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4.9.12

Michel Foucault on Maurice Blanchot

'I dreamt of being Blanchot'
Michel Foucault. Photo: Randolph Badler.
An excerpt from James Miller's biography, The Passion of Michel Foucault:
Music and the analysis of folklore were not the only areas of formalist ferment that interested Foucault in these years. Between 1953 and 1956, he also followed closely the book reviews published each month in the Nouvelle Revue Français by Maurice Blanchot—a critic preoccupied, like both Barraqué and Foucault, with the relationship between the formal unities of an artwork and the anguish of the artist haunted by death.

In the 1950s, Maurice Blanchot was one of France's most famous invisible men. A working critic whose stature in his own country warrants comparison with Edmund Wilson's in America, Blanchot eschewed any direct contact with his public. Like J. D. Salinger, he generated a mystique and sustained a kind of cult following by making a fetish of anonymity. He permitted no photographs of himself to circulate. He never lectured or read his work in public. He granted no interviews, though he did make a habit of "interviewing" himself.

Foucault found Blanchot's mystique irresistible. "At that time, I dreamt of being Blanchot," he confided to one friend years later. A close student of Blanchot's critical theories, he also studied his rhetoric, using the device of "interviewing" himself in his book Raymond Roussel and also at the end of The Archeology of Knowledge. In a touching homage to the faceless author, he even turned down an invitation to meet Blanchot over dinner, remarking to Daniel Defert that he knew the writing—and had no need to know the writer.
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