On Foucault – This Week’s “Glob”, Uhh…I mean Blog

In this week’s glob, and yes I did say glob, not blog, I was very befuddled by Foucault’s writing. Therefore this week’s blog will be my understanding (or lack thereof) of the enormous glob of information that was strewn across the articles this week. Needless to say, there are probably many fans of Foucault and I am sure that with a more thorough investigation, i.e. reading his works over again, and taking time to try to digest his ideas set forth, I may become more comfortable with it. However, for this week, I, like several of my fellow cohort members, found him to be very difficult to follow and I am looking forward to our class discussions to help shed some light on the subject.

I did find Patricia O’Brien’s analysis of Foucault’s work somewhat easier to follow and hope that I took away a better understanding of Foucault from it, however, my comfort level does not exude a warm and fuzzy feeling… O’Brien did point out on page 25 that Foucault has not “been recognized for what it is: an alternative model for writing the history of culture…” I am starting to see from our various readings that we are gathering a new set of tools from which we can draw to aid us in our own research and writing about history. This is of great importance, as we as up and coming historians, need to understand that the way that history has been written for the last century or two, is starting to be scrutinized in a whole different light and we need to change with the times to make history more accessible to those that want to learn about our past.

O’Brien also went on to say that “Foucault’s reception by historians has been troubled and contentious.” (pg. 27) This was eye opening for me because it sort of validated the way that I was feeling towards the readings myself. However, as I read on, I found that historians begrudgingly started to see the merits of his work, and as such, other disciplines also started to see how his concepts could be used to open new ways of interpreting the past or find a different path to investigate topics. His flagrant, fly in the face of the “norm” was akin to a “barbarous knight, galloping across the historical terrain”…with reckless abandon and disregard for “careful and meticulous research”, according to Jacques Leonard. (pg. 29) of O’Brien’s analysis.

I was just very┬áconfused by the way that Foucault, he himself a philosopher and not so much an historian , seemed very haughty and somewhat dense (not as in the “dunderhead” sort of dense) in the way that he wrote. I am glad to have read O’Brien’s analysis, because it help to paint a little clearer picture, for which I am very grateful. Like I said before, I am certainly looking forward to our class discussion next week, so that I can hopefully get a more clear understanding of Foucault’s ideas.

3 thoughts on “On Foucault – This Week’s “Glob”, Uhh…I mean Blog”

  1. Try taking Foucault piece by piece now that you have a good sense of the O’Brien article. How does Spiegel’s perspective reflect the twenty years that have passed since the O’Brien article? I’m so glad you all FOUND the O’Brien article. I thought that book was checked out (and still don’t know why my reserve request didn’t go through). So however you tracked it down — good job.

  2. Tiny,

    As someone who enjoys Foucault (to some extent), I still find myself befuddled whenever I sit down to read his work. I agree, a good deal of his writings are overwhelmingly dense and for seemingly no good reason. I also agree with Dr. Nelson that it is best to take Foucault piece-by-piece because it is so easy to get bogged down in the particulars of his writing. When reading Foucault, I often find myself wondering, why did he make his work so dense and convoluted? Did he want his work to be difficult to traverse or was that simply the means by which he got his thoughts down on paper? I will be interested to see what everyone else has to say about Foucault in class and if anybody can offer up a guess to my questions.

  3. At first I had trouble with following Foucault’s train of thought so I decided to go over the key concepts before trying to absorb any of his works. I found it helpful to try to understand his definitions of terms he uses in his writing, which often differ from traditional definitions. The website also lists several links for further examination of Foucault and his work. I am sure I did not understand everything I read this week, but I think that can be good. I found it made me think more than any other reading this semester and do some looking for additional articles about Foucault. I think he is difficult because he wanted to be different and wanted this for everyone else too. He wants to dissolve “notions of a fixed subject” and this allows for differing views (This is not a Pipe)

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