COMP 359
Foucault: Confessions of the Flesh Spring 2022
Division I
Cross-listed REL 355 / COMP 359 / STS 355

Class Details

The French philosopher, historian, and social critic, Michel Foucault (1926-1984) has had a massive influence across a range of disciplines. Indeed, in 2019, Google Scholar ranked Foucault as the number one most highly cited scholar in the Humanities and Social Sciences. While many of his contemporaries have faded in importance, Foucault’s writings on power, madness, the history of sexuality, and the structures of domination and governmentality have become central to the theoretical canon of a range of academic disciplines. To be a scholar in the humanities today is often to be in Foucault’s shadow. But despite the many references to his work, Foucault is frequently misunderstood and subsequent scholars often attribute to him positions he would have repudiated. Now almost forty years after his death, his work is also long overdue for a reappraisal as we come to understand Foucault better as a person and especially as the final, and posthumous, volume of his History of Sexuality, Confessions of the Flesh, has only just appeared and been translated into English. In this course we will mainly read Foucault supplemented with occasional contextual readings. Although we will touch on his earlier writings, this seminar will emphasize his middle-to-late period (beginning with The Archaeology of Knowledge) and including selections from his later monographs, lectures, interviews, and short writings. It will culminate in the unfinished intellectual and political project that occupied Foucault in his last days. We will think with and often against Foucault, focusing primarily on questions of power, knowledge, truth, and addressing his later emancipatory gesture toward “technologies of the self.” We will also appraise the methodologies that Foucault described as “archaeology” and “genealogy.” We will historicize Foucault in his life and cultural context and ask how much of his arguments still apply today. What blind-spots did he have? Which of his ideas are worth consolidating and which need repudiating? How might we go beyond Foucault?
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 15
Class#: 3716
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation, weekly critical responses, 10- to 12-page final paper
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: In order of preference, Religion majors, STS concentrators, Comp Lit majors, and then Philosophy majors.
Unit Notes: in-depth seminar on a difficult philosopher who we'll be reading closely
Distributions: Division I
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
REL 355 Division II COMP 359 Division I STS 355 Division II

Class Grid

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