Scintillating leaps of the imagination.

John Rylands Library, Deansgate, staircase

John Rylands Library, Deansgate, Manchester (staircase).

Citing Foucault is sort of an academic trope; reading or hearing “in a Foucauldian sense” in a study, an article or a paper never fails to make the hair on my neck stand up. Every once in a while, however, my defence mechanism is weakened and statements actually get through to me, such as Foucault’s call for a non-judgemental, creative criticism. Isn’t it being put into practice by bloggers for example, who review books or retrieve pieces of information from the daily data overload and reflect on them – amateurishly no doubt, but with passion?

I can’t help but dream about a kind of criticism that would try not to judge but to bring an oeuvre, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires, watch the grass grow, listen to the wind, and catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it. It would multiply not judgements but signs of existence; it would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent them sometimes – all the better. All the better. Criticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep; I’d like a criticism of scintillating leaps of the imagination. It would not be sovereign or dressed in red. It would bear the lightning of possible storms.

Michel Foucault in an interview with Christian Delacampagne, Le Monde, 6./7. April 1980 (translated and republished as The Masked Philosopher).

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