Department of English UG Module Directory (2020)

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Michel Foucault

Level 6 (15 credits)

Foucault's basic project was to describe how power in a given society is invariably structured by a binary of normal and abnormal identities. His aim was to question and critique this binary in its myriad forms. Foucault's writings offer possible new histories of the topics (mental illness, sexuality, criminality) that he tackled; his books are also imaginative and literary texts. In this module we read a selection of Foucault's major works, in translation, and consider some of the arguments they have provoked in literature, history and related modern disciplines. We will read some of Foucault's central texts until reading week; the second part of the module will open up more thematic and critical issues, such as gender, disability and orientalism, and the engagement of Foucault's work with that of Derrida, Barthes, Said, Butler and others.

Preparing for this Module and Approximate Costs

If you are quite new to Foucault, you could start by reading an introductory guide such as the short Foucault (Critical Lives) by David Macey. And to put you in the mood for the module watch the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Milos Forman and starring Jack Nicholson.

If you want to purchase something in advance you could get the useful Foucault Lives: Interviews 1961-1984 and dip into that before, during and after the course (and when writing your main essay). You should start reading Madness & Civilisation a couple of weeks before the course begins, just to get ahead, as it can be a little long and slow reading (the other two set books are shorter). I generally discourage students from reading too many books of secondary criticism on Foucault until later in the module.

If you are already familiar with Foucault, then the best preparation for this module is to get ahead with reading the three Foucault set texts. These are Madness and Civilisation, Discipline and Punish, and Volume 1 of his History of Sexuality. If you have already read these 3 set texts previously, you could try reading Foucault's attempt at a theoretical statement Archaeology of Knowledge or dip into the epic The Order of Things - try the first and last chapters

The approximate costs that students will incur if they take this module is £30 - this includes the three compulsory texts Madness & Civilisation, Discipline & Punish, History of Sexuality vol.1. These are fairly cheap paperbacks and can often be found cheaper still online. For additional Foucault texts the costs can be reduced by buying second hand copies/using Library copies. Apart from the three main books, relevant Foucault articles and essays for the seminar will be in the Module Reading Pack

Learning Context Long Seminar
Semester 1 or 2

1. Writing Exercise (2,000 words), 30%
2. Essay (3,000 words), 70%

Mode of reassessment Standard
Contact Howard Finn