom management."

A review of Didier Eribon's biography of Foucault.
by Mark Poster, Department of History, University of California at Irvine
The book is well-informed, judicious without being remote, sympathetic without losing a critical edge. And Eribon understands Foucault's difficult corpus well enough to take note of the irony of his undertaking. Foucault stood firmly against interpretations that privileged the author's intentions, unity, authority. So this biography, if it be Foucaultian, cannot contribute to an interpretation of Foucault's works.

Foucault's Virtual Passion
Herculine Guibert's review of James Miller's The Passion of Michel Foucault.
"The operational premise of this examination of Foucault's life/work is that we will be able to gain the greatest possible insight into precisely the intersection of Foucault's work as a theorist with his life as a human being if we become willing to entertain the possibility that in his writings Focault may at times have been speaking about himself, or uttering his own feelings, without telling us that that is what he is doing."

Foucault: The Legacy
Contains links, of course, but also informs: how to access the Foucault archives in Paris; new books on or inspired by Foucault; bibliography of Foucault works in english translation; news on seminars and other events.

Recommended Offline Reading
links to Amazon.com

A Foucault Primer: Discourse Power and the Subject
Let's face it: Foucault is a difficult read in even his most 'accessible' writings. This well and gently written "primer" was my introduction and I still go back to it now and again for a refresher. You'll find excerpts from it, like the one below, in Fueling the Bonfire
Another aspect of Foucault's critical method is that it locates power outside conscious or intentional decision. He does not ask: who is in power? He asks how power installs itself and produces real material effects; where one such effect might be a particular kind of subject who will in turn act as a channel for the flow of power itself.

A Foucault Primer: Discourse, power and the subject

The Cambridge Companion to Foucault (Cambridge Companions to Philosophy)
This is not a casual read. The Cambridge Companion philosophy series steps up the academic intensity. An anthology of essays by respected interpreters of Foucault, it bridges the span between A Foucault Primer and tackling the works of Foucault himself. It's a wide span. My copy's at home but the quote below originates in a review appearing on Amazon.com and will give you the flavour of discussion.
Rouse demonstrates how Foucault conceived of power not as an entity ontologically exogenous to social relations but rather as a dynamic process which is conceived and executed in a multiplicity of social locations. Knowledge, similarly, is born of distinct social relations and likewise mutable. Rouse grounds Foucault's conception of power in an embodied lived existence which finds its ethical legitimacy from historical experience without resorting to universal essentialisms which concepts like sovereignty intimate.

Obedience to Authority
I offer this book primarily as a caution to Foucault's heady theories of power. Beginning in the 1960s, Stanley Milgram conducted a series of experiments that chillingly revealed how deeply individuals are inclined to follow the commands of figures perceived to be in authority. (Short Answer: to the death.)
...The social psychology of this century reveals a major lesson: often it is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act.

Stanley Milgram (1974)

This quote appears to share certain frames of reference with the quote above illustrating A Foucault Primer. However, Foucault is primarily a philosopher of history and Milgram is, instead, an empirical sociologist. The distinction is important as Milgram's experiments show that in the specific context of his experiments, the relationship between individuals and power is consistent across culture, class, gender and profession. That is, power (authority) as we respond to it as individuals is apparently subject to a biological imperative which, to my knowledge, Foucault's various archaeologies, genealogies and problematisations do not address.

Foucault in the Nomadic Spirit

Fueling the Bonfire.
A hearty exploration within a feminist context
Life just got a whole lot more interesting.
A small, passing reference
Beyond Here There Be Dragons
A quote
Coming up for air.
The same quote