Foucault News

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

Yusheng, D.
Benjamin’s Reading on Baudelaire: From Foucauldian Genealogy of Ethics
(2021) Interdisciplinary Studies of Literature, 5 (2), pp. 277-290.

In The Use of Pleasure, the second volume of The History of Sexuality published in 1984, Michel Foucault turns to the study of the genealogy of ethics, suggesting that it is possible to read Walter Benjamin’s work on Baudelaire as a contribution. With the lens of the four elements of Foucauldian ethics (ethical substance, ethical practice, mode of subjectivation and telos), this article attempts to excavate Benjamin’s writings on Baudelaire and the Paris arcades. It indicates that Baudelaire’s artistic work is a typical self “ēthopoiēsis” in Benjamin’s reading: The ethical substance is the lack of desire, the ethical practice is the asceticism of dandyism, the mode of subjectivation is the melancholy and anger, and the telos is to create an ethic-poetic life that integrates truth and experience, which is ultimately to create an ethical art related to the way of living in the current society. Baudelaire’s ethical art is a typical practice of ethical literary criticism, whose ethical choice lies in the construction of the literary didactic subject and the struggle of heroism, with the purpose of exerting the social criticism and ethical didactic function of literary work. © 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Author Keywords
art of living; Baudelaire; Benjamin; Foucault; genealogy of ethics

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