Guillaume Le Blanc

L’écriture des vies ordinaires

Listening track

[00:00-08:00] Le Blanc begins by inserting Michel Foucault’s thought, most notably as it develops in The Order of Things, within a general framework characterized by the deployment of a specific philosophical structure that he defines as the “1960 Moment”, which is closely related to certain themes of ‘68. Gilles Deleuze (with The Logic of Sense and Difference and Repetition) and Jacques Derrida (with Writing and Difference) would also be part of this framework. In their diversity, these texts share with The Order of Things a critique of the ordinary and a parallel philosophical valorization of difference and the impersonal, which, according to Le Blanc, may be partly rooted in certain Bergsonian and Heideggerian themes. In Foucault’s sense, the criticism of the everyday takes shape in an archaeology of human sciences, which shows the close connection between these sciences and the everyday maintained with repetition and personalization. According to Foucault’s archeology, moreover, we can only find a solution to this anthropological mechanism through an “experience of pure difference”, which can be found in language as “anonymous being”, experienced in the field of literature. [08:01-09:50] Le Blanc then points out how Foucault stresses literary experience (as it appears, for example, in Raymond Roussel) as part of a critique of the everyday and the ordinary. [09:51-17:35] However, considering certain passages dedicated to Foucault in Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life, he highlights that a certain return to the ordinary is inevitable in the Foucaultian shift from archaeology to genealogy. Because it is based on practice, genealogy is bound to select from the everyday, from which it extracts elements it reads in terms of techniques of power. [17:36-27:00] Thus, Le Blanc considers more thoroughly this shift in Foucault’s philosophical path, returning to the archaeological moment and to the valorization of literary experience. In the 1960s, Foucault thinks of literature as a radical experience of thought that, thanks to its criticism of the system of human sciences, can constitute a model for philosophical ethos and work. [27:01-34:00] Le Blanc then analyzes the second pole, which develops in the 1970s, when Foucault begins his work on prisons and, at the same time, seems to lose interest in literary experience. The study of the practices of surveillance and punishment led him to notice the centrality of writing in disciplinary technologies: in order to operate on bodies, power creates a meticulous writing of ordinary lives. Foucault would devote several of his subsequent research project working through this practice of writing and its many historical aspects (see, for example, Lives of Infamous Men). [34:01-37:40] According to Le Blanc, the ordinary, which had been bracketed by the archaeology of human sciences, now returns in a new light as a kind of “literature” through which power seizes the everyday life of men. [37:41-41:24] Le Blanc concludes his analysis of the ordinary in Foucault’s thought, by wondering if Foucault finally identified a “counter-conduct” of the scriptural practice of power. In some of his writings, Foucault may have suggested a possible escape through the concept of “the plebs,” which could constitute a starting point for resistance to the mechanism of writing ordinary lives. [41:25-57:20] Discussion.

Keywords: archaeology, geneaology, literature, writing, human sciences, disciplinary power, difference.

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