Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Biancamaria Fontana, Would you mind imprisoning my wife? Times Literary Supplement, May 17, 2017

Review of Arlette Farge and Michel Foucault, Disorderly Families. Infamous letters from the Bastille archives. Edited by Nancy Luxon. Translated by Thomas Scott-Railton 344pp. University of Minnesota Press. $35.

Imagine living in a country where your domestic conflicts could be solved by having persons troublesome to you swiftly and legally arrested and taken away. You would simply address your grievances to some sympathetic public official, and your obstreperous spouse, eccentric mother-in-law or delinquent son could be discreetly moved out of your life to be detained indefinitely in some suitable institution at the king’s pleasure. In the late 1970s Michel Foucault took a break from writing his History of Sexuality to work on an edition of the intriguing set of letters he had come upon while researching in the Bastille archives. The letters, dating from the first half of the eighteenth century, were addressed to the lieutenant of police (and indirectly to the king) by people who requested imprisonment for some member of their own family by means of a lettre de cachet, the special royal order that bypassed normal legal procedures.

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Richard Lee, Laurent Binet: ‘I’ll vote Macron, but I hate having to do it’. The Guardian, 5 May 2017

The Frenchman’s novel about the blurred line between fiction and reality, The 7th Function of Language, is all the more poignant in the era of Trump, Le Pen and fake news.

His latest novel, The 7th Function of Language (translated by Sam Taylor), is another historical thriller circling the same questions, but approaching them from the opposite direction.

“It’s two faces of the same obsession, which is the complicated relationship between reality and fiction,” says Binet. “In HHhH I wanted to search for historical truth and in this one it was much more playful. I wanted to have fun and to twist the rope of truth until it broke.”

From Paris to Bologna, Venice to New York, they uncover an international conspiracy and a secret society that could have been drawn from the pages of a novel by Umberto Eco. The Italian philosopher indeed appears as an avuncular mastermind alongside larger-than-life versions of the stars of 1980s literary theory and philosophy. We encounter Michel Foucault tangling with a gigolo in a gay sauna, Gilles Deleuze watching tennis in an apartment that smells of philosophy and stale tobacco, Julia Kristeva in league with the Bulgarian secret police.

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Alberto Comparini, Between Philosophy and History: On Guido Mazzoni’s “Theory of the Novel”, Los Angeles Review of Books, April 15, 2017

BETWEEN 1995 AND 2010, Guido Mazzoni worked on three books: a study of modern poetry (Sulla poesia moderna, 2005); a collection of poems (I mondi [Worlds], 2010); and, finally, a theory of the novel (Teoria del romanzo, 2011).


In Mazzoni’s analysis, the novel emerges as a “game of truth.” In 1984, under the pseudonym “Maurice Florence,” the French philosopher Michel Foucault contributed an entry titled “Michel Foucault” to a dictionary of philosophers. In that entry, the term “game of truth” is used to describe the “discursive practices that define what is true and what is false, what form the discourse of truth must take, and who and what the subject and object of knowledge are.” Mazzoni is similarly concerned with the “structures of sense that still shape our discourses today,” namely those of mimesis (imitation) and concept (reflection), whose separation was ratified by Plato in Books II, III, and X of the Republic. Theory of the Novel can be read as a history of mimesis, whose rise coincides with the development of modern aesthetics, according to which truth can be represented in a medium different from that of the concept. In the absence of both meaning and telos from history, it is only the mimetic novel — not the concept — that is still capable of depicting the complexities of human consciousness as well as of society at large. It is a “genre in which one can tell absolutely any story in any way whatsoever.”

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Quentin Molinier, La « French Theory » du spectateur, Nonfiction.fr, 2015

Compte rendu: Christian Ruby, Spectateur et politique. D’une conception crépusculaire à une conception affirmative de la culture ?, La Lettre Volée, 2014

Résumé : Qu’est-ce qu’être spectateur aujourd’hui ? Et quel est son rôle, son destin politique ? L’auteur montre en quoi les réflexions de Gilles Deleuze, Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Marie-José Mondzain et Jacques Rancière peuvent nous aider à dépasser la vision désenchantée et nostalgique qu’un certain nombre d’intellectuels continuent d’entretenir à l’égard d’une figure éminente et centrale de la société du spectacle.

En ces temps de festivités cannoises, il n’est pas inutile de se demander qui sont les vrais « acteurs » de l’industrie cinématographique d’aujourd’hui. A savoir les spectateurs ! Sans eux, sans ces arpenteurs intrépides des salles obscures, ni film ni recette et encore mois d’investissements, de débats, paillettes, critiques, polémiques, journalistes survitaminés, stars endimanchées, tapis-rougisées… Bref, pas de spectacle (dans tous les sens du terme) sans spectateurs. Et tant pis pour le truisme, si du même coup on se donne les moyens d’apprécier les qualités spécifiques du spectateur, ce personnage incontournable de la grande fable culturelle moderne, dont chacun de nous adopte un jour ou l’autre, avec plus ou moins d’assiduité, les traits et les postures.


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Anthony Alessandrini, “Rescuing the Revolution from Its Outcomes”, Journal of the Society for Contemporary Thought and the Islamicate World, March 23 2017

Part of a Book Symposium on Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi’s Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment, University of Minnesota Press, 2016, 272 pp., $27.00 US (pbk), ISBN 9780816699490.

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Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi’s Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment is an exemplary book in a number of ways, but perhaps first and foremost because of what the book does not do. While it represents the most extensive and sympathetic consideration in English of Michel Foucault’s writings on the events leading up to and culminating in the Iranian Revolution, Ghamari-Tabrizi does not fall into the commonplace critical practice of arguing whether Foucault was “right” or “wrong” about the revolution and its aftermath. More admirably, Foucault in Iran is not satisfied with performing the subtler but still ultimately familiar work of simply asking what Foucault’s writings on Iran can do for us in analyzing our contemporary context. Instead, the book performs Ghamari-Tabrizi’s scrupulous allegiance to what he finds most valuable in Foucault’s work: his insistence upon recognizing “the singularity of the revolution” and the concomitant need “to liberate it from the constraints of universalist narratives” (75). By doing so, he manages to contribute not only a new and significant understanding of Foucault’s late work on ethics, but also an important re-historicizing of the Iranian Revolution for an audience that very likely needs this re-telling. It is on this notion of singularity as Ghamari-Tabrizi reads it out of Foucault’s work, as well as out of the revolution itself, that I will thus focus on in my contribution to this roundtable

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In the Shadow of Dictatorship: Foucault in Brazil

Review of Heliana de Barros Conde Rodrigues, Ensaios sobre Michel Foucault no Brasil: Presença, efeitos, ressonâncias  (Lamparina 2016), 176 pages

Reviewed by Marcelo Hoffman, Theory Culture and Society, 22 March 2017

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Michel Foucault visited Brazil five times from 1965 to 1976 yet the details of his overall presence in the country have remained largely unexplored even in Brazil. Heliana Conde’s Ensaios sobre Michel Foucault no Brasil has the great merit of introducing readers to these details through a reliance on wide range of sources, including interviews with his interlocutors and the archives of the former secret police. While her book covers various aspects of Foucault in Brazil up to his effects and resonances in our present, she compellingly illuminates how the military dictatorship cast a long and ominous shadow over each of his visits to the country.

Foucault, Brazil, dictatorship, oral history, militancy, power, resistance

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lorey_state_of_insecurity Eric Wilson, Precarious Politics, The Blackstone Review, December 2016

Review of State of Insecurity: Government of the Precarious. by Isabell Lorey, Verso, 2015

Using Foucault’s notion of self-governance, Lorey helps to demonstrate how the hustler internalizes the imperative to hustle. Self-governance implies the ways in which a population is made, through a variety of state- and work-disciplinary mechanisms, and comes to make, through self-discipline, itself into a subject. Neoliberal self-governance takes place under conditions where the burden of life has been shifted from the state to individuals who are made to appear solely responsible for their lives, their successes or failures, their employment or imprisonment. This transition produces precarious subjects who are increasingly called upon to live lives of constant precarious labor, to manage their precarity at all times, to constantly hustle, at work and at home. In this way, precarity becomes a way of life, a condition that not only structures employment, but also structures the governing of the self. The uncertainty produced by neoliberalism looms within the texture of daily life, informing not only conscious decisions about how to allocate resources for an uncertain future but also unconscious thoughts and behaviors. It is the production of radically isolated individuals who are driven by one imperative: to pursue security in a world of financial, political, environmental, and humanitarian crises.

The individual hustler, hustling, working multiple jobs, learning to love and identify with exploitative conditions, all appear variously in this moment of neoliberalism.

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