Spurred Thinking

Performance, reading, embodiment, translation. Time to turn back to Foucault, or forward to him, because Foucault is always ahead of me in his Archaeology and the way it forms and unforms Knowledge.

 A discursive formation does not occupy all the possible volume that the systems that form its objects, enunciations, and concepts legitimately open to it. It is essentially full of gaps, due to the systems that form its strategic choices. From this comes the fact that a given discursive formation, when taken up again, placed, and interpreted in a new constellation, may reveal new possibilities… There is a modification in the principle of exclusion and possibility of choices that results from the insertion into a new discursive constellation.

This to me is a good way to view translation’s discursive formation: insertion, gaps, constellation. There is agency in it, though it is in the background. For it is a human individual/s who “takes up again” or who spur the “taking up again,” or who make choices, even if none of these acts are transparent or innocent.

 Foucault’s words above are my translation. I wanted to free myself from the undulations of the published English translation (p.75 of Archeology of Knowledge, tr. Alan Sheridan. NY: Routledge, 2002) for to me, Foucault’s French is direct. And the “essentiellement” in the beautiful phrase “essentiellement lacunaire” needed a doubling, to me, to reflect not just the sense of fundamental, but of to a great degree. In the French, too, there is only one “principle of exclusion and possibility of choices.”

 It was time spent with the French original that spurred my thinking. I was only able to make my translation after my thinking had been spurred. That’s the thing with the translation market: translations are made relatively quickly for publication, and absorbing thought can take a long time—absorbing and hearing a cadence and how thought’s thought evolves from this cadence, and not just from the words. Constellatory effects, through the body of the translator/reader.


Foucault: Une formation discursive n’occupe pas tout le volume possible que lui ouvrent en droit les systèmes de formation de ses objets, de ses énonciations, de ses concepts; elle est essentiellement lacunaire, et ceci par le système de formation de ses choix stratégiques. De là le fait que reprise, placée et interprétée dans une nouvelle constellation, une formation discursive donnée peut faire apparaître des possibilités nouvelles… il s’agit d’une modification dans le principe d’exclusion et de possibilité des choix qui est due à l’insertion dans une nouvelle constellation discursive. (89–90, L’archéologie du savoir)

Sheridan: A discursive formation does not occupy therefore all the possible volume that is opened up to it of right by the systems of formation of its objects, its enunciations, and its concepts; it is essentially incomplete, owing to the system of formation of its strategic choices. Hence the fact that, taken up again, placed, and interpreted in a new constellation, a given discursive formation may reveal new possibilities…. what we are dealing with is a modification in the principle of exclusion and the principle of the possibility of choices; a modification that is due to an insertion in a new discursive constellation.