Context - Context Background Information Foucault rejected...

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Context Background Information Foucault rejected the concept of 'Context' generally, and biographical context in particular, was something that Foucault tried to reject. He hoped to replace these outdated notions with a description of discourse that did not depend on a psychologized author, and hoped to replace 'context' (the set of factors that 'motivate' or cause a statement) with a much more detailed account of how specific statements become possible. But this drive away from authorial context, this drive toward discourse as an anonymous process, is itself one of the most interesting things about Foucault as a writer. He concludes the Introduction to the Archeology with this rather intense caveat: 'I am no doubt not the only one who writes in order to have no face. Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same…' To ask who Foucault was, then, we generally have to ignore his own method, which demands that authors disappear forever in the vagaries of their discourse. Nonetheless, some biographical context might be helpful (for a full biography, see James Miller's book in the bibliography). Foucault was born in 1926 in Poitiers, France, the son of a wealthy surgeon. His early years passed by in a fairly conservative religious environment, as Foucault attended Catholic camp, served as a choirboy, and studied for his baccalaurèat at a Jesuit college (Collège Saint-Stanislas). By this time (1943), France was in the full turmoil of ##World War II##, and discussions of history as either a progress of reason or a chaos of suffering were prevalent. Foucault was taught briefly by the Hegelian philosopher and historian Jean Hyppolite, to whom these historical issues were central (see below). Foucault entered the Ècole Normale Supèrieure in 1946. He had some episodes of mental illness (not to mention a mostly miserable experience), but also began building a social life as a young gay man. At the Ècole, the historian of ideas Georges Canguilhem had a deep influence on Foucault, and Foucault's early 'archeological' work began to take shape in this context. He also engaged with the turbulent political scene in Paris, participating (though somewhat ambivalently) in the French Communist Party in the early 1950's. Foucault took early degrees in philosophy and psychology, and received a diploma in psychopathology in 1952. From this point until the publication of his first major work ( ##Madness and Civilization## , in 1964), Foucault occupied a number of academic and cultural posts, first at the University of Uppsala in Sweden and then at the Centre Français in Warsaw. His personal life during this period was marked by intense love affairs (including one with the critic Roland Barthes) and
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occasional scandals stemming from the clash of Foucault's sex life with various administrative restrictions. The significance of being constantly watched was not lost on Foucault, and he would later address this issue directly in his works on sexuality and power.
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