Ah, Foucault. While sorting out the confusion that is my brain, I found that breaking the first half of Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge into my favorite quotes was actually quite useful before beginning the update to the mindmap. What I found was that I had a tendency to get lost in the midst of Foucault’s lists of what history, discursive formations, systems, concepts, strategies, and enunciations should not be and stumbled past what he was trying to describe them as actually being. Once I could begin to find quotes that made sense to me, it was a little bit easier to reread paragraphs again and start to find threads of coherence for myself.
One example was the idea of the “living, fragile, pulsating history” that historians let “slip through their fingers” and that (11). At first, I was a little confused because history seems to always be updated by archaeologists, paleontologists, anthropologists, botanists, and a wide variety of -ists that I have no names for. So many researchers and professionals are constantly on the move to uncover remnants of past peoples so as to better understand the grand narrative of human history. And it was that idea of the grand narrative that led me to wonder if it was that exact idea that Foucault was trying to decouple with the moves towards “general history” rather than “total history” (9). Many of us try to put everything into neat little packages because it gives us a feeling of a greater degree of control (I am definitely one of those people), which may be why Foucault’s ideas of disruptions, dispersions, irruptions to the discourse s with the fields of the history of ideas, literature, science and philosophy feel so disorienting. Upon first reading, threading perspectives of disruptions to histories of disciplines is a giant question mark.
But, as theory tends to do, the pieces began to move into place. His examples were my guides, especially when he made references to books and the networks they create. The oeuvre example gave the clearest sense of the wide range of what someone could choose from in order to present a certain artist’s opus, and the questions that could arise from such moments of selection: who was to choose? Why were they in a position to make such choices? Why did he/she choose what those particular works? Why were certain works excluded? Was criteria involved? The questions Foucault raises in regards to the oeuvre made even more sense when applied to the credibility of the doctor and his/her position being possible because of this/her relation to the discourses composing that particular field of medicine. From there, the principle of exclusion mentioned in the chapter on Strategies became an echo. The relative dismissal of the “never-said” (which sounds a lot like something from a Neil Gaiman novel) from the chapter on Unities of Discourse allowed for a trickle of awareness.
One final note, I was very interested in reading about the discursive constellation that Foucault mentions in line with the principle of exclusion and the principle of the possibility of choices as it reminded me of Vatz and Bitzer (though more so of Vatz). The idea of exclusion and possibility of choices seemed to underscore Vatz’s critique of the rhetor needing to be held responsible for giving salience to what he/she chose as important, because in discourse, it always seems like something is being chosen over something else. For Foucault, it seems like the absence of something is just as telling as the presence of another. By starting to unearth that which had been passed over, are we not placing more responsibilities on the rhetors of the past as well as the contemporary rhetor for what they privilege(d) as being more worthy of attention?