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Michel Foucault’s aesthetics

WHAT EXACTLY IS MEANT by Michel Foucault’s “aesthetics”? The ideas of sex and power we now associate with the philosopher and historian seem to exist in an entirely different register from what he found in the arts. And yet in a certain way this paradox in our relation to his thought is already present in his own work, his own aesthetics.

The recent publication of Volume Two of Foucault’s collected writings confronts us with just such questions. Much of his writings about the arts are contained in essays, reviews, interviews, lectures—a whole body of journalism that accompanied his work as a historian, leading him to his book on Raymond Roussel as well as to one on Manet (Foucault eventually destroyed the manuscript). After his death, Gallimard undertook the project of bringing together all of Foucault’s writings not already published in books; and from the resulting volumes that

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