Phil 383J          Foucault Seminar                      Spring 2007                   MWF  10:00-10:50 CLS 3020


David Vessey                                                                                           Office: CLS 3073                                                                                 Office Hours: MWF 9-10, 11-12

                                                                                                                              and by appointment


Required texts:

Rabinow and Rose, eds. The Essential Foucault (The New Press)

Gutting, A Very Short Introduction to Foucault (Oxford)

Additional materials on Blackboard


Course Content:

Michel Foucault (1926-1984) is and will remain one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. His work is influential not only in philosophy, but in history, sociology, gender studies, justice studies, art, and literary theory. For the last fifteen years of his life he held the most prestigious intellectual appointment possible in France: a chair in History of Systems of Thought at the CollŹge de France. Most of Foucault’s influence has been through his books: Mental Illness and Psychology, Madness and Civilization, The Birth of the Clinic, The Order of Things, The Archaeology of Knowledge, Discipline and Punish, and the first three volumes of The History of Sexuality. In 1994, however, his shorter essays and interviews were published in two large volumes Dits et Écrits; in 1997-98 they were translated into English and published as the three volumes of The Essential Works of Foucault. Selections from these volumes were published in 2003 as The Essential Foucault. In addition to his shorter works, Foucault’s lecture notes from the courses at the CollŹge de France—extended studies some of which were integrated into books—are being published and translated. With the two recent sources, Foucault scholarship is being wholly revised. We will focus on the shorter works and interviews found in Dits et Écrits both because they are often easier to read than the books, and because Foucault presents his philosophical conclusions most succinctly there.


Course Method:

The course will be a discussion seminar. Since class time will be dedicated to discussing the philosophical issues raised in the text, the student must have read and thought through the reading prior to class and should know coming into class what issues he or she wants to discuss. Discussions can not be made up, so attendance and participation is a central part of the final grade. You can think of the attendance/participation grade as follows: F-Absent; D-Present but unprepared (either not having read it, not having brought it to class, or both); C-Present, prepared, but not participating in discussion; B-Present and participating in discussion; A-Present and significantly contributing to discussion. It is assumed all absences are excused absences, and if you miss over 6 classes the highest grade you can receive for the class is a C. To facilitate discussion each student will do four “Truth Reviews” during the term. Each review will list three claims made by Foucault the student believes are true and the student is willing to defend; three claims made by Foucault the student thinks are false is and the student is willing to criticize; and three claims that might be true or false, but need further evidence and the student is willing to suggest what that further evidence would be required. Enough copies need to be made for everyone in the class and on most days the discussion will begin by going over students’ Truth Review. Since these papers are for the sake of the discussion on the day they are due, they will not be accepted late.

The largest part of the final grade will come from a 15 page/4500 word research paper (typed, double-spaced, 12 pt., Times-New Roman, 1” margins ) on a topic addressed by Foucault. Either the student must come up with an original thesis to research and defend, or must take on the project of doing a critical review of Foucault’s unpublished lectures “Discourse and Truth: The Problematization of Parrhesia.” During the course of the term students will be required to turn in a topic statement, a thesis with a bibliography, and a presentation draft of their final paper. The student will make a formal presentation of his/her research and produce a final draft based on the feedback from the presentation draft and the presentation. A typo policy applies to all graded, written work. As a minimum standard for university level writing, all work submitted for a grade should be well proofread and must be one's own work. For every four typos the grade will be lowered one step (i.e. A- to B+); typos include spelling errors, grammatical errors, improper use of gendered pronouns, and failure to properly reference quotations. Failure to properly reference is different from plagiarizing. Plagiarism is a sign that one has so lost track of their proper role as a student that there is no point in them continuing in the class (much less in college) at this point in his or her life. It is expected that the student will drop the course and a meeting will be scheduled with the Dean of Students. Finally, if you have disabilities that require special accommodation you should speak to Prof. Vessey as soon as possible at the start of the term.



Grade Breakdown:

Attendance and Participation                              25%                     Topic, Thesis, and Bibliography        5%

Truth Reviews                                                            20%                     Presentation Draft                                      10%

Presentation                                                                 10%                     Final Paper                                                    30%



1. Mon. Jan. 8                              Introductions


2. Wed. Jan. 10            Background to Foucault’s Published Writings

                                             Reading: Gutting, “Foucault” from the Stanford Encyclopedia of



3. Fri Jan. 12                  Background to Foucault’s Published Writings

                                             Reading: Introduction to The Essential Foucault



Mon Jan. 15                   MLK Day/No Class


4. Wed. Jan 17              Background to Foucault’s Published Writings

Reading: Introduction and Conclusion from Eric Paras’ Foucault 2.0

               (Handout on Blackboard)


5. Fri. Jan. 19                Q & A

Reading: “Foucault” EF, 1-5; listen to “The Culture of the Self”



6. Mon. Jan. 22            “Life: Experience and Science”


7. Wed. Jan. 24            “Polemics, Politics, and Problematizations”


8. Fri. Jan. 26                “The Ethics of the Concern for the self as Practice of Freedom” AND “Confronting Governments: Human Rights”



9. Mon Jan. 28              “What is Enlightenment?”


10. Wed. Jan. 30         “Preface to History of Sexuality, Vol. II”


11. Fri. Feb. 2                “The Risks of Security”



12. Mon Feb. 5             “Discourse on Language” (Handout on Blackboard)


13. Wed. Feb. 7            “Structuralism and Post-Structuralism”


14. Fri Feb. 9                 “One the Genealogy of Ethics: An Overview of a Work in Progress”



Mon. Feb. 12                 Lincoln’s Birthday/No Class


15. Wed. Feb. 14         “The Subject and Power”

                                             Research Paper Topic Due


16. Fri. Feb. 16             “Technologies of the Self”



17. Mon. Feb. 19         “So is it Important to Think?” AND “The Masked Philosopher”


18. Wed. Feb. 21         “‘Omnes et Singulatum’: Toward a Critique of Political Reason”


19. Fri. Feb. 23             “The Birth of Biopolitics” AND “Society Must be Defended”



20. Mon Feb. 26          “About the Beginnings of the Hermeneutics of the Self” (Handout on



21. Wed. Feb. 28         “About the Concept of the ‘Dangerous Individual’…”


22. Fri. Mar. 2               “Governmentality”



23. Mon. Mar. 5           “Questions of Method”

                                             Preliminary Thesis and Bibliography Due


24. Wed. Mar. 7           “Security, Territory, and Population”            


25. Fri. Mar. 9               “What is Critique?”



26. Mon Mar. 12         “Lives of Infamous Men”


27. Wed. Mar. 14        “Truth and Power”


28. Fri. Mar. 16            “The Birth of Social Medicine”






29. Mon. Mar. 26        “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History”

                                             Opening Paragraph Due


30. Wed. Mar. 28        “Madness and Society”


31. Fri. Mar. 30            “What is an Author?”



32. Mon. Apr. 2           “On the Archaeology of the Sciences: Response to the Epistemology



33. Wed. Apr. 4           “The Thought of the Outside”


34. Fri. Apr. 6               “A Preface to Transgression”



35. Mon. Apr. 9           Presentation Draft of Paper Due


36. Wed. Apr. 11         Presentations or

“Interview with Michel Foucault” (Handout on Blackboard)


37. Fri. Apr. 13             Presentations



38. Mon. Apr. 16        Presentations


39. Wed. Apr. 18        Presentations


40. Fri. Apr. 20            No Class/Central APA



41. Mon. Apr. 23        Presentations


42. Wed. Apr. 25        Presentations


43. Fri. Apr. 27             Presentations



44. Mon. Apr. 29         Conclusion/ Course Evaluations




May 3, 10:00-11:50   FINAL EXAM