Thursday, December 13, 2007
Sawicki, Jana. "Review of Michel Foucault's ABNORMAL: LECTURES AT THE COLLEGE DE FRANCE, 1974-1975." NDPR January 3, 2005.
Foucault, Michel. Abnormal: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1974-1975. Trans. Graham Burchell. London: Verso, 2003. Abnormal is the second of Foucault's lectures at the Collège de France to appear in this new series of English translations. (The French volume was published by Editions de Seuil/Gallimard in 1999 under the general editorship of Francois Ewald and Allesandro Fontana. Arnold Davidson is the general editor of the series of English translations. The first in the series is Foucault's course in 1975-1976, Society Must Be Defended.) Reading these lectures one is ever mindful of the immense archival labor and the intensity of the discipline that Foucault mustered in his counter-disciplinary work. Here again Foucault exhibits his talent for unearthing startling documents and bringing to life the figures represented in them. While many of the analyses of these documents are more suggestive and exploratory than definitive, they are suggestive enough that they are likely to stimulate further genealogical research. Indeed, this was one of their principle purposes. Furthermore, situated as they are between the publication of Discipline and Punish (February 1975) and History of Sexuality, Volume 1 (October 1976), the lectures deepen our appreciation of the books insofar as they contain more developed analyses of some of their central themes. Foucault expands on themes such as confession, the repressive hypothesis, the medicalization of the family, the emergence of psychiatry, and the sexual pervert. Moreover, the lectures also explore themes and figures that are either less central to or absent from the books--the human monster, incest, cannibalism, witchcraft, possession, and the discovery of "instinct" as pivotal to the emergence of the "abnormal individual." And although the "Foreword" by Ewald and Fontana warns against reading the lectures as "sketches for the books," it is tempting, at the very least, to read them as a preliminary formulations of ideas that would have formed the basis of the unwritten volumes that Foucault, while he was writing the first volume of the history of sexuality, imagined he would write. (A, xiii) Readers who are disappointed that Foucault never wrote the promised volumes on confessions of the flesh, hysteria, the Malthusian couple, and onanism will find that these lectures offer some compensation. . . . Read the rest of the review here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=1581.