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Cormac Gallagher – On First Looking into Foucaults History


THE LETTER 20 (Autumn 2000) pages 183-209




In 1998, a note promoting the forthcoming Colloquium on L’Opacite Sexuelle in the Ecole Lacanienne de Paris announced, almost as if it were now a received truth, that Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality had ‘cut the ground from under the feet of psychoanalysts’. Up to this I had held the rather complacent view that while Foucault was of course one of the more important contemporary thinkers he was not of central relevance to psychoanalysis. Even a yearlong staff seminar on The Birth of the Clinic had done little to modify this view.


But this startling and indeed sobering remark coming from such a prestigious source is certainly worthy of investigation and assessment! I am not aware that anybody has in fact taken it up either in the Colloquium or elsewhere and this article by a non-specialist is far from being the complete response that it deserves. I have simply tried to look carefully at the three-volume work in question, to see whether in fact it undermines my own position as a Lacanian psychoanalyst. I have also tried to provide enough introductory material to encourage colleagues to read this remarkable work, which so far seems to have been relatively neglected by English-speaking analysts.

On First Looking into Foucaults History

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