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This article is taken from PN Review 26, Volume 8 Number 6, July - August 1982.

Foucault's Silence Stephen Bann

THE reception of Michel Foucault, in England as elsewhere, has reached a particularly interesting juncture in the past year. On the one hand, there is the effect of what might be called Foucault's aposiopesis. After the publication of La volonté de savoir, the first of six volumes of his Histoire de la sexualité, in 1976, Foucault has fallen silent. Of course I do not imply that he is inactive. The fascinating dialogue with Richard Sennett which was published in the summer of last year gives ample evidence of Foucault's continued research into sexuality. (1) Nevertheless, and I do not wish to overdramatise the fact, the failure of the flow of volumes so lucidly predicted in 1976 has produced first a sense of puzzlement and then a reflective pause. The third stage has been a remarkable proliferation of studies relating to Foucault and seeking to place the work which he has done up to this point. No doubt Alan Sheridan's skilful and sympathetic Michael Foucault- the will to truth (1980) was, as it claimed, 'the first full-length study of Foucault in any language' (2). But a number of articles and essays produced roughly at the same time, not to mention the unusually interesting reviews which Sheridan stimulated, indicated that critics and scholars in many fields were already taking stock of Foucault- they had been able for the first time, as it were, to catch up with him. A portent of the extraordinarily wide ramifications of his influence can be found ...


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