Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

A Deleuzian Undercurrent to Foucault’s “What is an Author?” (part 1)
By Gordon Hull, New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science, 27 February 2020

Toward the end of “What is an Author,” Foucault distinguishes between the “founder” and “initiator [instaurateur]” of a discourse. Galileo is the paradigmatic example of the former, and Marx of the latter. This is a puzzling distinction, to say the least. Let’s begin with the terminology: Although “founder [fondateur]” is common enough, as far as I know, Foucault doesn’t use “instaurateur” anywhere else. At least, a computer search of the text of Les Mots et Les Choses, Archéologie du Savoir and the pre-1975 Dits et Écrits didn’t turn up anything. Other things being equal, those seem like the most likely places to find it (if I’m missing uses of the term, I’d love to learn about them!). In particular, Order is a likely bet, because in the French seminar version (the one in D&E – see my initial thoughts here and Stuart Elden’s discussion of the textual history here) of “Author,” Foucault frames the text as partly responding to some leftover business from Order, where he admits that he both refuses to organize texts by authors, but also uses authorial names. The nominal “instauration” occurs a few times in these texts in a way that something more substantial than a blog post would need to investigate, but as far as I can tell, the term of art in “Author” – “instauration discursive,” naming somebody rather than an event – is specific to that lecture. So something is going on here!

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