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Language, Madness, and Desire

Language, Madness, and Desire: On Literature

Philippe Artières
Jean-François Bert
Mathieu Potte-Bonneville
Judith Revel
Translated by Robert Bononno
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Language, Madness, and Desire
    Book Description:

    As a transformative thinker of the twentieth century, whose work spanned all branches of the humanities, Michel Foucault had a complex and profound relationship with literature. And yet this critical aspect of his thought, because it was largely expressed in speeches and interviews, remains virtually unknown to even his most loyal readers. This book brings together previously unpublished transcripts of oral presentations in which Foucault speaks at length about literature and its links to some of his principal themes: madness, language and criticism, and truth and desire.

    The associations between madness and language-and madness and silence-preoccupy Foucault in two 1963 radio broadcasts, presented here, in which he ranges among literary examples from Cervantes and Shakespeare to Diderot, before taking up questions about Artaud's literary correspondence, lettres de cachet, and the materiality of language. In his lectures on the relations among language, the literary work, and literature, he discusses Joyce, Proust, Chateaubriand, Racine, and Corneille, as well as the linguist Roman Jakobson. What we know as literature, Foucault contends, begins with the Marquis de Sade, to whose writing-particularly La Nouvelle Justine and Juliette-he devotes a full two-part lecture series focusing on notions of literary self-consciousness.

    Following his meditations on history in the recently publishedSpeech Begins after Death,this current volume makes clear the importance of literature to Foucault's thought and intellectual development.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4492-0
    Subjects: Philosophy, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Editors’ Introduction
    (pp. vii-xvi)

    “At one time, I read a great deal of what is referred to as ‘literature.’ In the end, I rejected many of them because of inability, most likely because I didn’t have the right code to read them. Now [1975] we have books such asUnder the VolcanoandThe Opposing Shore. A writer I like very much is Jean Demelier; I was very impressed with Le rêve de Job. Tony Duvert’s work as well. For those of my generation, great literature was American literature, it was Faulkner. It’s reasonable to assume that having access to contemporary literature through foreign...

  4. Note on the Text
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  5. Language, Madness, and Desire

    • Language and Madness

      • [Introduction]
        (pp. 5-6)

        In 1963 Michel Foucault gave five talks on the subject of language and madness for a radio program known asThe Use of Speech, which was broadcast nationally by RTF France III. Jean Doat, an actor and writer with a background in theater and television, was the producer. These five broadcasts, presented once a week over a period of five weeks, were titled “Celebratory Madness” (January 7, 1963), “The Silence of the Mad” (January 14, 1963), “Persecution” (January 21, 1963), “The Body and Its Doubles” (January 28, 1963), and “Mad Language” (February 4, 1963). The series of talks given by...

      • The Silence of the Mad
        (pp. 7-24)

        Jean Doat: Michel Foucault, you have agreed to give a series of talks for our program,The Use of Speech, on the language of madness. That’s correct, isn’t it? The first broadcast in the series took place last week and was called “Madness and Celebration.” What’s the subject of your second presentation?

        Michel Foucault: Well, I’d like to devote today’s broadcast to something that concerns the opposite, the other side of celebration, which would be the silence of the mad. But I believe you have an objection to make and I feel we should talk about it because, Jean Doat,...

      • Mad Language
        (pp. 25-40)

        I believe there’s a simple idea that we’re all more or less familiar with. We willingly believe that the madman is mad even before he begins to speak and that it’s from the depths of this madness, of this originally silent madness, that he allows the obscure words of his delirium to rise up, belatedly in some sense, and circle around him like a swarm of blind flies.

        What I’ve tried to do in these broadcasts, oh, obviously not to show but simply to help convey—and I’d like to let the wordconveystumble over its multiple meanings—what...

    • Literature and Language

      • Session 1: What Is Literature?
        (pp. 45-65)

        As you know, the now famous question “What is literature?” is, for us, associated with the very practice of literature; as if the question hadn’t been raised, after the fact, by a third party wondering about some strange object that lay outside itself, but had its place of origin preciselywithinliterature, so that asking the question “What is literature?” became indistinguishable from the act of writing itself.

        “What is literature?” is not at all the question of a critic, or a historian or sociologist, wondering about a particular fact of language. It’s almost as if a cavity had been...

      • Session 2: What Is the Language of Literature?
        (pp. 66-92)

        Yesterday, I presented, or tried to present, several thoughts about literature, about this antithetical and simulacral being embodied in the book. This evening, I’d like to take a step back and try to slightly circumvent the statements I made about literature. For, after all, is it really so clear, so obvious, so immediate that we can speak of literature? For, when we speak of literature, what do we have as our floor, as our horizon? No doubt, nothing more than the void surrounding literature, which results in something that is quite strange and possibly unique, namely, that literature is an...

    • Lectures on Sade

      • [Introduction]
        (pp. 93-96)

        In March 1970, Michel Foucault was invited by the French department of the State University of New York at Buffalo to give two lectures. The first was on Flaubert’sBouvard and Pécuchet, the second on Sade’sLa Nouvelle Justine, a book that for Foucault was written “entirely with an eye toward truth.”

        The typescript for this second lecture and the various manuscripts indicate that Foucault presented his talk in two parts.¹ The first session dealt with the problem of the relationship between truth and desire in Sade. The second session anticipated the problematization that was to serve as the foundation...

      • Session 1: Why Did Sade Write?
        (pp. 97-114)

        I’m going to focus on one of Sade’s last texts,La Nouvelle Justine, ou les Malheurs de la vertu, a much more fully developed version, in ten volumes, ofJustine (L’Histoire de Justine), to which Sade addedJuliette (L’Histoire de Juliette, ou les Prospérités du vice). The text appeared in 1797 and serves as a kind of summary, in the most extreme and most complete formulation, of Sade’s thought and imagination. So it is on this text, rather thanPhilosophy in the BedroomorThe 120 Days of Sodom, that I would like to concentrate.

        I want to add a...

      • Session 2: Theoretical Discourses and Erotic Scenes
        (pp. 115-146)

        We have just examined Sade’s reasons for using and recording his fantasies, and the relationship between erotic desire, fantasy, reverie, and phantasmagoria in his writing. We’re now going to shift the analysis slightly and investigate the meaning Sade gives not so much to his theoretical discourses but to the alternation we find throughout Sade’s writing between theoretical discourses and erotic scenes. (I’ll call “scenes” those passages in which Sade explains and describes the sexual configurations enacted by the partners and characters in his novels, and “discourses” those lengthy theoretical passages that are regularly interspersed, with the exactitude of a balance,...

  6. Editors’ Notes
    (pp. 147-157)
  7. Back Matter
    (pp. 158-158)