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History and Reading

History and Reading: Tocqueville, Foucault, French Studies

  • Book Info
    History and Reading
    Book Description:

    LaCapra addresses the ongoing concern with the application of theory to contemporary historical research and analysis through a comparison of two authors seldom read together: Alexis de Tocqueville and Michel Foucault.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7578-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-20)

    My goals in this book are both broad and restricted – my subject is the relationship between history and reading, particularly with respect to the area of French studies, but I attempt to exemplify this relationship in two limited case studies. In the chapters focusing on Alexis de Tocqueville’sThe Old Régime and the French Revolution¹ and Michel Foucault’s ‘History of Madness’ (Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique)² I hope to realize at least some of the ambitions of the initial and concluding theoretical or programmatic chapters, but they do not answer all of the challenges...

  4. 1 History, Reading, and Critical Theory
    (pp. 21-72)

    Prominent in Peter Novick’sThat Noble Dream: The ‘Objectivity Question’ and the American Historical Profession¹ is a conception of the recent period in historiography as characterized not simply by an heightened intensity of questioning but as involving a more specific focus on the problems of language and signification. This emphasis on language also typifies the influential review essay of John Toews on the ‘linguistic turn,’ which I shall discuss later in this chapter.² The linguistic turn, which has many and at times incompatible variants, is most fruitfully understood as involving a recognition of the problematic nature of language or any...

  5. 2 Rereading Tocqueville’s Old Régime
    (pp. 73-122)

    An excellent introduction to recent scholarship on Tocqueville is provided by Matthew Mancini’sAlexis de Tocqueville.¹ Lucid, sober, and judicious, it is a worthy companion to Tocqueville’s own writings. Mancini, however, like many recent commentators, tends by and large to share Tocqueville’s basic assumptions and liberal orientation and those assumptions consequently tend to remain implicit and thus not subject to critical analysis, even when Mancini demurs from certain of Tocqueville’s tendencies (notably with respect to imperialism and colonialism). The primary purpose of my own analysis shall be to elicit the assumptions on which Tocqueville relied and which typically are shared...

  6. 3 Rereading Foucault’s ‘History of Madness’
    (pp. 123-168)

    Michel Foucault’sFolie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique¹ is entitled a history and would thus seem comparable to Tocqueville’s explicitly historicalThe Old Régime and the French Revolution. In the Introduction, I pointed out certain similarities, as well as a few differences, between Tocqueville’s and Foucault’s projects. Yet in many basic ways the world of thought seems to change as one moves from Tocqueville to Foucault – a change measured less in centuries than in conceptual light years. Indeed it is paradoxical that both books may in some sense be termed histories, for they seem at...

  7. 4 Reconfiguring French Studies
    (pp. 169-226)

    In the first chapter, I focused on problems of reading as they bore on historiography. I made reference to critical and literary theory insofar as it was pertinent to these problems. In this concluding chapter, the balance of interest shifts somewhat. Historical understanding is still at issue, but an important focus is the study of literature and other art forms. The overriding concern, however, is to further a mutually challenging interaction between history and these areas in a broader conception of French studies that also makes room for other disciplinary concerns, notably those of philosophy and critical theory. And the...

  8. Index
    (pp. 227-235)