MICHEL FOUCAULT QUESTIONS

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Assigned: "What is an Author?" (1622-36); "Truth and Power" (1667-70).

"What is an Author?" (1969)

1. From 1623-26, how does Foucault characterize the latest way of talking about the relationship between an author and a text? How does this new way reject older theories about that relationship? Foucault further identifies two new "theses" that replace the author: the "work" and ecriture. What general and specific problems does he have with these two theses?

2. On 1626, Foucault writes that "we should reexamine the empty space left by the author's disappearance." From 1626-31, how does he make such a reexamination? In what ways does an author's name function, and what four key points does Foucault make and refine about the development and significance of this author-function?

3. From 1631-33, how does Foucault broaden his earlier consideration of mostly literary and religious texts to encompass discourses such as Marxism and psychoanalysis? What new kind of author-function emerges from the nineteenth century onward, and how does Foucault begin to analyze the importance of this new kind of author-function?

4. From 1633 (bottom)-36, why, according to Foucault, is it inevitable that those involved in what he has called "transdiscursive discourses" should return to them? How is this return more complex than, say, a simple rediscovery of some old point made by an earlier author: what characterizes a return to a transdiscursive author or set of texts?

5. From 1635-36, what final reflections does Foucault offer with regard to subjectivity as a long-privileged philosophical concept? And how does he drive home the point that his careful examination is not intended as a defense of the older concept of authorship that has been demolished in modern times?

"Truth and Power" (1977)

6. Throughout this interview (only a small part of which is reproduced in Leitch) Foucault has been critical of unsubtle application of Marxist ideas. Consider what he says on 1667 about the role of European intellectuals since World War II -- what promise does Foucault see in the advent of the "specific intellectual" as opposed to the older-style "universal intellectual"?

7. From 1668-69, what key statement does Foucault make about the relationship between "truth" and "power"? Shortly after this statement, what five key traits does Foucault suggest characterizes the "'political economy' of truth" in modern societies?

8. From 1669-70, Foucault returns to the concept of the specific intellectual in relation to the statements he has been making about truth and power. He seems optimistic about the role of intellectuals in disrupting the operations of social and political power. What reasons does he offer for this optimism, even though, as he says, one really can't liberate "truth from every system of power" (1670)? What can intellectuals do, then?

9. General question: consider what Foucault says about the relationship between truth and power in light of Nietzsche's analysis of truth in "Truth and Falsity in a Non-Moral Sense." In what ways, and to what extent, is Foucault indebted to Nietzsche, as he himself suggests he is? (This question might make a good paper topic.)

Edition: Leitch, Vincent B., ed. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 1st. ed. New York: Norton, 2001. ISBN: 0393974294.