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Figures and Movements: Foucault




Admissions requirements

History of Philosophy.


The purpose of Figures and Movements courses is to allow advanced students with philosophical interests to focus on a particular thinker or philosophical school in greater detail than is possible in some of our more basic survey courses. In this particular course, we will be reading and discussing the works of the French philosopher Michel Foucault as well as some of the works of philosophers who have been inspired by him (e.g., Gilles Deleuze and Giorgio Agamben). Foucault’s early analyses of the historical changes in the knowledge that is produced around specific contexts in society (e.g., the prison, the hospital, the asylum) have come to dominate our understanding of the formation and transformation of these contexts. In later works, he combined these analyses of knowledge with a microphysics of power: the study of the unstable and non-localizable relations between the anonymous forces that underlie the production of knowledge. At the end of his life, Foucault became more and more interested in subjectification as a way to resist these anonymous forces of power. These three lines of inquiry in the work of Foucault – knowledge, power, and subjectification – will be the central focus of this course. Students should be prepared for extensive study of Foucault’s texts. They are expected to think and write about these texts and actively discuss them in the classroom.

Course objectives

By the end of this course students should:

  • Have cultivated a set of reading, writing, and discussion skills that allow them to engage texts and other people in an informed and conscientious manner.

  • Be able to demonstrate a deeper understanding of a major movement or thinker in the history of philosophy.

  • Be capable of critically reflecting on and examining both shared and diverse human experiences so that they can recognize similarities and differences across cultures and historical periods.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Each teaching week of the course will consist of two 2-hour interactive discussions on the weekly topic, with reading to be completed prior to the meeting. This course depends heavily on group discussion of significant primary texts. Each class will begin with the instructor introducing the key issues and readings for that day and offering an interpretation of the works being discussed. Students should join in the discussion at any time, asking questions, making suggestions, or making comparisons with other texts we have read. For each meeting, each student should mark out a short passage (1-3 sentences) from the day’s reading that especially stood out.


  • Participation and attentiveness in classroom discussions is worth 18% of the overall course grade. This will be assessed throughout the course, and is meant to encourage constructive and active engagement with course materials and fellow students.

  • A 750-word reflection will be due in two different weeks, and each will be worth 12% of the overall course grade (totaling 24%). These will help to assess the capacity to articulate questions, concepts, and arguments based on individual engagement with course readings.

  • One “midterm” oral examination and/or essay exam will be worth 18% of the overall course grade. This will encourage a clear comprehension of objective course content.

  • One final paper (due during reading week) will be worth 40% of the overall course grade. This will encourage analysis of concepts covered throughout the course, and force students to express their ideas clearly and organize them coherently.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Required text: The Foucault Reader: An Introduction to Foucault's Thought, ed. Paul Rubinow. Others available online.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Martijn Boven.