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Teaching Foucault
Ann Pellegrini

In the afterward, Ann Pellegrini offers a concise and playful reading of the essays in the volume, suggesting that emerging throughout the book is a ‘theatrical’ analytic grid for reading Foucault – a dispositif for reading Foucault’s profound engagement with theatre and theatrical ways of thinking. What she further proposes is to attend to his performative mode of address as a key way of thinking pedagogical practices. In Pellegrini’s account, Foucault teaches us how to reconsider the performance of the pedagogue as an intellectual character aware of her own ‘present moment’.

in Foucault’s theatres
Abstract only
Musical timekeeping and the security.state
Steve Potter

This chapter examines John Cage's musical practice in terms of its ambivalent parallels with two techniques of power that Foucault, in his 1978 lectures, Security, Territory, Population, suggests should be distinguished from one another – those of security and discipline. The chapter both develops and disputes Benjamin Piekut's application of Foucault's notion of discipline to the power dynamics inherent in Cage's practice. It highlights Foucault's attention to the differing ways in which discipline and security, as techniques of power, regulate time. And it argues that while Cage, in his 26'1.1499" for a String Player (1954), regulates time in a parallel manner to what Foucault calls discipline, in the 1952 event at Black Mountain College, Cage utilises a principle of aleatoric governance that instead provides a sonic and theatrical parallel to what Foucault calls security. This inconsistency in Cage's methods – within the same period – cannot be accounted for if we rely on the competing political metaphors – anarchistic or liberal – with which his work is usually described. Instead the chapter argues that Cage's practice, like Foucault's tripartite analysis of mechanisms of power in Security, Territory, Population, encompasses multiple techniques of governance through its disparate approaches to musical timekeeping.

in Foucault’s theatres
Foucault’s genealogical theatre of truth
Aline Wiame

Drawing upon ‘The Scene of Philosophy’, Foucault’s interview with Moriaki Watanabe in 1978, this chapter analyses Foucault’s conceptual use of theatrical tools and patterns. It first explores Foucault’s dramatising style of writing as a philosophical device to intensify hidden possibilities of historical events – and it compares this approach to what Gilles Deleuze calls the ‘method of dramatization’. It then examines the specifics of the theatrical gaze, which refuses to clearly separate truth from falsehood, and the genealogical and Nietzschean dimensions of what Foucault calls the Western ‘theatre of truth’. The chapter closes with an analysis of the Belgian play It’s my life and I do what I want. La brève histoire d’un artiste européen du XXe siècle by Guy Dermul and Pierre Sartenaer, in light of Foucault’s arguments: this play, by refusing to differentiate truth from fiction, can be considered as exemplifying a theatrical production of knowledge.

in Foucault’s theatres
The theatre of madness
Stuart Elden

Foucault was interested in Shakespeare from his earliest works on madness, through 1970s courses looking at the transition from sovereign to disciplinary power, to a reading in his final lectures of 1984 of King Lear’s opening scene as a test of parrēsia. In each Foucault is intrigued by the relation between the theatre as a representation and theatre as a ‘tear in the fabric of the world’. This contribution re-examines Foucault’s work on theatre and madness in the light of new documentary sources, notably Foucault à Münsterlingen, a report of a visit to a Swiss psychiatric asylum in 1954. There, Foucault attended a ‘fête des fous’, a carnival of the mad, a festival with roots back to the Middle Ages. Foucault’s first two major publications appeared in 1954 – Maladie mentale et personnalité and the introduction to his translation of Ludwig Binswanger’s Dream and Existence. Foucault then published very little until The History of Madness in 1961, a book which took a very different approach to these questions, and which led to Maladie mentale et personnalité being revised in 1962. This chapter interrogates the important role that theatre and Shakespeare play in Foucault’s early writing on madness and mental illness.

in Foucault’s theatres
Reassessed
Tracey Nicholls

Ten years ago, I published an article exploring questions of the politics of representation in jazz criticism in which I argued that ‘the death of the author’ actually promotes, in some contexts, some of the abuses of cultural power Michel Foucault most objects to in his 1969 lecture Qu’est-ce qu’un auteur? (later published as ‘What Is An Author?’), including the continued dominance of socially legitimated points of view and the continued marginalisation of social commentaries and critiques that oppose themselves to these dominant threads of discourse. Working from recent arguments made by Drucilla Cornell and Stephen D. Seely that Foucault’s Iranian Revolution interviews demonstrate his commitment to a ‘political spirituality’, this follow-up chapter reads collections and commentaries on Foucault’s Iranian interviews and considers what enhanced relevance Foucault’s thought and his distinctive approach to broadly political questions might have for performative disciplines like theatre studies and improvisation theory. The chapter concludes that Foucault’s perceived failure to recognise widely acknowledged truths about political power is not the failure to be intellectually responsible that he is charged with, but a provocative invitation to brush aside mainstream discourses and concern ourselves with precisely the kinds of questions that are being silenced.

in Foucault’s theatres
Magnolia Pauker

Widely regarded as a master of the form, Foucault’s interviews were central to the public enactment of his thought. Yet, theorisation of Foucault’s engagement with the interview form remains underdeveloped. This chapter seeks to reassess Foucault’s interviews: they are not essential for accessing his work yet merely paratextual. Instead, whilst simultaneously resisting the inclination to establish a concrete œuvre – something Foucault himself cautioned against and, the chapter suggests, actively resists in interview – the chapter reads the interviews in relation to his written work, as well as his lecture courses (themselves ambivalently paratextual yet central to the corpus of his writing) to propose that Foucault’s interview work exceeds the function of the paratextual, constituting a distinct domain of his practice as a philosopher and public intellectual.

in Foucault’s theatres
Kélina Gotman

In Foucault’s reading of Oedipus the King, delivered in the first four weeks of his course ‘On the Government of the Living’ at the Collège de France in 1979-1980, Foucault articulates a theory of the relationship between power and knowledge hinging on what he calls the ritual manifestation of truth – alēthourgia. This performative sort of truth-showing takes place through ‘rituals, ceremonies, and various operations of magic, divination, and the consultation of oracles, of gods’. Aligning such alēthourgia with the African-born Roman emperor Septimus Severus’ performative display of his destiny to rule in a sky chart he exhibited in his palace, Foucault describes dramatic procedures by which events are shown as truth, theatrically. Trajectories and roles, masks, and garb reveal facets of truth peripatetically and paratactically – and, as he suggests of his own method, anarchaeologically, by contingency. Just as African masks, Souleymane Bachir Diagne reminds us, after Négritude poet and statesman Léopold Sédhar Senghor perform their own rhythmic (mis)alignment and adjacency in edges and hollows, constituting a philosophical way of being as movement and articulation (rather than exhibiting any underlying ‘truth’), alēthourgia – the chapter argues – describes a play of light and shadow, visible and invisible, hidden and manifest, a rhythmic dramaturgy of power.

in Foucault’s theatres
Mark Robson

Beginning from his suggestion that seeing Samuel Beckett’s En attendant Godot in 1953 caused a ‘rupture’ in his thinking, this chapter pursues the significance of theatre and the theatrical metaphor in Foucault’s work in the mid- to late 1960s through the notion of a critical dramaturgy. Focusing especially on a lecture of 1967 later published as ‘Different Spaces’, in which Foucault distinguishes between utopias and heterotopias, the chapter shows how Foucault’s sense of theatre is informed by an understanding of spatial relations that may also be found in some of the key ‘scenes’ of his early books. Central to Foucault’s analyses across a series of works from this period is a sense of the effects of spatial relations upon an audience or spectator. This chapter frames this thinking against Foucault’s thought on representation in The Order of Things and points towards his account of the violence of public spectacle in Discipline and Punish.

in Foucault’s theatres
Mark Jordan

Foucault often writes with an eye on the stage. In famous passages, he cites the theatre to explain violent displays of royal power or the oldest rituals of Christian penance. Elsewhere he coins technical terms on theatrical models (‘Ubu power’, ‘alethurgy’). Sometimes he cannot convey the importance of theatre except by repetition or superlatives: ‘the dramatization of the drama’, he says, or ‘maximum theatricality’. If these references occur throughout Foucault’s writing, in relation to varied topics, sustained discussions of theatrical performance appear where they may be least expected: in relation to philosophy itself. The clearest example is the essay entitled (in deliberate Latin) ‘Theatrum philosophicum’ (‘Philosophical Theatre’). The essay is typically read as Foucault’s reckoning with Deleuze. It is that, of course. It is also and more importantly a meditation on Pierre Klossowski’s erotic-theological tableaux vivants. More than Deleuze, Klossowski’s Nietzschean efforts to write philosophy as theatrical script provoke or inspire Foucault’s own writing. ‘Theatrum philosophicum’ declares his own practice as an author and thinker – that is, a dramaturge.

in Foucault’s theatres

This edited collection is the first to engage directly with Foucault’s thought on theatre and with the theatricality of his thought. Michel Foucault was not only one of the most controversial and provocative thinkers of the twentieth century, he was also one of its most inventive and penetrating researchers. Notoriously hard to pin down, his work evades easy categorisation – philosopher, historian of ‘systems of thought’, ‘radical journalist’ ‒ Foucault was all of these things, and so much more. In what some see as a post-critical landscape, the book forcefully argues for the urgency and currency of Foucauldian critique, a method that lends itself to theatrical ways of thinking: how do we understand the scenes and dramaturgies of knowledge and truth? How can theatre help understand the critical shifts that characterised Foucault’s preoccupation with the gaze and the scenographies of power? Above all, what makes Foucault’s work compelling comes down to the question he repeatedly asked: ‘What are we at the present time?’ The book offers a range of provocative essays that think about this question in two ways: first, in terms of Foucault’s self-fashioning – the way he plays the role of public intellectual through journalism and his many public interviews, the dramaturgy of his thinking, and the appeal to theatrical tropes in his work; and, second, to think about theatre and performance scholarship through Foucault’s critical approaches to truth, power, knowledge, history, governmentality, economy, and space, among others, as these continue to shape contemporary political, ethical, and aesthetic concerns.