Foucault News

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

Magee, P (2020) ‘Alternative futures for the creative writing doctorate (by way of the past)’, TEXT: Journal of writing and writing courses 24, 1
Open access

This paper contributes to the project of mapping alternative futures for the creative writing doctorate, by way of deep excavation into the history of scholarly forms. A key aim is to undermine the apparent necessity of an exegetical component to any current creative writing doctoral portfolio. To this end, the paper attempts to think through those traditions of humanities scholarship that have long assumed the presentational forms of novelistic and poetic art. It has a specific eye to works in the post-structuralist tradition, in particular those of Michel Foucault, the scholarly writer whom Georges Canguilhem saw fit to label a ‘poet’ in the course of examining the doctorate that we would come to know as Histoire de la folie. The paper asks why that naming makes intuitive sense. A philosophical engagement with Anthony Grafton’s work on the form and origins of the footnote suggests that normative scholarly texts are ruled by a bifurcation between what is said and the story of how one came to say it, a story offered there at the bottom of the page, or in some other like apparatus or mode. The self-justificatory functions associated with the footnote are minimised in Foucault’s and his peers’ work, just as they are banished from art itself. In their place, if anything, we find strategies devised for the fomenting of doubt, that have the emotional and intellectual effect of making knowledge the responsibility of the reader. In other words, a form of creative intellectual work without exegetical documentation is not only possible in humanities scholarship, it is a feature of some of the most valorised work in the field. Could we not take our bearings from there?

Author Keywords
Creative writing doctorate; Epistemology; Footnotes; Foucault; Poetics

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