Toward a foucauldian literary criticism
(2021) Poetics Today, 42 (4), pp. 471-498.
The article argues for the renewed relevance of Foucault’s early essays on literature, written throughout the 1960s, given a return to anthropological reflection in so much literary theory today (especially through affect theory and “new” phenomenologies—both of which rely on older categories supplied by psychoanalysis). On one hand, Foucault reminds us of all the “warped and twisted forms of reflection” that arise from anthropological thought, with its assumptions regarding the “unthought” and the hidden structures of sense and perception. This same Foucault, on the other hand, is deeply engaged with literature; his writings on a range of authors—from Homer and Cervantes, to Friedrich Hölderlin and the Marquis de Sade, to Georges Bataille and Maurice Blanchot—constitute nothing less than an oeuvre. And yet, despite proposals to move beyond Foucauldian critique and its orthodoxy in literary studies today, hardly anything has been thought or said about this body of work in which Foucault, as David Carroll points out, “has the most to say about literature and language.” This lacuna is all the more surprising, since Foucault’s early essays offer a rich and fruitful understanding of the being of literature as more than a limpid reflection of the body. In his reading of Bataille and Blanchot in particular, Foucault offers a unique vision of literature that is neither suspicious nor negative but that, in connection with his well-known critique of finitude, culminates in a hopeful call for openness. © 2021 by Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics
Analytic of finitude; Anthropological reflection; Being of literature; Michel Foucault; Return to the body