Foucault For Beginners

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Foucault For Beginners

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Philosophy 20th century


by: Lydia Alix Fillingham

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Michel Foucaults work has enormously affected the teaching of such diverse disciplines as literary criticism, criminology, and gender studies. Arguing that definitions of abnormal behavior are culturally constructed, Foucault explored the unfair divisions between those who meet and those who deviate from social norms. In this book, the reader will discover Foucaults deeply visual sense of scenes such as ritual public executions.


A good Introduction to the History of Power: This book sets out to simplify Foucault's work and pretty much does just that. Perhaps, and only sometimes, a bit too simple.The writing was a bit too sparse. The comic-book pictures are great, which makes this book attractive, yet, they filled the page often with splash words and large fonts which sometimes seemed unnecessary or only to fill a page. Regardless, the text is good and informative and reccomended for anyone who is interested in reading Foucault for the first time but does not know where to begin.

...the book presents Foucault as a documenter: discussing and dissecting the history of power and professional relations. Author/Foucault covers knowledge and power, sexuality, prisons, mental health.... The span is enormous, highlighting Foucault's multidisciplinary reputation.
The drawback of the book (indeed a limit of the Manga-like series) is it spends too much time on Foucault's role as as a chronicler of data, and leaves the reader on their own for much of his conclusions. An example: the book talks of Foucault's description of the medical clinic and doctor's "Gaze" but the book doesn't share if Foucault thought this was good or bad. Given Foucault's well deserved reputation as a complicated writer, this beginner could use the help.

Foucault's range is amazing -- a sort of "polymath" of philosophy. Very few disciplines escaped Foucault's epistemological examination. His examination includes literary criticism, criminology, and gender studies. Arguing that definitions of abnormal behaviour are socially constructed, Foucault explored the power relations between those who meet and those who deviate from social norms. Foucault's examination of the birth the prisons includes a very graphic description of early punishment and the orgy of suffering does not escape Moshe Ssser's and is cleverly written by Lydia Alix Fillingham. This book gives a very brief introduction to Foucault's work (or the part of it that interests us), plus a very good bibliography.
According to Foucault, people do not have a 'true' identity. In essence, the self is a product of discourse. Identity, is performative our interaction with others, but this is not static. It is a dynamic, temporary and shifting. Foucualt centers his epistemology around power, knowledge and language. People do not really have power per se. Power is a force which people engage in - as in power knowledge and language. Power is not owned; it is used. Where power is, there is also an equal and opposite reaction.
We are particularly impressed by the treatment of "The Birth of the Clinic" since this is one of the few of his works that we missed and hope to read soon, it placed for me the significance of his play on power and the gaze. We get the sense that "The Birth of the Clinic" is a spin-off from "Madness and Civilization" based on his take of the dis-empowerment of the sick (not well, not normal) as well as the mad. We understand when this comic book mentions that reading "The Order of Things" is not the best starting point to understanding Foucault and we will venture to "The Archeology of Knowledge" aremd with this introduction and the other readings we have done on Foucault. A primer, we think it is a really good start. However, in reality, Foucault and French deconstruction is NOT infinitely incomprehensible. Conversely, be warned, if you think you can read this as a substitute and come to class to discuss Foucault, you might be disappointed. We highly recommend this to start and hopefully it leads you to the fascinating maze that is Foucault.

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