September 24: Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish

Session Preview

We jump over several decades to take up more recent texts for this section of the course. Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish   has had an incredible influence on theories of criminals, cases, and power structures since its appearance in the 1970s. It has its share of admirers and critics (one of which comes as a short critique by Gilles Deleuze, which we are also reading for this week). We will discuss how one takes a dense book-length work of theory and makes use of it. This type of text requires a different type of reading than, say, a novel or a film.

Texts

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish 

Gilles Deleuze, "Postscript on Societies of Control" 

What to think about as you prepare for class

First Assignment (due Friday)

What does the term theory mean in the academic sense? Do you consider yourself a "theoretical type?" Are there any approaches that appeal to you more than others?

Second Assignment (due Monday)

As you prepare for class, try to figure out and write down as concisely as possible what Foucault's overarching point(s) are in the text. Identify key passages (those that illuminate his argument and those that you struggled with). In the comments below, let's start a discussion about what Foucault wants to get across in this book. Then, after reading Deleuze's "Postscript," we can talk about whether these theories have continuing relevance four decades later. Just like novels and films, theories are products of their historical circumstances and just like the best novels and films, the best theories also transcend their historical specificity.