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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751


BEUKES, Johann. The development and complex intersections of the current four volumes of Foucault's Histoire de la sexualité. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2021, vol.61, n.4-2, pp.1287-1310. ISSN 2224-7912.

This article provides an accessible overview of the delicate development and complex intersections of the current four volumes of Michel Foucault's (1926-1984) history of sexuality in the series Histoire de la sexualité. The fourth volume in the series (Les aveux de la chair) was published in February 2018 by Gallimard in Paris under the editorship of Frédéric Gros. The current status in the series of Les aveux de la chair is explored, while this author's reservations about referring to Les aveux de la chair as the fourth volume in the series are discussed. Although these reservations are reviewed here in the light of the most recent developments in the Foucault scholarship, the reasons for those reservations remain unchanged: without a proper account of its idiosyncratic development, the text cannot be regarded as the fourth volume of the series, since it is an edited version of a manuscript that was based primarily on several public lectures presented at the College de France from 1977 to 1981, and not on a manuscript Foucault himself finished and signed off at the publisher. Furthermore, only days before his death Foucault explicitly prohibited any posthumous publications of his unfinished manuscripts, unpublished lectures and related personal material. Foucault's insistence on "no posthumous publications" was respected for close to 30 years until, in 2013, those manuscripts and related material (comprising around 100 boxes and 40 000pages of manuscript) were transferredfrom a bank vault to the existing Foucault archives at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. Without denying the problem relating to the eventual publication of the unfinished manuscript of Les aveux de la chair, the prevailing consensus in the international Foucault scholarship, after three years of intensive debate, seems to be that the edited text can, for all practical purposes, now be used as the fourth volume in the series. The editing and publication of a fifth and a sixth volume are already considered feasible, probably because of the substantially drafted manuscripts of La chair et le corps and La croisade des enfants, which currently are also held in the expanded Foucault archives [NAF 28730]. Finally, an overview is presented of the thematic and chronological development of the three volumes of Histoire de la sexualité published earlier, namely La volonté de savoir (read with currently available excerpts ofthe manuscript of La chair et le corps), L'usage des plaisirs and Le souci de soi, and the intersections of these three volumes with Les aveux de la chair. The textual development and publication history of the current four volumes are shown to be intricate: each of their origins, objectives and place in Foucault's larger oeuvre should be acknowledged to appreciate the current series as a coherent body of knowledge. However, thematically and in terms of the time of its conclusion around 1980/1 the edited and now published fourth volume in the series should rather be regarded as the second volume, and the current second (L'usage des plaisirs) and third (Le souci de soi) volumes, which were only completed and published in 1984, as the third and fourth volumes. When this is done, Foucault's development of the series (beginning with early modernity and working his way back to antiquity) becomes clearer. Also, if a fifth (probably La chair et le corps) and a sixth (probably La croisade des enfants) volume from the expanded Foucault archives were to be added to the current series of four volumes, they would, in turn, have to be placed before Les aveux de la chair. The numbering of the second and third volumes in the series would, in this sense, always lead to confusion. The most straightforward solution would be always to keep in mind the "backward development" in the series and not the numbers of the separate published volumes: what will not change is that La volonté de savoir will always be the first, L'usage des plaisirs always the last and Le souci de soi always the penultimate volume. A table setting out this view of the "actual" structure of the series Histoire de la sexualité is given as part of the conclusion of the article in order to summarise in an accessible way a series of complicated considerations proposed in the body of the article (by "actual" volume number is meant the "backward", period-oriented place of the particular volume in the current series): If, however, La chair et le corps is indeed eventually published as the fifth and La croisade des enfants as the sixth edited volumes in the series, the table would be as follows:

Palabras clave : Daniel Defert; Michel Foucault (1926-1984); Frédéric Gros; Histoire de la sexualité 4 (Les aveux de la chair); the history of sexuality; La chair et le corps; La croisade des enfants; La volonte de savoir; L 'usage des plaisirs; Le souci de soi.

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