Speech Begins after Death
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In 1968, Michel Foucault agreed to a series of interviews with critic Claude Bonnefoy, which were to be published in book form. Bonnefoy wanted a dialogue with Foucault about his relationship to writing rather than about the content of his books. The project was abandoned, but a transcript of the initial interview survived and is now being published for the first time in English. In this brief and lively exchange, Foucault reflects on how he approached the written word throughout his life, from his school days to his discovery of the pleasure of writing.
Wide ranging, characteristically insightful, and unexpectedly autobiographical, the discussion is revelatory of Foucault’s intellectual development, his aims as a writer, his clinical methodology (“let’s say I’m a diagnostician”), and his interest in other authors, including Raymond Roussel and Antonin Artaud. Foucault discloses, in ways he never had previously, details about his home life, his family history, and the profound sense of obligation he feels to the act of writing. In his Introduction, Philippe Artières investigates Foucault’s engagement in various forms of oral discourse—lectures, speeches, debates, press conferences, and interviews—and their place in his work.
Speech Begins after Death shows Foucault adopting a new language, an innovative autobiographical communication that is neither conversation nor monologue, and is one of his most personal statements about his life and writing.
relationship. I think that my continued interest in Nietzsche, the fact that I’ve never been able to position him absolutely as an object we can talk about, that I’ve always 47 tried to frame my writing in relation to this slightly timeless, important, paternal figure of Nietzsche, is very closely related to this: for Nietzsche, philosophy was above all else a diagnosis, it had to do with man to the extent that he was sick. For him, it was both a diagnosis and a kind of violent therapy for the
absolutely obligated to write. This obligation is revealed to you, indicated in various ways. For example, by the fact that we experience so much anxiety, so much tension if we haven’t finished that little page of writing, as we do each day. By writing that page, you give yourself, you give to your existence, a form of absolution. That absolution is essential for the day’s happiness. It’s not the writing that’s happy, it’s the joy of existing that’s attached to writing, which is slightly
Chomsky that took place on Dutch television, but which failed, turning into two parallel monologues. The dialogue with Deleuze is interesting because it is a genuine exercise in thinking. Deleuze and Foucault are thinking aloud, not about a text, not about a painting, but about their respective experiences with the GIP and during other actions. Although either of them could have articulated his work at the time of their intervention in the public space, together they defined, based on their
familiar with it. I think that people who move more easily than I do in the world of speech, for whom the universe of speech is an unrestricted universe, without barriers, without preexisting institutions, without borders, without limits, are completely at ease with the interview format and don’t dwell on the problem of knowing what it’s about or what they’re going to say. I imagine them as being permeated by language and that the presence of a microphone, the presence of a questioner, the
lecture or course but, with the completion of the publication, the entirety of his teaching as it developed. To the question “What does it mean to get involved?” was added a new question: “What does it mean to teach?” Furthermore, this two-sided editorial event suddenly revealed the extraordinary range of speech registers mobilized by Foucault throughout his career and the strength of his investment in oral discourse. In other words, it not only shows the extent to which a speaking strategy