Foucault News

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

Nesbet, Anne,
Discipline Made Visible: Abram Room’s The Ghost That Never Returns and the Fantastic Origins of Foucault’s Panopticon (2023) Russian Review,
DOI: 10.1111/russ.12397

In 1967 Abram Room’s film, The Ghost That Never Returns (1929), traveled to the Cinémathèque de Toulouse (France) and was conspicuously featured in the following year at a major festival held in Perpignan. This essay suggests that Room’s film may have been part of what set the scene for the emergence of the “Panopticon”–Jeremy Bentham’s eighteenth-century design for a prison structure that would maximize visibility–in Michel Foucault’s 1975 Surveiller et punir. The film’s French reception (with reviews appearing in Les Lettres françaises and in Midi-Minuit Fantastique between 1968 and 1970) emphasized its status as an example of the boundary-blurring genre of the “fantastic.” It is this article’s suggestion that Abram Room’s prison film and the accompanying French debate about the nature of the fantastic are important facets underlying the Panopticon’s shift from relative obscurity into visibility (or even obviousness) in Michel Foucault’s writings of the 1970s. © 2023 The Russian Review.

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