Tentative Schedule of the Reading Group
Fall 2013: Foucault's The Hermeneutics of the Subject
Conveners: Jonathan Elmer (English) and Jon Simons (Communication & Culture)
The reading group meets Fridays, 2 - 3:30 pm, in the College Arts & Humanities Institute, 1211 E. Atwater Ave., except where noted otherwise.
Sept. 6: Chapters 1 and 2.
Sept. 13: Chapters 3 and 4.
Sept. 20: Chapters 5 and 6.
Sept. 27: Chapters 7 and 8.
Oct. 4: Chapters 9 and 10.
Oct. 11: Chapters 11 and 12.
Oct. 18: Chapters 13 and 14.
Oct. 25: Chapters 15 and 16.
Nov. 1 (10:30 - 12): Seminar with Michael Warner (Yale Univ.). Reading: Georges Canguilhem, "Normality and Normativity."
Nov. 8: Chapters 17 and 18.
Nov. 15: Chapters 19 and 20.
Nov. 22: Chapters 21 and 22.
Dec. 6: Chapters 23 and 24.
Michel Foucault's The Hermeneutics of the Subject
This Fall, the Center devotes itself to an intensive study of Michel Foucault's The Hermeneutics of the Subject.
In the 1970s Michel Foucault gained a reputation as a trenchant critic of European modernity, in which he saw humans subjected to disciplinary and biopolitical forms of power. Yet, by the beginning of the 1980s, Foucault claimed that his general research theme was not power but how humans turn themselves into subjects. In his study of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Foucault encountered only subjects subjected to power and knowledge—or resisting them.
As his research into sexuality led him back from modernity through earlier Christian culture and then on into the ancient pagan world of the Greeks and Romans, Foucault uncovered subjects with a very different relationship to truth, one in which élite men could subjectivize themselves as ethical beings. Breaking with the conventional understanding that “know thyself” is the nodal point of ancient philosophy, Foucault instead characterizes it as “care of the self” undertaken through practices and techniques of subjectivation – diet, exercise, medicine, and such like. Foucault developed this line of thinking and research in The Hermeneutics of the Subject, lectures given at the Collège de France in 1982 and published only after his death.
Reading this text, we will follow the readings that Foucault – an innovative and at times idiosyncratic reader – offered of the texts of ancient thinkers, including Plato, Isocrates, Epicurus, Plutarch, and Seneca. At stake is the question of how the “history of the present” is tied to interpretation of the cultural history of the past.