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Wednesday 31 May 2017 17:00 - 19:00
  • EIC
public lecture

The early Foucault and the politics of European intellectual history

early foucault.jpg

This lecture by ACCESS EUROPE Visiting Scholar Stuart Elden reports on a project tracing the intellectual history of Foucault’s History of Madness out of earlier work on the history of psychology and psychiatry.


It therefore focuses on his largely unknown work in the 1950s. In particular it discusses three themes:

First, Foucault’s student years in Paris, where he attended lectures by people including Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean Beaufret and Jean Hyppolite as well as, a little later, the early seminars of Jacques Lacan.

Second his role as a co-translator of two texts – Ludwig Binswanger’s ‘Traum und Existenz’ and Viktor von Weizsäcker’s Der Gestaltkreis. His role is bringing these Swiss and German works into French is underappreciated. The introduction to Binswanger is quite well known, but his role in the translation itself – which was credited to Jacqueline Verdeaux alone – is underexplored. His co-translation of von Weizsâcker, with Daniel Rocher, is sometimes referenced but unexamined. There is an important, and disturbing, political context to this work.

Finally the lecture will discuss Foucault’s role as director of the Maison de France in Uppsala between 1955 and 1958. It was in Uppsala that Foucault undertook much of the research for the History of Madness, though he was unable to get it accepted as a thesis there. Drawing links between France, Switzerland, Germany and Sweden, this lecture indicates the European context of the formation of Foucault’s work.

About the speaker 

Stuart Elden is Professor of Political Theory and Geography at the University of Warwick, UK. He is the author of seven books, including works on territory, Michel Foucault, Martin Heidegger, and Henri Lefebvre. He is currently working on a study of territory in Shakespeare’s plays; on the concept of terrain; on Lefebvre’s writings on rural issues; and the very early Foucault.

image "Foucault at the Maison de France in Uppsala", 1957 (Photo J.C. Oberg)


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