The first part of the reading response should be a paragraph giving an overall summary of the reading. The rest (the majority of the response) is a personal intellectual record of thoughts generated by the reading. Feel free to take your ideas to the edge of possibility, to link them to material from other courses. For example, you might relate your reading to a movie. You might explore internal contradictions in a writer’s argument or two opposing views and your own reaction to those views. Develop arguments. Ask questions. When you write, focus on one or two themes or topics. Don’ts: Except for the first section, don’t merely summarize readings or lectures. Reading the philosopher/historian Michel Foucault can be exasperating, until one has an “aha” moment, grasps — at least briefly — what he’s talking about, and feels very smart. It’s impossible to ignore him and his impact on the postmodern world. (This is a repeat of what I wrote to the Foucault presentation group.) Perhaps this introduction to his book The Order of Things will give you an idea of what he was trying to accomplish. Incidentally, the Chinese encyclopedia was an invention of Borges (an Argentine author): “This book first arose out of a passage in [Jorge Luis] Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought—our thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography—breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to taming the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterward to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes a ‘certain Chinese encyclopedia’ in which it is written that ‘animals are divided into (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) suckling pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, [h]included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.’ In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.” 1 1. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things (New York: Pantheon, 1970), xv. Michel Foucault, not always easy to understand, is a major philosopher of the 20th century. Please watch the video (so you can get a feel for who he is) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kawGakdNoT0 And read the transcript – https://chomsky.info/1971xxxx/ After that, read the following: https://foucault.info/doc/documents/foucault-courageoftruth-en-html https://foucault.info/doc/documents/foucault-power-en-html The two Foucault documents are the focus for this week. Then write your response. You might consider the following: To what degree do the ideas of Foucault hold true today (if at all).
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