This two-part article summarizes the major arguments of Lynne Huffer’s 2010 book, Mad for Foucault: Rethinking the Foundations of Queer Theory. The second part of the piece is a dialogue between Huffer and feminist theorist Elizabeth Wilson about the implications of the book’s arguments about rethinking queer theory, interiority, psychic life, lived experience and received understandings of Michel Foucault’s work.
This essay examines the Foucauldian foundations of queer theory in the work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. The essay argues that Sedgwick’s increasing disappointment with Foucault’s critique of the repressive hypothesis is in part produced by the slippery rhetoric of The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction . Specifically, Foucault’s use of free indirect discourse in that volume destabilizes both the theory of repression and the critique Foucault mounts against it, thereby rendering ambiguous any political promise his critique might seem (...) to offer. Returning to the fraught relation between Foucault and Sedgwick, the essay concludes by reading Foucault and Sedgwick together through the lens of a reparative ethics in which the felt experience of knowing the world is also an experiment in new ways of living. (shrink)
This essay explores Foucault’s conception of the historical a priori through the lens of an archival ethics of eros. Highlighting the paradoxical nature of the historical a priori as both constitutive and contingent, it harnesses the temporal dynamism of experiences of the untimely as erotic. Drawing on the work of Anne Carson, the essay brings out the strangeness of eros as an ancient Greek word that remains unintelligible to us. That strangeness signals an ethics of dissonant attunement to the untimeliness (...) of the historical a priori. Such an ethics of eros names those experiences of connection and rupture that both bind and unbind us in relation to a biopolitical present that is radically unstable. Reading eros as strange thus ultimately allows us to find resources for an ethics of self-transformation in Foucault’s reflections on the temporal instability that the historical a priori names. (shrink)
This essay asks about the return to nature and “life itself” in contemporary feminist philosophy and theory, from the new materialisms to feminist science studies to environmental ethics and critical animal studies. Unlike traditional naturalisms, the contemporary turn to nature is explicitly posthumanist. Shifting their focus away from anti-essentialist critiques of woman-as-nature, these new feminist philosophies of nature have turned toward nonhuman animals, the cosmos, the climate, and life itself as objects of ethical concern. Drawing on Foucault, the essay probes (...) the ethical meanings of the term “life itself” invoked in many of these renaturalizing projects. Focusing especially on the archival matter that guides Foucault’s thinking, I suggest that we rethink “life itself” not as a transhistorical substance but as the unstable materiality of history. I then reframe Foucault’s archival, genealogical perspective through the lens of the Anthropocene and geological time. Reconceiving our archive as a fossil record, I suggest that Foucault has much to contribute to environmental challenges to human exceptionalism and the anthropogenic destruction of other species and ourselves. (shrink)
Agency can be construed as both the manner in which autonomous individuals embark on particular courses of action (or inaction), and the relationship between such agents and the outcomes of the courses of action on which they embark. A promising strategy for understanding both senses of agency consists in the combination of a modal logic of agency and branching time semantics. Such is the strategy behind stit theory, the theory of agentive action developed by Nuel Belnap and others. However, stit (...) theoretic evaluations of the agentive relationship between agents and outcomes that are uncertain—due to either the presence of indeterminism, or the possible intervention of other agents—yield counterintuitive results. This paper develops a pair of alternative operators (the “act” operators) for modeling agency with respect to uncertain outcomes. Unlike the stit-theoretic model, the act-theoretic model of agency with respect to a particular state of affairs does not require that the state of affairs be realized in every possible history. If the state of affairs in fact obtains in the actual history, and its obtaining was dependent on the agent’s pursuing a particular course of action, then the agent is deemed agentive under act theory. (shrink)
Joanna Crosby and Dianna Taylor: The theme of this special section of Foucault Studies, “Foucauldian Spaces,” emerged out of the 2016 meeting of the Foucault Circle, where the four of you were participants. Each of the three individual papers contained in the special section critically deploys and/or reconceptualizes an aspect of Foucault’s work that engages and offers particular insight into the construction, experience, and utilization of space. We’d like to ask the four of you to reflect on what makes a (...) space Foucauldian, and whether or not you’d consider the space created by the convergence of and intellectual exchanges among an international group of Foucault scholars at the University of New South Wales in the summer of 2016 to be Foucauldian. (shrink)
The contradictions that arise from that construction. Another Colette offers a revisionary reading of Colette in light of poststructuralist and feminist criticism, particularly that of Derrida, Lacan, and Kristeva, and makes a significant contribution to current questions regarding the relationship of gender, sexuality, and language. In moving beyond the traditional gesture of reading the work of a woman writer as no more than her own experience, the study argues for a.
What is the strange eros that haunts Foucault's writing? In this deeply original consideration of Foucault's erotic ethics, Lynne Huffer provocatively rewrites Foucault as a Sapphic poet. She uncovers eros as a mode of thought that erodes the interiority of the thinking subject. Focusing on the ethical implications of this mode of thought, Huffer shows how Foucault's poetic archival method offers a way to counter the disciplining of speech. At the heart of this method is a conception of the archive (...) as Sapphic: the past's remains are, like Sappho's verses, hole-ridden, scattered, and dissolved by time. Listening for eros across fragmented texts, Huffer stages a series of encounters within an archive of literary and theoretical readings: the eroticization of violence in works by Freud and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, the historicity of madness in the Foucault-Derrida debate, the afterlives of Foucault's antiprison activism, and Monique Wittig's Sapphic materialism. Through these encounters, Foucault's Strange Eros conceives of ethics as experiments in living that work poetically to make the present strange. Crafting fragments that dissolve into Sapphic brackets, Huffer performs the ethics she describes in her own practice of experimental writing. Foucault's Strange Eros hints at the self-hollowing speech of an eros that opens a space for the strange. (shrink)
This essay attends to the place of virginity at the center of the fourth volume of Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality, Confessions of the Flesh. Reading virginity through a rhetorical lens, the essay argues for an ethics and a politics of counter-conduct in Foucault characterized by chiasmus, a rhetorical structure of inverted parallelism. That chiastic structure frames Foucault’s Confessions, and all of his work, as a fragmented, self-hollowing speech haunted by death and the dissolution of the subject. The essay reads (...) Foucault as apophatic speech that returns to us, no longer itself, made strange. In that deathly movement of eternal recurrence, Foucault’s Confessions speak after death from the x’d out place of the queer virgin: on a threshold that separates life from death, in a movement of metanoia or ethical conversion. As an unfinished history in fragments, the essay’s form brings attention to incompletion as a crucial aspect of Foucault’s work. The fragmentation that characterizes an unfinished history underscores poetic discontinuity as the hallmark of Foucault’s genealogical method and thought. (shrink)