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Foucault and the Study of Literature Author(s): Dieter Freundlieb Source: Poetics Today, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Summer, 1995), pp. 301-344 Published by: Duke University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1773331 Accessed: 27/10/2008 22:14 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=duke. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with the scholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform that promotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]. Duke University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Poetics Today. http://www.jstor.org
Page 1: Foucault Literatura

Foucault and the Study of LiteratureAuthor(s): Dieter FreundliebSource: Poetics Today, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Summer, 1995), pp. 301-344Published by: Duke University PressStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1773331Accessed: 27/10/2008 22:14

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.

Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=duke.

Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.

JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with thescholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform thatpromotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected].

Duke University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Poetics Today.


Page 2: Foucault Literatura

Foucault and the Study of Literature

Dieter Freundlieb Humanities, Griffith

Abstract In this essay I investigate systematically how relevant parts of Fou- cault's work might be brought to bear on issues in the study of literature. I approach Foucault's intellectual career as one with four phases: (1) an early archaeological phase, in which Foucault regarded literature as one of a num- ber of "counter-discourses" partly associated with the experience of mad- ness and opposed (as an "Other") to an all-encompassing Reason; (2) a later archaeological phase, beginning in the late 1960s with the publication of The Archaeology of Knowledge, in which Foucault no longer saw literature as a counter-discourse but, like the associated discipline of literary criticism, as one of the many discourses governed by an anonymous set of rules; (3) a gene- alogical phase, when Foucault turned from the analysis of the rules governing discursive formations to the question of such formations as embodiments of ubiquitous power relations concerned with the production and formation of subjects; and (4) a phase in which Foucault returned to problems of self- formation and subject agency and considered the possibility of an "aesthetics of existence." In a separate section, between the discussions of phase (1) and phase (2), I discuss Foucault's influential essay on authorship in relation to the parameters of phase (2). Finally, in a brief concluding section, I summarize my largely negative findings.

Introduction While Michel Foucault had always shown a keen interest in literature, even to the point of publishing a book-length study (Foucault 1963) of the French writer Raymond Roussel (1877-1933), he never pro- vided us with any detailed theoretical account of how the results of his work might be applied to the study of literature. His influence

Poetics Today 16:2 (Summer 1995). Copyright ? 1995 by The Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics. CCC 0333-5372/95/$2.50.

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on literary studies has been considerable nonetheless and is likely to

grow for some time to come. The literary-critical schools of the New Historicism in the United States and its British counterpart Cultural Materialism, as well as various German modes of Diskursanalyse, tes-

tify to a growing fascination among literary scholars with Foucault's ideas.' In virtually all of these cases, however, there is a lack of system- atic methodological attention to the question of how relevant parts of Foucault's work can be appropriated for literary studies, either as cur-

rently conceived or in terms of its future practice.2 Such a systematic investigation will be attempted here.

Much of the still-growing literature on Foucault is either exegetical, and often adulatory, or highly critical, often dismissive despite little effort to understand, in sufficient detail, Foucault's complex and fre-

quently confusing intellectual trajectories. This is no doubt an effect of Foucault's provocative thought and his often overstated claims. But it is also due to the fact that Foucault's work, contra some of his exegetes (e.g., Deleuze 1986), does not constitute a single, coherent body of

thought. Foucault himself remarked on several occasions that he had

changed his mind about various aspects of the problems and issues he had addressed in his writings and that this was perfectly normal for any thinker. And even then he sometimes glossed over, or re- mained silent about, some of the more radical shifts in his work. The best analyses are therefore, it seems to me, those that, in a rather un- Foucaldian way, trace his intellectual biography as a history of problem solving, an approach that can account for the discontinuities in his work without positing its incoherence, that is, without rendering its various parts incommensurable.3 This does not mean, of course, that a rational reconstruction of Foucault's thought as the pursuit of a series of related intellectual problems and their possible solutions cannot

1. In his introduction to Ethos der Modeme: Foucaults Kritik der Aufkliirung, Axel Honneth (1990) lists four areas on which the current discussion of Foucault's work is centered. One of them is the potential relevance of his early work to aesthetics. While this is no doubt one area in which his writings have influenced contempo- rary debates, Honneth entirely overlooks (presumably because it lies outside of his field of interests) the important role that Foucault's later work has been playing in

literary studies. 2. Clemens Kammler's (1990) "Historische Diskursanalyse (Michel Foucault)" raises the issue of the applicability of Foucault's work to literary studies in a fairly systematic way, but it is not very detailed and leaves room for further discussion. In

"Einleitung: Diskurstheorien und Literaturwissenschaft," Jurgen Fohrmann and Harro Miiller (1988) discuss the relevance of discourse analysis to literary studies, but they define "discourse analysis" much more broadly than Foucault did. 3. Prime examples of such work are Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow (1983 [1982]), Hinrich Fink-Eitel (1989), Rudi Visker (1991), and Urs Marti (1988). See also the relevant chapters in Axel Honneth (1986: 113-224) and Jiirgen Habermas

(1987: 238-93).

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come to the conclusion that he abandoned or otherwise left unresolved many of the questions he had raised. But it can profitably recognize the depth and complexity of his work without making it more uniform than it is, praising it unduly, or dismissing it without having done it justice.

The fact that Foucault's work was, during a considerable portion of his intellectual life, concerned with a critique of the social sciences should perhaps have cautioned those among today's literary scholars who are now looking to Foucault in their attempts to develop new ways of doing literary studies. What is more, since the interpretation of texts, in one shape or another, is still considered the major activity of literary critics and even informs the work of many who claim to be inspired by Foucault, and since he often rejected, at least for his own purposes, the idea of a hermeneutical approach to texts, the ap- propriation of Foucault for or by literary studies should encounter a number of problems. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that at a more general level there is a considerable resemblance between his work and that of literary critics, in the sense that his overall style of thinking and argumentation, as well as his writing style, is quintessen- tially geisteswissenschaftlich; in other words, the attraction that Foucault's work holds for many scholars lies not so much in the cogency of his arguments and the empirical evidence on which they rely-in fact, both are often rather scanty and shaky-but in the rhetorically skill- ful, flamboyant, and highly metaphorical presentation of his ideas. Paradoxically, in this sense, his critique of the human sciences relies on a style of thinking and presentation characteristic of precisely these sciences.4 This, in turn, has had the equally paradoxical result that his work, like a body of literary texts, acts as a continual stimulation to further scholarly exegesis, thus contributing to the maintenance of a type of geisteswissenschaftlich and interpretative commentary which was the target of at least some of Foucault's criticism.5

The style of Foucault's writing, however, raises another, perhaps more important issue. It could be argued that to regard Foucault's

4. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, such as the far more sober style of his last two books (volumes 2 and 3 of The History of Sexuality [Foucault 1986a, 1988e]), and the more analytical style of The Archaeology of Knowledge (Foucault 1972a). The intimate connection between the metaphorical language of literary texts and the equally metaphorical style of literary criticism has been demonstrated by Harald Fricke (1977). 5. In arguing that the best analyses of Foucault are those which try to reconstruct his thought in terms of a history of attempts to solve certain intellectual prob- lems, I am, at least implicitly, rejecting certain notions of intellectual history and of authorship promoted by Foucault. Such analyses, however, do not (or should not) entail the imitation of Foucault's writing style and terminology, and they are not interpretive in a specifically literary sense.

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work as engaged in a language game of serious philosophical argu- mentation and theorization that needs an equally serious philosophical and analytical reply is to miss the point of that work altogether. If so, then critical responses such as those by Habermas (1987) and Hon- neth (1986), for example, would be somewhat off the mark. This is a matter of interpretation, but I am inclined to think that Foucault's

writing does indeed often display a nonphilosophical language that is

partly expressive and partly strategic in that while it reveals Foucault's

personality, particularly his literary and artistic affiliations with sur- realism and other modernist and postmodernist movements, it also seems deployed as a form of cultural critique that aims to persuade but not necessarily via detailed argument and evidence. However, I do not think that this makes a philosophical or even a slightly pedan- tic critical analysis of his work unnecessary or beside the point. Both Foucault himself and most of his followers have made important va-

lidity claims, in Habermas's sense, even if they have not conformed to certain rules of argumentation customary in the analytic tradition of

philosophy. Indeed, the fact that writers such as Foucault often em-

ploy strategies of persuasion that resort to more subtle rhetorical and

literary means without refraining from making empirical and philo- sophical validity claims warrants a careful analysis of the underlying argumentative structure and its evidential basis.6

Now, what issues are pursued in Foucault's work that could be of

systematic interest and relevance to literary studies, and how are these issues related to the various phases of his work? In answering this

6. What worries many of those who are sympathetic to Habermas's (and Apel's) notion of communicative reason, which insists on the principle that arguments not

be accepted unless they conform to protocols of validation based on the regulative idea of an ideal speech situation, is that poststructuralists such as Foucault and

Derrida often seem to use scholarly language and argumentation for purely stra-

tegic purposes rather than for participation in a communal and democratic effort

to reach consensus. Occasionally, this is even openly admitted, as when Derrida

(1985: 15), commenting on his allegedly often misunderstood phrase that there is

nothing outside the text (and similar statements), said it served a strategic function.

To Habermassians, such strategic uses of language must seem close to intellectual

dishonesty, while they are, of course, "rational" once questions of validity in argu- mentation have been reduced to questions of power and politics. Foucault's writing

style (and that of other poststructuralists) has also given rise to interminable dis-

putes over what Foucault really meant or what his position on various issues really was. In my view, the question of the real Foucault, as opposed to, say, the American

or German version of him, does not much matter. The critique of the Foucault re-

constructed in my own analysis here would still be justified even if another side to

him were demonstrated because this Foucault has been so influential within liter-

ary studies and other disciplines of the humanities. Given the nature of Foucault's

writing style and the shifts in his work, his real position is likely to remain an elusive

interpretive ideal.

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double question we should perhaps bear in mind that there is a cer- tain degree of uniformity to Foucault's work-and that it should not be overlooked. Many Foucault scholars would now agree that he was concerned throughout his career with questions regarding the forma- tion of the subject and the relations between power and knowledge, although neither of these issues was at the forefront of his investiga- tions during his early archaeological phase. At this point in his career, Foucault took the Nietzschean, psychoanalytic, and structuralist de- centering of the subject more or less for granted (with an emphasis on the Nietzschean7) and focused not so much on processes of sub- jectivation as on the anonymous structures and subject positions that, in Foucault's history of the human sciences, replaced the traditional notion of the knowing and acting subject. In any case, the question of the formation of the subject, which runs through almost all of his writings, including his last work on technologies of the self, is only one of the Foucaldian issues relevant to literary studies.

Here, I shall look at what can be regarded as four phases in Fou- cault's intellectual career: First, an early archaeological phase, in which Foucault regarded literature as one of a number of "counter- discourses" partly associated with the experience of madness and op- posed to the rigidities of an all-encompassing Reason-literature as an "Other" of Reason; second, a later archaeological phase, beginning in the late 1960s with the publication of The Archaeology of Knowledge, in which Foucault no longer regarded literature as a counter-discourse, but, together with the associated discipline of literary criticism, as one of the many discourses governed by anonymous sets of rules; third, a genealogical phase, when Foucault turned from the analysis of the rules governing discursive formations to the question of such forma- tions as embodiments of ubiquitous power relations concerned with the production and formation of subjects; and, finally, a fourth phase, in which Foucault returned to problems of self-formation and subject agency and considered the possibility of an "aesthetics of existence." (Between my discussions of phase one and phase two, I will pause to consider Foucault's influential essay on authorship, in which the con- cept of the author is addressed from within the parameters of phase two.) In this discussion, as well as in those on the four phases, I will raise questions about how Foucault's views may be (or already have been) applied to issues in literary studies.

7. In one of his late interviews, Foucault (1988c: 22-24) claimed that he had never been a Freudian, a Marxist, or a structuralist and that the main influence on his thinking about the subject in the 1960s was Nietzsche.

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Literature as Counter-Discourse Foucault's early archaeological phase included his investigation of madness, and this is certainly relevant to literary studies. Here, Fou- cault was still working within a more or less realist epistemology, with a type of experience that was innocent of discursive structures. Thus Foucault's analyses of madness entail a belief in both the existence of a pure (prediscursive) madness and an experience of this madness that was still undistorted by the psychiatric sciences.8 While Foucault's antirealist assumptions about the constituted nature of the objects of the human sciences are well-known and clearly emphasized in much of his later work, things are obviously somewhat more complicated in his work on madness. He seems to argue that what we call "madness" is not a natural kind and that we must reject histories of psychiatry which are based on the assumption that madness was a preexisting object, or set of objects, waiting to be discovered by a progressively enlightened science. But he also seems to want to say that there was, and can be, an experience of madness, by both those who are "mad" and those who come into close contact with the "mad," that is prior to the experience made possible by the development of psychology or psychiatry. It is this "pure" madness as the "Other" of Reason which Foucault initially hoped to restore to its rightful position. According to Foucault, madness became alienated from itself the moment rea- son and unreason were conceptually distinguished, a sundering that occurred even before psychology got ahold of madness. So what psy- chology encountered when it constituted itself as a science was, in a way, an already alienated form of madness (Visker 1991: 37ff.).

Now the interesting point, from our perspective, is that Foucault associated pure madness, whose tragic experience was sentenced to silence by the conceptual separation of reason and unreason and by the discourse of psychiatry, with a certain conception of language and literature as "counter-discourse." What Foucault admired in such writers as Holderlin, Nerval, Artaud, Blanchot, Bataille, and Roussel was that their language could give us at least some, if only momentary, access to the silenced truth of pure, tragic madness. It is in this con- text that Foucault speaks of the "being" of language, which reemerges in literature and which we need to recognize and learn to think. In fact, as John Rajchman (1985: 9-41) has shown, in the 1960s Foucault

developed a "theory" of literature that purported to explain crucial

aspects of modernist culture and its return, following the "classical

age," to questions of language. As we will see, and as Rajchman makes

8. In this and in some of my other analyses of Foucault here, I am indebted to the work of Rudi Visker (1991)-even where I depart from it.

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clear, Foucault rejected what he had said in his earlier work about literature and its conception of language. But in order to be system- atic here, it is important to investigate, at least briefly, the possible relevance of Foucault's early work on literature as "counter-discourse" and "transgression" to literary studies, particularly since some writers on Foucault still believe in its critical potential.9

Avant-garde literature was for Foucault self-reflexive language that broke entirely with such traditional notions as "genre," "expression," "intention," "author," and so on. Neither expressing individual ex- perience nor representing external objects and states of affairs, such literature at its best exposes the limits of experience. It was through this kind of literary language that Foucault hoped to regain access to a fundamental thinking, a thinking from without (la pensee du dehors) that could break with the traditional philosophy of consciousness and the subject. According to Foucault's analysis in The Order of Things, lit- erature compensates for the "demotion of language to the mere status of an object" (Foucault 1970: 296). In this compensatory process, lan- guage is

reconstituting itself elsewhere, in an independent form, difficult of access, folded back upon the enigma of its own origin and existing wholly in refer- ence to the pure act of writing. Literature is the contestation of philology (of which it is nevertheless the twin figure): it leads language back from gram- mar to the naked power of speech, and there it encounters the untamed, imperious being of words. (Ibid.: 300)

Foucault concludes these deliberations on literature as a compensa- tory return of a repressed language, a "being of words," as follows: "At the moment when language, as spoken and scattered words, becomes an object of knowledge, we see it reappearing in a strictly opposite modality: a silent, cautious deposition of the word upon the whiteness of a piece of paper, where it can possess neither sound nor interlocu- tor, where it has nothing to say but itself, nothing to do but shine in the brightness of its being" (ibid.). For Foucault the real "being" of language lies outside its representative function; if language at- tempts to represent anything at all, it is the unrepresentable. This is why Rajchman (1985: 17ff.), using Lyotard's terminology, connects it with the idea of the sublime. It manifests itself in madness and finds its "freedom" in what Foucault (1970: 383) called an "unsignifying region."

9. See, e.g., Martina Meister (1990: 258). There is, of course, a long tradition in aesthetics, going back to early Romanticism, of linking literary language with the subversive, the particular, the nonconceptual, and the nonidentical on the basis of the way it exploits the materiality of language, often to the extent of making semantic closure and the determination of meaning impossible or at least very difficult. But Foucault did not engage with this tradition in any detailed way.

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Foucault's critique of conceptual-representational language is simi- lar, in many respects, to the Nietzschean notion that all signification or linguistic representation is a falsification of reality since it cannot grasp the uniqueness of objects and events. It is a negation of dif- ference in favor of identity.10 Literary language, however, can avoid such an identifying function since even representational language may contain remnants of a material mode of being that is nonrepresenta- tional and nonrepresentable. Foucault argued that making language an object of investigation and representation, as happened during the "classical age," fails to capture the true being of language, which is essentially unrepresentable. As Matthias Rub (1990) has emphasized, Foucault's conception of language was closely tied to his critique of the autonomous subject, a subject who attempts to annihilate difference by reducing what is "other" to what can be known and thereby assimi- lated to the self. An essential part of Foucault's conception of language in his writings of the sixties, therefore, was his rejection of the idea that subjects are in control of language, which, in the case of literature, led to his well-known critique of the figure of the author.

Apart from a possible link with Heidegger, as far as the primacy of

language over the subject is concerned, there is an interesting analogy between Foucault's defense of the unrepresentable and Adorno's (1966) notion of the nonidentical, both of which are better preserved through the mimetic processes of art than through conceptual rep- resentation. But whereas Heidegger's influence on Foucault is a well- known fact, confirmed by Foucault himself, there is no evidence of Adorno's direct influence on him. Still, the analogy is there, and Fou- cault's defense of the unrepresentable engendered a similar problem as that faced by Adorno, namely, how the nonconceptual and unrep- resentable can become an object of (conceptual) knowledge without

being distorted in the process. Even if art itself could somehow solve

10. In reviewing Gilles Deleuze's Difference et repetition and Logique du sens, Foucault (1977b: 186) said, "The most tenacious subjection of difference is undoubtedly that maintained by categories. By showing the number of different ways in which being can express itself, by specifying its forms of attribution, by imposing in a certain way the distribution of existing things, categories create a condition where being maintains its undifferentiated repose at the highest level. Categories organize the

play of affirmations and negations, establish the legitimacy of resemblances within

representation, and guarantee the objectivity and operation of concepts. They sup- press the anarchy of difference, divide differences into zones, delimit their rights, and prescribe their task of specification with respect to individual beings. On one side, they can be understood as the a priori forms of knowledge, but, on the other, they appear as an archaic morality, the ancient decalogue that the identical im-

posed upon difference. Difference can only be liberated through the invention of an acategorical thought." (The review was originally published in Critique 282 [1970]: 885-908.)

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the problem of evoking an experience of an "Other" by means of the aesthetic and phonetic rather than the conceptual resources of lan-

guage, the moment this capability of art became theorized it would no longer be possible to sidestep the problem of a conceptual repre- sentation of the allegedly unrepresentable, which would require an aestheticization of theory itself. While Adorno (1970) had a very clear conception of this dilemma and indeed devoted most of his intellec- tual energies to its solution, Foucault's writings from this period are much less philosophically self-conscious in that respect. In any case, his attempt to recuperate what he saw as the original experience of madness by lending it a voice and speaking in its name in Madness and Civilization (Foucault 1967) and, to some extent, in his writings on lit- erature was ultimately unsuccessful.1l As Derrida (1978) pointed out in his critique of Foucault, one cannot legitimately use a discourse of reason in praise of unreason or rely on a knowledge of what madness

truly is while claiming that knowledge itself is what represses the truth of madness. Perhaps the highly literary, even poetic, style Foucault used when he wrote about both madness and literature is a manifes- tation of the need he felt to escape the pragmatic self-contradiction

underlying a reasoned critique of reason. But this was no solution to the problem. Let me return, then, to the question of the relevance of Foucault's early writings on literature to literary studies in gen- eral, a relevance which cannot consist in the mere fact that he himself frequently used poetic language.

Foucault's claims about literature as counter-discourse and trans- gression seem to have been based on a notion of literature that was at once too vague and too specific. What I mean is that while one can recognize the Heideggerian (and Mallarmean) overtones of his notion of the being of language, what he said about this being and its links to the unrepresentable and the unthought is too vague and too little developed to be of much help even within the limited field of an aesthetics of literature, let alone in literary studies more generally. As already noted, the situation with respect to Adorno's notion of the

11. David Carroll has argued that the critical force of Foucault's enterprise has, or was meant to have, virtually the same subversive power that he attributed to litera- ture as counter-discourse. In "A Preface to Transgression," Foucault (1977a: 39) suggested that "our task for today is to direct our attention to this nondiscursive language, this language which, for almost two centuries, has stubbornly maintained its disruptive existence in our culture." But, as Carroll (1982) observes, Foucault's alignment with the allegedly disruptive power of the nondiscursive language of literature in order to avoid being implicated in the power/knowledge network he claimed to have identified everywhere else was an evasion of the critic's responsi- bility to confront the issues at the level of conceptual, argumentative analysis (see also Carroll 1987: 107-29).

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nonidentical is quite different.12 While the problems of Adorno's aes- thetics may not be resolvable within the conceptual framework of his

theory, Adorno's relevance to and actual influence on literary studies rests on the fact that the idea of the nonidentical is at the center of an elaborate and sophisticated philosophical theory.13 In the case of the

early Foucault, on the one hand we have only a fairly small number of

analyses, which simply cannot compare with the detail and complexity of Adorno's theoretical work on aesthetics; on the other hand, we have a concept of literature that is too specific, in that it illegitimately gen- eralizes from the self-reflexive work of certain surrealist and modern- ist writers or those who suffered from mental illness (e.g., Holderlin and Nietzsche) to a much broader notion of literature.'4 The charge of overgeneralizing from a specific aesthetic practice to literature in

general, however, can also be brought against Adorno. All this explains, I believe, why Foucault's conception of literature

as counter-discourse did not, and probably will not, have a major im-

pact on literary studies.15 Foucault himself eventually abandoned his

early views on literature, but before we take a look at this change of mind I would like to comment on Foucault's (1977c) essay "What Is an Author?" which was first published in 1969 and has had a consider- able impact on literary and film criticism, at least in some quarters (see, e.g., Caughie 1981).

What Is an Author?

At this time, Foucault obviously still believed that language had taken the place of the autonomous subject and that the relationship between an author and his or her text was both tenuous and uninteresting, except as an object of discursive analysis. Who speaks did not matter

12. The difference as well as the similarities between Heidegger's Sein and Adorno's Nichtidentische have been perceptively analyzed by Hauke Brunk- horst (1989). 13. For some very interesting attempts to save Adorno's aesthetics by transcending the limits of his conceptual framework, see Albrecht Wellmer (1985, 1988, 1991). 14. This point is also made by Peter Burger (1988) in his highly critical "Die Wiederkehr der Analogie: Asthetik als Fluchtpunkt in Foucaults 'Die Ordnung der Dinge.'" Burger interprets Foucault's comparison of the return of language in the postclassical age to the Renaissance conception of the cosmos as writing and a network of analogical relations in which the difference between signs and objects disappears as Foucault's idealist longing for an end to the subject/object dichotomy. However, this interpretation is difficult to reconcile with what Foucault said about the void that the being of language encounters. 15. Claims concerning the inherently subversive nature of all literary language have, of course, been made by a number of critics (e.g., Paul de Man and Julia Kristeva). But it is now generally recognized that this is at most true of only some kinds of literary texts. And even then, the political efficacy of such subversiveness has often been exaggerated.

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to Foucault because what always really speaks is language itself. But what is interesting in our context is the shift from the idea of literature as counter-discourse to the discursive analysis of a central concept in literary studies, including literary history. Here Foucault is no longer concerned with the literary text as such, but with the ways in which "the literary," or "authored," text is constituted through the discourse of literary criticism and its so-called author function.

With this programmatic essay, Foucault was announcing (to the Col- lege de France, where "What Is an Author?" was read in February 1969) a research program that he never really carried out. Admitting a lack of any ready-made answers, he claims only to be raising some questions and indicating some ways of pursuing them. He takes his de- parture from the observation that in recent writing the author figure has more or less disappeared and that both philosophy and criticism have posited this figure's disappearance as the origin and expressive agency of texts. (Here we have another Foucaldian overgeneralization in which a specific development of self-reflexive modernist literature and criticism, particularly the French nouveau roman and nouvelle cri- tique, is taken to be the model for all contemporary literary practice and thought about literature.) At the same time, Foucault warns that many of the characteristics previously attributed to the author figure are now being attributed to texts, so the author figure has not yet really been abolished.

For Foucault, the disappearance of the author was then still asso- ciated with the emergence of a new episteme, a way of thinking that was radically different from all previous ones. Perhaps in order to help usher in this new era, Foucault here proposed that all prior concep- tions of the author and authorship be subjected to discourse analy- sis. Nevertheless, his proposal offered no uniform methodology, but merely combined, in a rather nontechnical way, questions about the semantics of proper names, as they had been addressed by philoso- phers of language such as John Searle (whose name he mentions), with a historical review of concepts of authorship and its function in the discourse of literary history and criticism, as well as in such areas as the history of mathematics and the natural sciences.

"What Is an Author?" attempts to problematize a whole cluster of concepts entailed by the conventional notion of authorship, including the concept of ceuvre and the idea that texts contain hidden meanings. Thus Foucault tries to cast some doubt on the usefulness of the con- cept of oeuvre by emphasizing the difficulty of determining exactly what, amongst all the written material produced by a writer, is to be included in his or her oeuvre. Foucault claims that we have no theory of what constitutes the unity of "the work," a point that can be readily conceded. But, to take one of Foucault's examples, the question of

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whether to consider "a reference, a reminder of an appointment, an address, or a laundry bill" (Foucault 1977c: 118) contained in a note- book of aphorisms as part of an author's work is hardly exciting. Most scholars would probably say that such information is potentially rele- vant for biographical reasons, but hardly anyone would argue that it is part of an author's oeuvre, if what we mean by that is creative and/or scholarly work. Foucault's point is therefore not very convinc- ing because, while most concepts have fuzzy edges, that by no means precludes their theoretical usefulness in those areas where border dis- putes do not arise. All of the questions that Foucault raises with regard to the problem of demarcation could be raised, and probably with much more justification, about the concepts he wants to introduce as substitutes for the traditional ones. The question of how to determine where one discourse ends and another begins, for example, is far more difficult, and far from resolved, in Foucault's own work.

More interesting and better supported claims are made when he looks at how we use the names of (famous) authors, such as the met-

onymic use of "Shakespeare" or "Dickens" in constructions like "Have

you read any Dickens recently?" (meaning "Have you read any of Dickens's novels recently?"). Names of authors can indeed stand for their whole work. They have, as Foucault says, a classificatory func- tion. He also points out, quite correctly, that the use of an author's name to refer to his or her writings as a whole is an indication of the

privileged status these writings are accorded in the discourse that uses such names and of their being differently read or received than other

writings. Works that are customarily associated in this way with the name of an author are those that form the "canon." The names of authors, and the concept of authorship itself, are reserved for specific discourses which are often, but not necessarily, literary.

There is, of course, nothing terribly exciting about these observa- tions. What makes Foucault's analyses of existing conceptual frame- works stand out from others is his rigidly nominalistic approach. In much of his work, he emphasized that since everything is historical, everything could, at least in principle, be different.16 This often meant that Foucault would entirely ignore the reasoning processes that had led to the development of conceptual configurations, such as those he

16. A small but striking example of this nominalism is the use Foucault (1970: xv) made of Borges's (fictional) example of a Chinese encyclopedia and its (to us,

totally confusing) classification of animals. What Foucault seems to have ignored is that cross-cultural research in cognitive psychology indicates such classifications, while logically possible, to be empirically impossible, in that there are universal prin- ciples of human classification which simply do not produce them under normal circumstances. (On the idea that everything made by humans is historical and can therefore be unmade, see, e.g., Foucault 1988c: 36ff.)

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associated with traditional teleological historiography or mainstream literary criticism.17 In putting those concepts in question, Foucault would often achieve a certain persuasive effect through two strate- gies: the first being the one I just referred to, that is, ignoring the reasoning behind the development of theoretical concepts, while the second involved a certain critical radicalism of particular appeal to many scholars in the humanities, given their frustration over their field's relative loss of cultural prestige. Ironically, however, Foucault's radicalism would sometimes give way to a peculiar kind of positivism content to register, for example, the notion of authorship and its func- tion in a certain discourse as part of the cultural practice of privileging literary and certain other kinds of texts, without addressing the ques- tion of how and on what grounds such a privileging might or might not be justified.

In any case, "What Is an Author?" elaborates on what Foucault be- lieved to be the four most important aspects of the so-called author function. The first one concerns the fact that at a certain point in his- tory an author's writings began to be legally treated as his property. In other words, Foucault is taking up the introduction of copyright legislation. This is no doubt a very interesting field of study in intellec- tual history, but unfortunately Foucault has little to say about it here, except to suggest that copyright may be a kind of compensation for the risks of transgression a writer faces.

The second aspect of the author function has to do with the fact that it operates only in relation to certain kinds of texts and that ex- tant "authorless" texts can actually become "authored." This is a some- what roundabout way of making the point that what counts as literary or is similarly privileged by a society varies historically and cultur- ally. Thus conceptions of what is poetic changed dramatically from the Neoclassical to the Romantic period. Again, an interesting topic and one worth exploring, but there are at least two problems with Foucault's approach to it here. The first is that his description of cer- tain assumptions about literary texts and their cultural relevance that are built into many contemporary forms of literary criticism, such as the assumption that literary texts are manifestations of an underlying aesthetic creativity, seems intended as a critique, but Foucault does

17. In the preface to The Order of Things Foucault (1970: xxii) says, "What I am attempting to bring to light is the epistemological field, the episteme in which knowl- edge, envisaged apart from all criteria having reference to its rational value or to its objective forms, grounds its positivity and thereby manifests a history which is not that of its growing perfection, but rather that of its conditions of possi- bility." For a critique of Foucault's neglect of the reasoning processes in the history of science, see my essay "Foucault's Theory of Discourse and Human Agency" (Freundlieb 1994).

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not specify exactly what is wrong with those assumptions. The sec- ond problem is that Foucault never asks whether this culturally and historically variable "construction" of the author figure might have something to do with the different kinds of texts that have been pro- duced at different times and in different cultures. Literary critics who have been influenced by Foucault and are interested in reversing our culture's privileging of literary texts in the past likewise tend to ignore this question when they assume that, simply because the contemporary concept of authorship (which still owes a great deal to Romantic poet- ics and its notion of the creative genius) is historically specific rather than universal, the cultural privileging of literature must be ideologi- cal. Literary creativity is then seen as another ideological construct that has little or nothing to do with real writing processes (insofar as the reality of such processes is even admitted, given the constructivist, idealist premises of Foucault's analyses). What gets overlooked in this

argument is that there may indeed have been significant differences in the literary practice of, say, Romantics such as Wordsworth or Nova- lis, on the one hand, and the producers of medieval romances, on the other-differences that could well be reflected in historically different notions of authorship.

The third important aspect of the author function, according to Foucault, is that our concept of the author figure is not derived from our knowledge of real writers and their activities, but rather is con- structed from certain established exegetical practices of textual

analysis, a construction whereby authors, through a psychological pro- jection of textual properties onto persons, are identified with the at- tributes of texts. The rules for constructing authors are again said to be culturally and historically variable. In particular, Foucault ar-

gues that the notion of the author plays an important explanatory role when it comes to questions of textual unity, internal inconsistencies, stylistic uniformity or variation, differences between early and late works, comparative degrees of artistic or moral achievement among texts, and so on. Foucault is, of course, quite right about this explana- tory role of the concept of the author, but again a question arises as to the criteria that would make his account noteworthy. What Foucault describes as a mere construction is based, it seems, on perfectly nor- mal assumptions about how the human mind works: namely, that the

production of texts is usually governed by a certain logic and by rules of consistency and coherence, that it is empirically possible to iden-

tify personal styles of writing, that writers often change their minds about the questions and problems they address as they grow older, and so forth. To be sure, such assumptions may turn out to be unjus- tified, either generally or in specific cases, and it is certainly possible for a writer to deliberately flout all the rules of consistency and co- herence; but the special effects thus achieved by writers would not be

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possible if adherence to these rules were not the norm from which their writings could be seen as deviations. By describing the assump- tions underlying our dealings with literary texts as he does, that is, by deliberately making them seem strange, Foucault achieves a cer- tain critical effect. But again, only by having actually provided some evidence that these hitherto well-established and widespread assump- tions were wrong would he have stood a chance of convincing his more skeptical readers to abandon the conceptual framework within which questions of authorship are currently addressed.

Foucault notes that different kinds of "authorship" are "con- structed," depending on whether the subject is a philosopher, say, or an eighteenth-century novelist. Again, this is hardly surprising, for what could be a more natural or obvious thing to do? The texts pro- duced by such writers are very different indeed, and it is theoretically fruitful to ensure that these differences are reflected in the respective concepts of authorship we attribute to them. Such differences acquire an air of arbitrariness only in terms of an antirealist epistemology that would negate the effect of external objects on our conceptual- izations of them. In part, questions about the relationship between author and text are simply a matter of what we are interested in rather than anything to do with epistemology or the "construction" of con- cepts. Whether we want to explain certain aspects of a literary text, for example, in terms of its author's life depends on what we want to know. Many would argue that such questions are unimportant or irrelevant and that they should not be pursued, given our limited re- sources. But this raises another vexed question: Who is to determine which questions are worth pursuing and which ones are not?

One point that is particularly worth mentioning in the context of Foucault's discussion of the author function is how perfectly obvious it is when he looks back and comments on his own work and intellectual biography, such as in his interviews, that he is operating under exactly the same assumptions that he criticizes as conventional constructions in "What Is an Author?" For example, he has explained the thematic and theoretical changes in his own work as the result of greater insight into the subject matter he had been pursuing over a long period, thus applying the "author function" in an exegesis of his writings and their interrelations. Likewise, none of his own exegetes has ever, as far as I can see, treated Foucault's work within the framework of an archaeo- logical analysis, in spite of expressing an occasional awareness of the irony of "interpreting" Foucault's "ceuvre." What this indicates is that there may be little to say in favor of some of Foucault's statements about authorship.'8

18. One need not go as far as Marcel Gauchet, the recently appointed (1990) director of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, did in an interview

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The fourth important aspect of the author function, for Foucault, relates to the fact that texts usually contain so-called shifters, that is, personal pronouns and deictics that refer to the author of the text. Foucault claims here that these shifters function differently in "au- thored" versus "non-authored" texts. From the example Foucault dis- cusses-the first-person novel-it is obvious that what he has in mind here is the difference between fictional and nonfictional discourse and the different roles of narrators, implied authors, and real authors. But there are innumerable fictional texts in which these distinctions make perfect sense despite their not being "authored" in Foucault's sense of

playing a privileged role in society. What he seems to be suggesting, rather, is that authored texts operate with different "egos" in different roles and that all texts establish subject positions, as opposed to being expressions of the mind of a subject.

In spite of Foucault's general hostility to the idea of the creative author at the time when he wrote "What Is an Author?" he does admit that new discursive practices are occasionally initiated by an individual writer. Citing Freud and Marx as examples, he points out the differ- ences, as he sees them, between the way we treat the work of such initiators and that of scientists or mathematicians. These differences

obviously have to do with the fact (though Foucault does not him- self use these terms) that Marxism and psychoanalysis are doctrinal bodies of knowledge rather than falsifiable scientific theories which

may once have been viewed as important discoveries, but are now of interest only to the historian of science and not to the practicing scientist. In the case of doctrinal bodies of knowledge, current prac- titioners will always, from time to time, return to the original texts as still unexhausted sources of wisdom. Again, these are interesting observations about our attitudes toward certain kinds of texts and their writers/authors, but as Foucault himself admits, none of his ob- servations is worked out in much detail. More importantly, perhaps, nothing he says is so well-established as to warrant a total rejection of the conceptual framework he criticizes and would like to see replaced. While there may well be good reasons for rejecting an inflated notion of artistic creativity and originality, it certainly does not follow from what Foucault says here that "the subject (and its substitutes) must be

stripped of its creative role and analyzed as a complex and variable function of discourse" (Foucault 1977c: 138). If writers can initiate

with Karin Westerwelle when he spoke of the "enormous stupidity" of Foucault's

essay on authorship (Gauchet and Westerwelle 1990: 674). Gauchet went on to

say that Foucault had nothing new to offer, philosophically, that his theory of the

microprocesses of power was nothing but a complicated remake of a functional- ist sociology, and that he had been intellectually dishonest. Only the richness of Foucault's historical material drew praise from Gauchet.

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new discourses, as Foucault himself has argued, at least some authors must be more than a "function of discourse," which means that at least

occasionally the rhetorical (Beckettian) question "What matter who's

speaking?" is far too dismissive.

From Counter-Discourse to an Archaeology of Knowledge

By the time Foucault developed his analysis of discursive formations, particularly in The Archaeology of Knowledge (the original French ver- sion of which appeared in 1969, the same year he presented "What Is an Author?"), he had clearly abandoned the idea of literature as counter-discourse. By then, he had recognized the concept of litera- ture itself as historically variable and, like that of the author, as playing a specific role in the discourse of literary studies. Six years later, in an interview with Roger-Pol Droit on the functions of literature, he gave this answer to Droit's question about how to distinguish between good and bad literature:

That is precisely the question that will have to be confronted one day. On the one hand, we shall have to ask ourselves what exactly is this activity that consists in circulating fiction, poems, stories ... in a society. We should also analyze a second operation: among all the narratives, why is it that some are sacralized, made to function as "literature"? They are immediately taken up with an institution that was originally very different: the university in- stitution. Now it is beginning to be identified with the literary institution. (Foucault 1988d: 308)

When asked whether there are any criteria internal to literary texts that account for the sacralization they have received, or whether it is the university itself which constructs those criteria, he replied:

I don't know. I would simply like to say this: in order to break with a num- ber of myths, including that of the expressive character of literature, it has been very important to pose this great principle that literature is concerned only with itself. If it is concerned with its author, it is so rather in terms of the death, silence, disappearance even of the person writing. (Ibid.: 309) Foucault was not content with the idea of literature as concerned

only with itself, however, because this principle would by no means prevent its sacralization. In fact, by attributing self-referentiality to literature, he claimed, one runs the risk of promoting such a sacral- ization. He had also recognized that the "intransitivity" of literature implied a depoliticization as well, which led him to make the following statement:

Some people were even able to say that literature in itself was so eman- cipated from all determinations that the very fact of writing was in itself subversive, that the writer, in the very gesture of writing, had an inalien- able right to subversion! The writer was, therefore, a revolutionary and the more writing was writing, the more it sank into intransitivity, the more it

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produced, by that very fact, the movement of revolution! As you know, such things were, unfortunately, said. (Ibid.: 309-10)

Foucault seems to have forgotten that his own earlier conception of literature as transgression had led him to say similar things himself. But in any case, what he is interested in here is the question of "how it comes about that a culture decided to give [literature] this very special, very strange position" (ibid.: 310). What Foucault is saying here makes sense only if we look at it from the point of view that he had already recommended in The Order of Things when he discussed ethnology as a counter-science. By assuming the position of an ethnologist of our own culture, he would make our privileging of literature appear strange and alien when, to most of us, it seems perfectly "natural." Part of his rather positivist stance of the neutral observer involves remaining entirely noncommittal with regard to the truth or knowledge claims of either literary texts themselves or the commentaries on them in lit-

erary criticism. Whether literature is regarded as culturally important because our reading of it is part of the general process of cultural

reproduction and the passing on of traditional values and practical knowledge, or whether it is accorded a subversive status within this

process, did not really matter much to Foucault at this point because he wanted to avoid any normative engagement of his own with this

process. In the Droit interview, he claims that literature is valued by the university institution for its subversive status:

Our culture accords literature a place that in a sense is extraordinarily lim- ited: how many people read literature? What place does it really have in the general expansion of discourses?

But this same culture forces all its children, as they move towards culture, to pass through a whole ideology, a whole ideology of literature during their studies. There is a kind of paradox here.

And it is not unconnected with the declaration that literature is sub- versive. The fact that someone declares it to be so, in this or that literary review, is of no importance and has no effect. But if at the same moment the entire teaching profession, from primary school teachers to heads of university departments, tell you, explicitly or not, that if you are to find the great decisions of a culture, the points at which it changes direction, then you must turn to Diderot [or] Sade, or Hegel, or Rabelais-and you'll find it all there. At this level, there is an effect of mutual reinforcement. The so-called avant-garde groups and the university teachers are in agreement. This has led to a very heavy political blocage. (Ibid.)

In order to find out what literature is, Foucault suggests, we should not look for the internal structures of literary texts, but look at how these texts acquire the status of literature. And, somewhat surprisingly, he

ignores the fact that during most of its history, literary criticism, par- ticularly in its educational applications, has treated literature not as a

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subversive force, but as a treasure-house of cultural wisdom. In any case, he at least implicitly rejects both the realist assumption that texts regarded as literary by a culture might have intrinsic qualities about which one could make true or false statements and the hermeneutical insistence that we take the moral or cognitive claims of literary texts

seriously and respond to them at a normative level. His position is virtually that of a value-neutral external observer who describes the "sacralization" of literature and its implications. Of course, as we all know, Foucault never really abandoned the role of cultural critic, a role which became more obvious as he shifted from "archaeology" to

"genealogy." The subversive function of literature now rests with the Foucaldian critic of literary studies, but in a way that allows him or her to avoid the language game of systematic moral or ethical argu- mentation, a fact which has led many of Foucault's critics, quite rightly I believe, to accuse him of having failed to provide a normative basis for his critique.

To return to the question of the literary text, however, where do Foucault's observations about the institutional sacralization of litera- ture leave literary texts? It is fairly obvious that while they are no longer regarded as a major site where a transgression of discursive and other rules takes place-for the subversive nature of literature has turned from an intrinsic quality of texts into a (questionable) attri- bution of subversion at the metalevel of literary criticism-they still do not constitute a specific discourse in their own right. Foucault treated discourses as the primary sites for the social production of knowl- edge and truth. But in his scheme of things the writing of such texts does not constitute an activity in one of the human sciences, or in any other science for that matter. Given their rather indirect claims to truth, literary texts do not seem to fit easily into the parameters of discourse analysis. While no doubt making use of culturally shared and sometimes even quite specialized bodies of knowledge, they do so eclectically, and they do not make knowledge claims in the same way that such claims are made in the discourses from which they may have taken certain elements.

Nevertheless, it would be possible, of course, within literary criti- cism and literary history, to use the Foucaldian ontological and meth- odological framework of discourse analysis in order to trace discur- sive elements that traverse literary texts of various kinds at different times. Foucault himself anticipated such an application to painting when, toward the end of The Archaeology of Knowledge, he said that an archaeological analysis of painting would

try to discover whether space, distance, depth, colour, light, proportions, volumes, and contours were not, at the period in question, considered, named, enunciated, and conceptualized in a discursive practice; and

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whether the knowledge that this discursive practice gives rise to was not embodied perhaps in theories and speculations, in forms of teaching and codes of practice, but also in processes, techniques, and even in the very gesture of the painter. (Foucault 1972a: 193-94)

Similar things could, of course, be said about literature, but the ex-

ample shows that a discursive or archaeological analysis would always be directed at more than just the practice of painting or literature. It would inevitably contextualize the literary text in terms of its re- lation to other genuinely knowledge-producing discourses and their histories, leaving the status of the literary text somewhat uncertain and untheorized. An archaeological analysis of literature thus would not be particularly satisfactory for at least two reasons. First, it would more or less reduce literature to a subsidiary, or some sort of reflec- tion, of the real processes of knowledge production within genuine discourses. As long as literature lacked the status of a discourse, its role in the historical development of a culture would remain unclear within an archaeological framework. Second, and more importantly, any application of Foucault's archaeological analysis would be saddled with all the problems that are intrinsic to this approach. Since Fou- cault's archaeology continues to have a considerable influence on liter-

ary studies, it seems appropriate to discuss at least some of its inherent

problems. Two problem areas must be addressed here. The first has to do with

the new kinds of theoretical entities that Foucault introduced to re-

place the old familiar ones. In other words, we need to ask whether Foucault developed a well-defined set of objects, together with their interactions and modifications, that can be investigated in a theoreti-

cally fruitful way. The second problem area involves the epistemologi- cal assumptions underlying Foucault's theory of discourses. But before we tackle'these problems, some comment on Foucault's analysis of the human sciences at the end of The Order of Things is needed.

Foucault's archaeological project can be seen as a response to prob- lems arising from his earlier attempt to identify epistemes as the his- torical a prioris of thought governing long historical periods and as a continuation of his attempt to develop a method of analysis that could avoid what he saw as the inevitable disintegration of the human sciences. According to Foucault, these sciences are ultimately impos- sible because their objective is the complete self-transparency of man, which they try to achieve by turning the conditions of the possibility of

empirical knowledge into objects of empirical knowledge. The human sciences are made possible, Foucault believed, by the fact that human

beings can form representations of their own lives. This has two con-

sequences, one of which is that since the human sciences not only have representations as their object of investigation, but move entirely

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within the sphere of representations, they "have been unable to find a way around the primacy of representation" (Foucault 1970: 363). The other consequence, as already noted, is that they

find themselves treating as their object what is in fact their condition of possibility. They are always animated, therefore, by a sort of transcendental mobility. They never cease to exercise a critical examination of themselves. They proceed from that which is given to representation to that which renders representation possible, but which is still representation. So that, unlike other sciences, they seek not so much to generalize themselves or make themselves more precise as to be constantly demystifying themselves: to make the transition from an immediate and non-controlled evidence to less transparent but more fundamental forms. This quasi-transcendental process is always given in the form of an unveiling .... On the horizon of any human science, there is the project of bringing man's consciousness back to its real conditions, of restoring it to the contents and forms that brought it into being, and elude us within it; this is why the problem of the unconscious-its possibility, status, mode of existence, the means of know- ing it and bringing it to light-is not simply a problem within the human sciences which they can be thought of as encountering by chance in their steps; it is a problem that is ultimately coextensive with their very existence. A transcendental raising of level that is, on the other side, an unveiling of the non-conscious is constitutive of all the sciences of man. (Ibid.: 364)

This lengthy quotation may help to clarify somewhat Foucault's con- ception of the human sciences, which is, on the whole, made far from clear by the rather tortuous discussion at the end of The Order of Things. The particular shape of the human sciences was determined, for Foucault, by an underlying episteme, and here, as in his later, more specifically archaeological discourse analyses, he describes vari- ous epistemes without treating their normative claims. Claiming that the human sciences are neither real sciences nor mere ideologies, he argues that they should not be subject to either scientific standards or those of a critique of ideology. As we can see, Foucault cannot be entirely value-neutral in making this assessment of the status of the human sciences, but he does try to remain fairly neutral by suggest- ing that the standards to which "knowledges" are held should be their own, that is, internal standards rather than those with a claim to uni- versality. The human sciences, he says, "constitute, in their own form, side by side with the sciences and on the same archaeological ground, other configurations of knowledge" (ibid.: 366).

Foucault could be accused of a performative self-contradiction here because claiming that the human sciences must be assessed by intrinsic standards is itself a claim that appeals to a more than local standard; but this is not an issue I want to pursue now. What is more important to assess at this point is his view that, given the dialectic between tran- scendental and empirical investigations, the human sciences ultimately

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cannot succeed and that the figure of "man" is therefore doomed to

disappear. Much depends here on how we define transcendental ques- tions. If by "transcendental" we mean that all empirical knowledge claims confront the problem of how their objectivity and validity can be demonstrated and that the normativity of this problem cannot be reduced to a matter of empirical facts, then the transcendental/em- pirical dichotomy is irreducible-but that does not make the sciences as such impossible, be they natural or human/social sciences. While there is a material and empirical aspect to human reasoning that can

always be turned into an object of an empirical science, and while the results of such sciences might even affect our understanding of the normative aspects of reasoning, there is no escape from questions of

validity. Within a generally fallibilist framework, we can acknowledge that none of our currently most successful claims to knowledge, nor

any of our currently strongest reasons, is safe from future modifica- tion, but none of this means that the sciences that have "man" as their

object of investigation are somehow intrinsically doomed to failure. However, if by "transcendental" we mean structures of human cog- nition that are universal and unchangeable, in a Kantian sense, and that imply a dualism of scheme and content, to use Donald Davidson's

terminology, then we might have to admit that this is ultimately an in- valid assumption. But to reject this conception of the "transcendental" does not entail rejecting the idea of human sciences per se.

It could be argued, however, that this is not really Foucault's point anyway. As long as transcendental and empirical questions are strictly separated, the anthropologism which Foucault claims is inherent in the human sciences can be avoided. But Foucault seems to want to say that anthropologism (i.e., the uneasy amalgamation of empirical and transcendental questions) is unavoidable for any human science with

representations as its object of investigation. Still, it is far from certain that Foucault has actually demonstrated this.

From the beginning of his archaeological phase proper, that is, with the publication of The Archaeology of Knowledge, Foucault was no longer inclined to deny the feasibility of the human sciences in terms of

transcendental/empirical dualism. But as Dreyfus and Rabinow (1983 [1982]) have argued, Foucault's analysis of discursive formations was itself a product of such dualism-indeed one of its intrinsically inco- herent versions. And this leads us back to our earlier question about the theoretical framework of Foucault's discourse analysis, on the one hand, and the epistemological implications of its idealist inclinations, on the other.

Taking his point of departure from changes that he viewed as

already occurring in historiography, Foucault begins The Archaeology

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of Knowledge with a series of methodological deliberations designed to question all the traditional concepts of the history of ideas which em- phasize notions of lived experience, continuity, coherence, influence, spirit, rationality, origin, teleology, and so on, for these are all charac- teristic of the kind of anthropologism and humanism he wishes to get rid of.19 His own method of analysis will be one that is "purged of all anthropologism" (Foucault 1972a: 16). But while he claims that it is necessary to scrutinize the justifications that have been given for these concepts-which, he believes, we take too much for granted-there is actually very little in the way of such validity testing to be found in Foucault. Apart from some critical remarks concerning the difficulty of determining the precise limits of such concepts as "oeuvre" and "book," for example, the alleged shortcomings of traditional concepts are rarely addressed, let alone rigorously investigated. In fact, Fou- cault seems to simply beg the whole question by suggesting that these concepts are products of their own discursive formation-in other words, that what he is investigating is their conditions of existence. This has the distinct advantage, of course, of relieving Foucault of the need to engage in any normative discourse about the reasons that motivate the development of these concepts.20

Foucault was right, of course, about the concepts governing tradi- tional history of ideas not being givens but the result of theoretical constructions. Notions such as "tradition," "influence," "evolution," and "spirit" are said to be "ready-made syntheses" (ibid.: 22) that need to be rejected. But it is surprising to find Foucault, at least sometimes, claiming that once one had eliminated all those concepts an entire field of investigation would be freed up, as if this newly opened field were not itself an alternative theoretical construction but something that had been awaiting a "pure description of discursive events" (ibid.: 27).

19. Herbert Schnadelbach (1989a) has argued, quite convincingly, that Foucault seriously misunderstood Kant in attributing to him a return to the kind of anthro- pologism that Foucault found so objectionable in the human sciences (see also Schnadelbach 1989b). Schnadelbach (1989a: 240ff.) shows very clearly that Fou- cault was unjustified in accusing modern philosophy from Kant to the present of being subject to a certain kind of anthropologism solely on the basis of an unwarranted projection of a young-Hegelian (e.g., Feuerbachian) and Marxian conception of philosophy onto philosophy as a whole. 20. It is the advantage gained by all "symptomatic" readings, including many forms of Ideologiekritik, for they can thus treat opposing arguments, however well supported by reasons and evidence, as symptoms or causal effects beyond the opponent's control. Such readings enormously reduce the intellectual effort that must be expended, with the added bonus of enabling the critic to treat the oppo- nent as inferior, in principle, by contrast to the critic's own level of argumentative sophistication.

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Of course, Foucault knew perfectly well that he was offering an alter- native theory, but it is unfortunate that his skepticism with regard to the history of ideas was not matched by an equally strong awareness of the problems inherent to his own approach, such as his failure to give any clear account of what sort of entities the rules are which, according to him, govern a discursive practice. Sometimes they are said to be not conditions of the possibility of a discursive formation but conditions of its actual existence. Unlike the body of linguistic rules that determines the formation of (grammatically) well-formed statements, discursive events are precisely that: events that have actually occurred. And dis- cursive rules are supposed to account for the existence or occurrence of such events: "The question posed by language analysis of some dis- cursive fact or other is always: according to what rules has a particular statement been made, and consequently according to what rules could other similar statements be made? The description of the events of discourse poses a quite different question: how is it that one particular statement appeared rather than another?" (ibid.).

The analysis of discursive events that Foucault envisages here thus looks suspiciously like an ordinary causal analysis of an event which, in this case, happens to be a linguistic one. The concept of condi- tions of existence is certainly very closely related to that of a cause, although it is less ambitious in that we do not regard all the condi- tions of something's existence as its cause. Since Foucault rules out the intentions and even the unconscious thought of a speaking sub-

ject, severe ontological restrictions are imposed on the conditions of existence of statements, and it is far from clear in what sense these conditions can be rules. For nothing can be a rule that does not have

any future instantiations and is therefore both more and less than a condition of something's existence. While it is more than a condition of a statement's existence in that it can operate repeatedly and thus

produce an indefinite number of statements, a rule is less than what is required for the actual existence of a statement in that the avail-

ability of a rule for making a certain kind of statement is insufficient as its cause. Something else must be operative for someone to actually apply the rule and produce a statement. The existence of the rule is

merely a necessary condition for making a statement that conforms to it. Since Foucault's account is far from clear about the conceptual difference between conditions of possibility and conditions of exis- tence, it is not surprising that his terminology alternates between rules and regularities, sets of relations and often even of laws, without ever

clearly indicating how these different terms apply to what governs the formation of statements or the evolution and interaction of other dis- cursive elements. Foucault develops a bizarre panoply of supposedly technical or theoretical terms, but because of the virtually complete

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absence of paradigmatic examples and empirical evidence it is almost impossible to say what exactly Foucault is describing.21

Even what a statement is remains largely unclear. It is not very help- ful to have an enormous number of negative descriptions and defi- nitions, that is, cast in terms of what a statement is not, since these

descriptions do not reduce the range of given possibilities. And since Foucault deliberately rules out causal and intentional analyses of se-

quences of linguistic events, it is by no means obvious what his analyses are ultimately good for. What is it that we can learn from them for our current purposes? Our present choices are among different courses of action, but it is impossible to tell how the results of noncausal and nonintentional analyses might affect these current options and their outcomes.

Foucault's archaeological analysis tries to identify a level beyond that of purely linguistic analysis since discourse analysis is not concerned with the grammaticality of statements, but with their actual enuncia- tion, their content, and their relationship to a referential field and a whole discursive practice. Linguists wisely refrain from attempting to

explain why someone is saying something, confining their explanations to how we distinguish grammatical from ungrammatical expressions, regardless of their content and what motivated it. Explaining such content is neither a linguistic problem nor one that can be success- fully and systematically tackled, in most cases, by any other science at the moment. Conditions for the possibility of certain statements are easier to establish than the specific causes that bring them into exis- tence, but with Foucault one often gets the impression that, when he

21. In "Theory of Events: Foucault and Literary Criticism," David E. Wellbery (1987: 428, 429) argues that Foucault's concept of a discursive event is an important contribution to what Wellbery calls a "fundamental semiotics" and a "provocation for literary theory." He admits that Foucault, while having pointed to the need for a theory of the event-character of discourse, did not develop and elaborate such a theory. Wellbery argues that the significance of Foucault's work for literary studies is not just a matter of new ways of contextualizing literary texts within literary history, but rather a new description of discourses as partly rule-governed, partly random events. I am not so convinced that Foucault's "provocation" can lead to fruitful investigations, particularly if carried out along the lines suggested by Well- bery. To begin with, the idea that radical innovation in literature can be explained in terms of the randomness of the literary event seems to me to be only half true, at best. Another problematic aspect of Wellbery's discussion is that he seems to be operating with the fallacious notion that the randomness of a domain of objects makes a systematic theory of such objects impossible, for he suggests that because discursive events are only partly random this problem can be avoided (ibid.: 431- 32). Finally, in focusing on "the stabilizing and the destabilizing aspects of semiotic phenomena," Wellbury addresses a problem that is by no means specific to lit- erature, so it remains unclear why this aspect should form "the task that falls to literary theory and analysis" (ibid.: 432).

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claims to have uncovered what was possible to say within the limits of a particular discursive practice, the possible and the actual simply coincide-in other words, what was actually said was what was pos- sible to say, but of course we knew that before Foucault told us so. In

many cases, the conditions under which certain kinds of statements are made cannot possibly be characterized as "rules," although this seems to be Foucault's favorite term. What he identifies are simply contingent empirical conditions that bring about or make possible, empirically, the study of certain phenomena, such as the hospital or the prison as a site of close observation.

The notion of a discursive practice or a discursive formation has a certain intuitive plausibility as the designation of a body of linguistic and institutional practices and elements that somehow hang together and whose performance is subject to certain restrictions. Thus Fou- cault points to the rarity of statements, or the fact that of the immense number of things that could be said on the basis of grammatical rules, only a very few are actually ever said. There are clearly limits to what is appropriate to say or write under various conditions and in vari- ous social contexts. But it is far from clear whether the assemblage of

objects and practices which, according to Foucault, constitutes a dis- cursive formation can also form a theoretical entity that is amenable to a coherent theoretical analysis. Unfortunately, the almost hopelessly vague nature of this entity and the many elements, events, and prac- tices it is said to comprise, not to mention its relations with other discourses and nondiscursive practices and objects, has not prevented scholars in the humanities from constantly using this term as if its

meaning were reasonably clear.22 But Foucault, it seems to me, never

developed an analysis that would have allowed us to recognize and

identify the many discursive elements he listed when we encounter them. The linguistic elements described by structuralists, for example, the phoneme, the morpheme, the syntagm, and even larger narrative units such as the narrator and the narratee, are far more precise and identifiable than Foucault's peculiar set of objects of investigation. His

theory of discursive formations and their history is an elaborate edifice of hierarchically ordered theoretical terms, but with not much of an

empirical basis to it. In fact, the whole ontology of his rules, regulari- ties, and laws remains largely unarticulated. Unlike grammatical rules, they are not to be conceived of as arising in the minds of speakers and, consciously or unconsciously, governing their linguistic productions. But what mode of existence is conceivable for rules if not one that locates their genesis in the minds of individual or collective subjects?

22. Manfred Frank (1988) makes a similar point about the inflationary use of the term "discourse" in literary studies despite its inherent vagueness.

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Even in the case of regularities or laws-and it is not clear how Fou- cault distinguishes between these-it is difficult to tell just how and where they exist. Are they merely the mental constructs of the ana- lyst of discursive formations, or must they be conceived of realistically, as extra-mental entities of some sort (as in the case of a realist inter- pretation of natural laws and natural necessity)? Whatever Foucault's ideas on these issues concerning the ontology of his theoretical entities may have been, they lead us to the related question of the epistemo- logical coherence of Foucault's enterprise in the analysis of discursive practices.

Foucault defined the structures, rules, laws, and so forth of an epis- teme, or discursive formation, as a "historical a priori." This raises with particular acuteness not only the question of their ontological status, but also the question of how they determine the validity of that which is constituted on their basis. As Dreyfus and Rabinow (1983 [1982]) have argued, the idea of a historical a priori is still implicated in precisely the kind of empirical/transcendental dialectic in which the human sciences are said to be caught up. Unlike Kant's universal cognitive structures, Foucault's historical a prioris are, from his own perspective, objects of empirical investigation. But they seem to have the status of transcendental conditions of the constitution of objects for those who are (unconsciously or otherwise) governed by such an a priori. While the validity of the "objectivity" that such a prioris make possible is no longer viewed as universal and ahistorical, they provide at least a temporal validity, even if not one that can be demonstrated in a Kantian transcendental deduction by those whose production of knowledge is determined by it. As quasi-transcendental conditions that are conceptualized as sets of anonymous rules governing discur- sive practices, historical a prioris remain the unthought of a period until a transformation of the governing a priori makes them thinkable and analyzable by a later generation. But the overall conception of a his- torical a priori along Foucault's lines is ultimately unintelligible. If it is conceived empirically, there is no principled reason why it cannot be analyzed, and thus transcended, even by those who are under its influence. But then it would no longer be an a priori, and some of the basic assumptions underlying Foucault's discursive analysis would have to be changed. If historical a prioris are indeed transcendental in the sense of constituting discursive objects that do not have an indepen- dent status as external objects or referents, even worse problems arise, for it follows from Foucault's own conception that the objects he inves- tigates are not to be interpreted realistically, but as discursive objects produced by the very discursive formation that determines Foucault's own analyses. Discursive formations must then be constructions from within one's (i.e., Foucault's) own discursive formation. As a conse-

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quence, Foucault's work would be caught in a self-destructive idealist relativism according to which the objects he investigates have no inde- pendent existence. The validity of his knowledge claims would there- fore be relative to the contingent standards of the discourse that in- forms his work, and different discourses would then be radically in- commensurable.

As the debate with his imaginary opponent at the end of The Archae- ology of Knowledge makes clear, Foucault was well aware of this prob- lem, but he gives no indication as to how it might be solved. In fact, he does not even seem to view its solution as absolutely crucial for the success of his project. When asked by his imaginary opponent what gives him the right to speak about the various determinations of the subject and the limits imposed by previous discursive formations, Foucault simply sidesteps the question and launches a psychological counterattack that diverts attention from the epistemological issue. He says that the determinates of a discourse are neither internal to it nor imposed from outside it, but are "conditions in accordance with which a practice is exercised" (Foucault 1972a: 208); yet it is difficult to see why these conditions should not have the same function as restrictions or limitations.

Foucault did identify, though in an annoyingly vague fashion, a set of conditions which restrict what can be said by whom and with what

expectations of acceptance within various knowledge-producing social

practices. But instead of treating such conditions as purely empirical objects of investigation within a sociology of knowledge and a soci-

ology of language, he attributed a quasi-transcendental status to them, in combination with the idealist notion that discourses produce rather than discover their objects. At the same time, he took the relativist view that discourses develop their own specific standards and criteria for the acceptability of statements. But it was precisely this combina- tion of factors that made his conception of the history of knowledge ultimately incoherent.

Any appropriation of Foucault's concept of an archaeological or dis- cursive analysis, if it is to be more than a dressing up of traditional

literary history in Foucault's rhetorically impressive but ultimately un-

helpful terminology, must confront and solve the problems inherent to his theory. But such an appropriation would also have to come to

grips with Foucault's explicitly anti-hermeneutical stance, since virtu-

ally no interesting form of literary studies can be practiced without

presupposing an answer to the question of how literary texts are to be understood and interpreted. In other words, since no study of texts is

possible without at least an implicit theory of interpretation, whatever Foucault has said about our understanding of statements must be con- sidered. The point is that the illusion, which Foucault seems to have

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sustained for some time, of statements as events that can be (neutrally) described needs to be exposed. Foucault's attack on the idea of a hid- den meaning in the text, the unsaid beneath or behind what is said, was misguided-it is an undeniable empirical fact that statements, like all other linguistic expressions, do not wear their meanings on their sleeves. Foucault himself tacitly admitted this when he argued, quite rightly, that two identical sentences do not necessarily mean the same thing. Statements have a determinate meaning only in relation to what he called an associated field or a referential. But as soon as this holistic form of meaning is adopted, interpretation becomes necessary. The referential that determines a statement's meaning, at least in part, must be established and its borderlines defined with a reasonable de- gree of precision, neither of which is a matter of simply describing an event or even of determining a number of specifiable codes in a semiological sense. In fact, it can be argued that this "background of meaning," as Searle (1983) calls it, cannot possibly be specified in terms of a finite propositional content. Thus every statement is open to interpretation, even if its relationship to a referential has been de- termined.

On the whole, it seems that Foucault's archaeological conception of discourse analysis has to be treated with extreme caution before its application to literary studies, even in a modified form, can be con- sidered. Much of the widespread talk about discourse analysis must therefore be regarded with a good deal of suspicion. It often pretends to be an innovative approach to the study of literature, but it fails to address the problems associated with this part of Foucault's work, both internally and with regard to its potential applicability to literary studies.

The Genealogy of Literary Criticism A more promising appropration of Foucault's work for the purposes of literary studies seems to have been opened up by his shift from archaeology to genealogy, that is, from an analysis of discursive forma- tions in terms of anonymous sets of rules to an analysis of discursive practices as one of the ways in which power and the will to truth mani- fest themselves. A genealogy of the human sciences is not primarily focused on the epistemological problems arising from an investiga- tion of the transcendental/empirical conditions of knowledge-or so it seems-but instead looks at the origins of these sciences and their involvement in the ubiquitous operation of the powers which shape and normalize individuals into subjects.

If we assume again, as I think we must, that literary texts as such, having lost their status as counter-discourses, are not the kinds of dis- cursive practice to which a genealogy in Foucault's sense addresses

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itself, it becomes clear that the applicability of this concept to literary studies is largely restricted to the metalevel of investigating literary criticism as an institutionally established discourse. While it would be

possible, to some extent, to analyze the writing of literary texts as a

practice that is not entirely independent of what is happening in the

knowledge-producing discourses that surround this practice (which is no doubt how many of the New Historicists make use of Foucault), a more congenial type of analysis would be history of literary criti- cism, particularly in its educational function, from a genealogical point of view.23 Here it would be possible to pursue exactly the question Foucault himself raised when he suggested that the "sacralization" of literature needed to be investigated. One could attempt to show that the teaching of literature in schools and universities is designed to produce certain kinds of subjects whose existence and attributes are functionally required in a certain kind of society and economy. The teaching of literature would no longer be considered the trans- mission of culturally important, perhaps even timelessly valid, truths contained in canonical texts and brought to light by a methodologi- cally controlled process of interpretation; instead, it could be seen as an ethico-political training and a disciplinary formation of subjects under the guise of a search for truth in literature. Literary criticism, particularly within a pedagogical context, could be regarded as work-

ing on the "soul" instead of on the body, and as part of an apparatus of ethical surveillance and normalization, including self-surveillance and

self-fashioning, similar to that which operates in religious practices. As Foucault's own statements in "The Functions of Literature" imply, it seems to be of little significance whether literature is "sacralized" in terms of its revolutionary potential or its conservative role in the re-

production of traditional bourgeois values. A subtle exercise of power in the name of truth would occur in either case.

Nevertheless, Foucault's critique of the sacralization of literature in the Droit interview is somewhat surprising precisely because it is di- rected against giving literature the status of a subversive text, a status that Foucault had earlier suggested, as we saw, though admittedly only with respect to certain writers. Another reason why Foucault's critique of the sacralization of literature is surprising is that the force of his

critique of the human sciences from a genealogical perspective relies, as Rudi Visker (1991: 73ff.) has pointed out, on the possibility of dis-

tinguishing between good and bad forms of power, to put it simply.

23. A good example of this is Ian Hunter's (1988) Culture and Government: The Emergence of Literary Education; see also Burton Hatlen (1988). Steven Mailloux (1985) has also argued for a Foucaldian history of literary criticism as an academic discipline.

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Literature's sacralization as subversive could then be seen as one of the "good" forms of power. If power is constitutive of any form of knowledge, and if power, as Foucault emphasizes, is often productive and positive rather than negative, then it is difficult to see any basis for criticizing its deployment in the human sciences. This is why Foucault had to distinguish, at least implicitly, between a genealogical origin in techniques of surveillance and normalization, as in the case of the human sciences, and the origin of the natural sciences, where the im- plication of power and knowledge is their not being primarily aimed at the formation of subjects. But this distinction does not solve the prob- lems inherent to his conception of power/knowledge, and, as in the case of his archaeological model and its application to literary studies, the question of his genealogical model's applicability to literary studies can be answered only if those who wish to make use of Foucault's work address its inherent problems before rushing into a fashionable but untenable appropriation of Foucaldian terminology. This does not mean that Foucault's analyses cannot be fruitfully applied in an insti- tutional history of literary criticism. In fact, I believe that this is the area where Foucault's work is or could be most relevant to literary studies. But such an application should be attempted only after the inherent problems of Foucault's genealogical model have been solved.

The three main problems of this model are the status of Foucault's concept of power, his notion of truth, and his conceptualization of the human subject. As a number of critics have pointed out, it re- mains unclear in precisely what way power and knowledge/truth are interrelated. It would obviously be wrong to accuse Foucault of iden- tifying the two, and he explicitly denied such an identification (Fou- cault 1988b: 264). But this still leaves the problem of their relation- ship. If finding out the truth about something (regardless of whether truth is understood relativistically or absolutely) necessarily implies the deployment of power over the object of investigation, which is sug- gested, for example, by Nietzsche and occasionally by Foucault when he argues, along Nietzschean lines, that conceptualization as such is a violation and distortion of the object, then Foucault is caught in a performative self-contradiction. His analysis of the history of the human sciences is itself governed by a will to truth that is as guilty of a deployment of power as the object he analyzes.

Another, independent problem arises from Foucault's relativistic tendencies, which were carried over from the archaeological to the genealogical model: How can Foucault maintain a claim to truth and validity despite saying that each society operates under different "regimes of truth"? If truth is historicized and conventionalized rather than conceived of as a regulative idea and a normative claim that ap- peals to a time- and context-transcendent standard (in the sense that

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each factually accepted standard remains open to future revision), then Foucault's own investigation and critique become unintelligible, both to his readers and to himself. For if standards are relative to dis- courses or "truth games," the point of a critique of such standards dis- solves. The reasoning process that Foucault himself engaged in would

only convince the already convinced, that is, those whose thinking was

already governed by the same criteria of truth. To those who did not

accept his criteria, his critique would be incomprehensible. Individual and collective learning processes would be impossible because such

learning always depends on hitherto accepted standards having been

successfully criticized and revised. The problematic concept of power that underlies Foucault's gene-

alogical approach is not unrelated to his conception of the human

subject. We noted earlier that in order for Foucault's critique of the human sciences to make sense, he had to distinguish between repres- sive power and productive power. The "microphysics" of power that is typical of the human sciences is repressive because the will to dis- cover the truth about "man" and the results of this pursuit of the truth are immediately turned back on "man" as the "object" of investiga- tion. The will to truth is simultaneously a will to power because the "truth" that is "discovered" is precisely what shapes or even constitutes the subject. In other words, unlike what happens in the natural sci- ences, the conceptual framework and findings of the human sciences are constitutive of their object in a realist rather than an idealist sense since they actually produce, at least in part, human subjects endowed with certain attributes. What they do is what Ian Hacking (1986) has called "making up people." As Foucault himself said,

The individual is no doubt the fictitious atom of an "ideological" represen- tation of society; but he is also a reality fabricated by this specific technology of power that I have called "discipline." We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms: it "excludes," it "represses," it "censors," it "abstracts," it "masks," it "conceals." In fact, power produces; it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth. The individual and the knowledge that may be gained of him belong to this production. (Foucault 1979: 194)

But this is also the point where the problematic nature of Foucault's

concept of the subject emerges. First of all, not all knowledge acquired in the human sciences has a repressive effect just because such knowl-

edge is integrated into our own self-interpretation. Again, the idea of a

critique of the human sciences (which, despite being situated at a meta- level, is concerned with the human subject as well) would not make any sense, unless one assumed that such a critique contributed to a self-

understanding that was liberating rather than repressive. Second, if the power/knowledge of the human sciences is repressive, the question

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that must be asked (as it has been) is what exactly is being repressed. Foucault's (1978) rather famously unsatisfactory answer was "bodies and pleasures."24 Here then, as Visker (1991: 87) has observed, the concept of the body occupies the place that madness did in Madness and Civilization. Just as the true experience of madness was allegedly violated and distorted by its designation as unreason and later by the discourse of psychiatry, the experiences and pleasures of the body are now repressed by the sexual sciences and their relentless search for the truth about "man."

But Foucault's notion of the body and its role in the processes by which subjects are formed was rather vague. In fact, in his gene- alogical phase Foucault seems to have come very close to an extreme behaviorist position by arguing, at least implicitly, that the human

subject is formed from an almost infinitely malleable material whose only power of resistance derives from a diffuse agglomeration of bodily pleasures before they have been segmented and classified by scientific analysis. Ironically, Foucault's conception of the subject as the product of disciplinary techniques imposed on the body left no systemic theoretical space for his own intellectual revolt against what he saw as a ubiquitous process of subjectivization and normalization. Foucault's dilemma seems to have been that the more he denied the autonomy of the subject, the less logically possible it was to launch a

meaningful critique of the "carceral" society. This is the problem that all radical historicizations of the subject face. For only where there is at least a minimal set of universal conditions outside which human beings simply cannot live meaningful and reasonably satisfying lives does it make sense to talk about repression and possible or desirable alternatives to whatever is the case.

The Teaching of Literature and Technologies of the Self

When, to everyone's surprise, Foucault did not continue his project of a history of sexuality as originally planned and instead, after a pause of about eight years, published his two volumes on Greek and Roman "technologies of the self," it became obvious that he had changed tack again. He seemed to have returned to a conception of subjectivity that was much closer to more traditional notions of the subject as largely self-determined and a free agent. While Foucault by no means argued that the ethics underlying the aesthetic self-fashioning of a privileged class of Greek males was something we ought to emulate, he neverthe- less made it clear that the idea of the formation of the self by the self

24. Thus, at the end of The History of Sexuality, Foucault (1978: 157) says that "the rallying point for the counterattack against the deployment of sexuality ought not to be sex-desire but bodies and pleasures."

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on the basis of a freely chosen set of rules, rather than a set of norms to be accepted by everyone, appealed to him. Yet the fact that Foucault dropped his idea of an all-pervasive network of power relations that virtually determine the formation of subjects did not mean that he had solved the problems created by his genealogical model. His latest (and last) conception of a subject who is capable of fashioning his or her own life in accordance with a self-chosen "aesthetics of existence" is far from convincing, both in terms of the concept's intelligibility and in terms of the desirability of the ethics outlined by Foucault.

As far as the subject is concerned, the notion of "technologies of the self" is already an indication of a certain contradiction in his ap- proach. It suggests a system of self-applied technological or strategic measures, but it is difficult to see how we can make sense of this pro- cess. The idea of a self, or a part of the self, which can be changed through a mechanism that operates on the self as scientific technology operates on, or interferes with, nature is inconceivable, particularly given that setting such a process in motion presupposes a self already capable of envisaging a desired change of self, that is, one that must attribute to itself the capacity to initiate this change and thus must have a conception of itself as a more or less free agent. Foucault, in fact, admitted that such a freedom exists and must be postulated, but there is little evidence that he adequately considered the consequences of this conception for his notion of "technologies" of the self and for the subject in general. "Technologies of the self" is at best a highly misleading metaphor designed, perhaps, to disguise the fact that his prior reductionist account of the subject's formation as an effect of

power/knowledge had to be abandoned, or perhaps his use of "tech-

nologies of the self" merely indicates a somewhat confused notion of subjectivity. In a discussion with Alessandro Fontana in 1984, Fou- cault remarked that "the subject is constituted through practices of

subjection, or, in a more autonomous way, through practices of libera- tion, of liberty, as in Antiquity, on the basis, of course, of a number of rules, styles, inventions to be found in the cultural environment" (Foucault 1988a: 50-51)-which was not terribly helpful either. The fact that "inventions" are said to be "found" in the cultural environ- ment, rather than what the self-fashioning subject is capable of, is characteristic of the reluctance with which Foucault moved in his last work toward the idea of a more autonomous subject. The same re- luctance is evidenced by Foucault's notion that the subject constitutes itself through several different "practices of subjection" among which there need not be any close relationships. If he simply means that we learn to play different roles in our private and public lives, Foucault is not saying anything new or controversial. But the important point is that he refuses to say anything about the relationship between all

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of these "subjects" and the one subject that is "constituted" by them. As a consequence of his refusal to develop a "theory of the subject," important questions about the status of the constituting subject (as op- posed to the constituted one) remain unanswered.25 In fact, Foucault never provided an account of that part of the self which decides to shape its own existence and which chooses or invents a style of living (see Visker 1991: 16). Foucault's distinction, within the self, between a subject as subject and a subject as object therefore lagged behind not only earlier philosophical conceptions of subjectivity (e.g., Fichte, Schelling, and Schleiermacher), but also contemporary ones, such as those developed by Manfred Frank (1991) and Dieter Henrich (1967). The extent to which Foucault was still operating even in his last books with a simple and untheorized reflexive model of the self in which it is divided into an acting subject and one that is acted upon, becomes clear in the following statement:

A history of the way in which individuals are urged to constitute themselves as subjects of moral conduct would be concerned with the models proposed for setting up and developing relationships with the self, for self-reflection, self-knowledge, self-examination, for the decipherment of the self by one- self, for the transformations that one seeks to accomplish with oneself as object. (Foucault 1986a: 29 [my emphasis])

Unfortunately, Foucault also seems to have failed to revoke his earlier relativist conception of truth, for he still conceived of his his- tory of a "hermeneutics of the self" as part of a history of truth. The "hermeneutics of the self" was a "truth game" (ibid.: 6-7), just as his earlier discussions of madness, the human sciences, labor, and lan- guage were concerned with truth games. The notion of a truth game seems meant to have the same relativistic connotations as Wittgen- stein's notion of language games. It is difficult to determine exactly how relativistic Foucault's notion of truth was because his observa- tions on the function of "truth games" were often rather vague. But they generally leave one with the impression that he refused to com- mit himself to a nonrelativistic notion of truth. As in other contexts, his comments leave open the question of whether he used "true" in a purely descriptive way (i.e., in the sense of "this is what counts as true") or in a normative way.

Foucault's unsatisfactory conception of the subject in his late work (his attempt to provide some space for a more self-determined subject notwithstanding) corresponds to his equally unsatisfactory conception of the ethics underlying the notion of an aesthetics of existence or a cultivation of the self. To begin with, Foucault's position on the possi-

25. Such a refusal is voiced, for example, in "The Ethic of Care for the Self as a Practice of Freedom" (Foucault 1987: 121).

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bility of an aesthetics of existence was too egocentric to be acceptable as a kind of ethics. "The Ethic of Care for the Self" (Foucault 1987: 118) leaves no doubt that our relationship to, and care for, ourselves has an ontological priority. But a "care for the self" that is not also a care for others, at least insofar as they may be affected by the self's style of life (and insofar as care for the self becomes possible only under conditions which restrict the choices and chances of others to achieve the same style) can hardly hope for general validation as an ethics. It must be recognized, of course, that Foucault's focus on a per- sonal ethics did not entirely rule out consideration of others. Quite the contrary. But other subjects seem to have figured in Foucault's de- liberations only at the level of personal relationships, such as those developing out of sexual relations or like the one between the Greek master of a household and the other members of this small social

group (although Foucault never says what the master/household re-

lationship ought to be). And he still seems extremely reluctant to pro- vide any explicit normative arguments. Instead, his analyses remain

purely descriptive accounts of the historically specific "games of truth" in which subjects are involved in their self-formation practices. Any generalization from basic principles that would allow us to establish rules applicable to everyone is studiously avoided. In fact, Foucault (1984: 350) clearly thought we should drop the idea of a necessary connection between ethics and our social, economical, and political structures.

What should also raise one's suspicion is the emphasis on an aes- thetics of life rather than an ethics. Whereas the early Foucault had

rejected such notions as the work and the ceuvre, he came to talk about turning one's life into a work of art or making one's life one's ceuvre (Foucault 1988a: 49; 1986a: 10). Of course, this idea of turn-

ing one's life into an artwork is by no means new. Foucault himself

explicitly drew on Baudelaire when he developed this idea. It was voiced as early as 1799 by the German Romantic writer Wilhelm Hein- rich Wackenroder, for whom it formed part of a more sophisticated, though not fully developed, philosophy of art.26 The idea of living aes-

thetically was treated extensively in the pre-existentialist philosophy of Kierkegaard (1959), although here it was starkly contrasted with, rather than assimilated to, an ethical life. And it is clearly present in the Nietzschean notions of self-invention, or "becoming what one

26. At the end of the section entitled "Die Ewigkeit der Kunst" (The eternal nature of art) of his Phantasien uber die Kunst fur Freunde der Kunst, Wackenroder says: "Let us therefore turn our lives into works of art, for we might then be able to argue that even in our earthly existence we will become immortal" (Wackenroder 1968 [1799]: 150 [my translation]). Some critics attribute this piece to Wackenroder's friend Ludwig Tieck, the original editor of Wackenroder's work.

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is."27 But the question that immediately arises is who will be able to fashion his or her life in an aesthetically pleasing and satisfying way? (And what exactly is meant by "aesthetics" when applied to the life of a person?) As Hans-Herbert Kogler (1990: 223) has pointed out, it would be extraordinarily naive to assume that opportunities for an aesthetically pleasing lifestyle are equably distributed in our society.28 Since they are not, the elitist (Nietzschean) nature of Foucault's notion of an aesthetics of existence becomes obvious. The radical liberalism underlying Foucault's idea of self-chosen aesthetic existence is incom-

patible with the real social and political conditions in contemporary societies; and without a discussion of how it might be realized (and at what social cost), its promotion is ethically dubious, to say the least. As Kogler has also shown, Foucault was forced, against his explicit inten- tions, to introduce an element of universalism into his ethics when he presupposed, as he seems to have done, that everyone ought to have a chance to choose his or her lifestyle, a norm which, ironically, Fou- cault had introduced in order to avoid the universalism implied by the idea that every member of society ought to accept certain universally binding ethical norms as valid (ibid.: 222-23).

What remains in question is the effect of Foucault's return to the notion of a relatively self-determined subject and to the previously rejected unities of the work and the oeuvre, as well as his implicit re- jection of his earlier, reductionist theory of power (according to which even the most subjective experience of the self is the result of the power/knowledge network that subsumes one), on the use of his work within literary studies. While it is not obvious how literary criticism might appropriate Foucault's late ideas about an aesthetics of exis- tence, a rather undesirable and politically dubious way is certainly conceivable. In The Use of Pleasure, Foucault (1986a: 29) proposes that

27. This is reflected in the title of Alexander Nehamas's (1985) book Nietzsche: Life as Literature. For a critique of the Nietzschean notion of an aesthetic self-creation in the context of a postmodern reinterpretation of individual freedom, see Axel Hon- neth's (1992) essay "Pluralization and Recognition: On the Self-Misunderstanding of Postmodern Social Theorists." 28. A similar point is made by Rainer Rochlitz (1992: 225), who says: "'Making a work [of art] of one's life' is a project for privileged minorities, liberated from all functions in the material reproduction of society, who can use all their strength to perfect the refinement of their lifestyle." Thomas McCarthy (1991: 7) has also commented on the ethical inadequacy of Foucault's "aesthetics of existence," argu- ing that the "aesthetic individualism of much postmodern theory" is even less able to deal with questions of social justice than "the possessive individualism of early modern political theory." Richard J. Bernstein (1992: 163ff.) has expressed misgiv- ings about Foucault's linking of ethics with the idea of an aesthetics of existence as well. At one point, at least, Foucault (1984: 350) rather naively posed the question: "But couldn't everyone's life become a work of art?"

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we engage in a "history of the way in which individuals are urged to constitute themselves as subjects of moral conduct." Such a history, says Foucault, "would be concerned with the models proposed for set- ting up and developing relationships with the self" (ibid.). As is clear to everyone familiar with the history of literary studies, one such model can be found precisely in the traditional pedagogical use of literature, which is why some Foucaldian literary scholars have begun to investi-

gate the institutional history of literary criticism. But they usually do so from the point of view of the earlier Foucault, that is, the Foucault who was concerned with subtle institutionally organized processes of normalization and discipline. While these investigations are encum- bered with the problems of Foucault's theory of power and lack a normative basis for an explicit critique of the power exercised by liter-

ary studies as a pedagogical institution (see, e.g., Hunter 1988), more traditional and conservative literary critics could argue that their work has always been concerned with moral and aesthetic self-fashioning. What seemed to be part of the subjectivization and individualization

imposed on subjects, or certain groups of subjects, can now be re-

interpreted as the largely self-chosen process of shaping one's own life

through the study of literature. Foucault's propagation of an aesthet- ics of existence could certainly play into the hands of those who have

always praised literature as a source of human wisdom while using it to reinforce a certain ideology. Traditional literary critics could find themselves reinstated in their paternalistic role as masters of those who would be initiated into literature, for Foucault (1987: 118) him- self argued that the ethic of care for the self implies a master/pupil relationship.

Then there is, in the late Foucault, the peculiar confusion, or at least a lack of differentiation, between the aesthetic experience of creating objects, particularly works of art, and the experience of shaping one's own life as an aesthetic object. The aesthetic experience of art has

traditionally been justified in terms of its cognitive value, either as an

experience sui generis, that is, independent of other, more discursive means of gaining knowledge, or in terms of its close associations with ethical knowledge. Alternatively, art, particularly twentieth-century art, has been regarded as a challenge to both scientific and everyday ways of making sense because it generally refuses to be understood on the basis of commonly available modes of sense making. Its allegedly subversive potential lies in its refusal to mean and thus to be a source of traditional knowledge or wisdom.29 This is presumably what Foucault had in mind when, in his early writings on literature, he spoke of the

29. This idea is developed in great detail and with great circumspection by Christoph Menke-Eggers (1988).

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"being of language," a being that refuses to serve the communication of meaning and that constitutes an "Other" of reason.30

But it is difficult to see how one's own life could function as an object of aesthetic experience, whether for oneself or for others. There is, therefore, a danger that the aesthetic shaping of one's life might lead to nothing more than a form of sophisticated Baudelairean dandyism.31 Foucault's emphasis on an ascetic life, a mastering of the desires and a

striving for dignity and wisdom, would seem to preclude such a devel-

opment. But since this asceticism is not grounded in a moral context of wider social considerations (such as ecological ones), and since it is definitely not a Christian asceticism, the distance between "dandified" aestheticism and Foucaldian asceticism is clearly diminished.

Conclusion Our look back over the whole of Foucault's work and its potential for literary studies has revealed few grounds for enthusiasm. The potential for a literary aesthetics in his early writings remained largely underdeveloped and restricted to self-reflexive modernist and post- modern literature. It is this kind of literature that foregrounds the material aspects of language, the "being" of language that transcends its instrumental character as a message-bearing medium. Foucault's

archaeological model allowed only very limited application of the notion of discourse or discourse analysis to literary texts, since these texts do not in themselves constitute a discursive practice; and Fou- cault's whole archaeology is plagued, in any case, by its inherent prob- lems of linguistic idealism and relativism. The genealogical model, in which archaeological discourse analysis is connected to a theory of power/knowledge that implicates discourses in a ubiquitous network of power relations, is no doubt the most promising part of Foucault's work as far as its literary-critical and literary-historical appropriation is concerned, particularly its application to the discourse of literary criticism rather than to literary texts as such. With regard to literary texts themselves, Foucault's ideas have no doubt had a salutary effect insofar as they made it possible to see the production of literature as part of a more general process of cultural reproduction that is neither merely reflective of a social or historical context nor somehow aloof from the power relations that shape the development of a culture. A

30. Richard Wolin (1992), whose essay came to my attention only after this paper was virtually completed, draws similarly negative conclusions from Foucault's "aes- thetics of existence." 31. That there is such a danger in Foucault's aesthetics of existence is confirmed by Pierre Hadot (1992: 230). Hadot, whose work on spiritual exercises in antiquity Foucault drew on, also tries to show that Foucault's interpretation of some of the ancient sources is seriously flawed.

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literary history that is informed by Foucault's genealogy will regard literary texts as integral parts of, and interventions in, the process of cultural reproduction. The "sacralization" of "the literary" will no longer be taken for granted, but will become one of the phenomena to be explained by such a genealogical approach. The main problems with Foucault's genealogical analysis are, first of all, the reductionist consequences of his concept of power, which led to an almost behav- iorist conception of the formation of subjects out of a highly malleable body whose only source of resistance was a vaguely and preconceptu- ally understood desire for pleasure. Second, Foucault's refusal to make the norms underlying his own intellectual critique explicit, which he could have done only by modifying his claim that the will to truth is necessarily also the will to power, led to a peculiar positivism that eschews any need to engage, on the normative level, with the argu- ments and validity claims of the discourses he investigated. The work that constitutes his final phase, in which he-somewhat reluctantly- returned to the notion of a (partly) self-determined subject and an ethics and aesthetics of existence, could easily be appropriated for tra- ditional literary studies. What could be (and has been) interpreted as a process of normalization from a genealogical point of view (i.e., the idea that societies institutionalize the teaching of literature in order to produce subjects of a certain kind) can now be reinterpreted more positively as a way of encouraging subjects to apply certain ethical and aesthetic technologies to themselves. Foucault (1988f: 14) himself ob- served, in an interview shortly before his death, that the acquisition of knowledge had always played a very important role in his own self- transformations and that this process was akin to aesthetic experience. (But this poses the danger of falling back into precisely the kind of moral sensitivity training that is associated, in England, for example, with Leavisite literary criticism and that could be appropriated by various ideologies.) The conclusion that seems to follow from our in-

vestigation of Foucault's thought and its potential fruitfulness for the

study of literature is that any application would require a considerable revision of some of the main assumptions underlying his work.

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