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.
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.
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.
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