Second Preface for The History of Madness

Second Preface for The History of Madness


When The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage invited me to write the introduction for the collection of essays on “restaging” for this website, I proposed instead to republish “Second Preface for The History of Madness” written by Michel Foucault for his book History of Madness (1961), reprinted in 1972. My contribution is a kind of “speech act,” referencing John Searle’s “Reiterating the Differences: A Reply to Derrida,” which quotes J.L. Austin, as well as a critique of Foucault by Jacques Derrida, which I reference below.

My statement, clearly that of a curator, could also be considered a “spatial act” in the sense meant by Henri Lefebvre. I perform in the space offered to me (this website) by the Center with an object: an existing preface in place of the introduction expected of me. My wish is to make clear that Foucault did not just explain the pathology of repetition and the challenge of reiteration, but that he performed them as well. I think this is a good response to your question “Why now?”, and it also pins down one of the main topics associated with “Re”, which is: authorship and obsession.

There have been four editions of Foucault’s book in France. The original edition published by Plon in 1961 was titled Folie et Déraison: Histoire de la Folie à l’Age Classique [Madness and Lunacy: A History of Madness in the Classical Age]. The second (1963) was heavily abridged by Plon for its 10/18 budget paperback series, which in slightly augmented form was translated into English by Richard Howard in 1965 as Madness and Civilization. The three unabridged French editions contain identical main texts with differing prefaces and appendices. For the republication by Gallimard in 1972, Foucault shortened the title to Histoire de la Folie à l’Age Classique, suppressed his 1961 preface, and supplied a new, short preface explaining the suppression. The English edition included two new appendices, a short paper published in 1964, and a response to a critique by Jacques Derrida. The appendices were, in turn, omitted from the Gallimard Tel edition published in 1976. The English edition contains both prefaces and both appendices, and adds for good documentary measure another reply to Derrida, never included in any French edition, and a facsimile of R.D. Laing’s enthusiastic reader’s report for the 1965 English translation.

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