Case Study #1 Peer Reviews

For this assignment, I responded to case studies written by Daniel and Amy.

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Daniel’s post applying Foucault’s discursive formation to Google Analytics was enlightening on several levels. Firstly, I wasn’t really aware of how Google Analytics work, so I now have a better understanding of how it works. Also, reading the way in which Daniel applied the theory to Google Analytic helped me gain a deeper understanding of Foucault’s theory. I used Foucault in my own case study, but reading Daniels analysis revealed some of the ways in which I could more effectively apply the theory. For instance, I could have focused on describing how the network of La Leche League is constantly in flux, and I could have explained that my map of the network was by no means an attempt to capture the constant state of the network. I did pose a few questions to Daniel seeking clarification on concepts he described. For example, it seemed to me that there is a possibility that the object of the discursive formation might change once the user of Google Analytics begins to examine the data. Perhaps the object is still the page, or is it the data? Another question I had was whether the archived data actually is not part of the flow. It seems to me that once the user begins to examine the data, the data might become part of the flow. One of the most fascinating things that Daniel discussed is the difference between the networked archive and the archived network. I found this a fascinating contrast. It seems, from what I understand, that the networked archive can be an active part of the network, while the archived network may not be, unless the archived network is networked.

I really enjoyed reading Amy’s discussion of MOOCs and the application of computer network theory to MOOCs in part because I have recently been attempting to make my in-person class more student-centered, and I read Friere’s discussion of the banking concept. I wasn’t that familiar with MOOCs, so this discussion was very enlightening in that regard. Amy discussed the flow of information in the course in terms of buses, and I found this very helpful for envisioning the way in which Friere’s analysis of traditional education (the banking theory) is similar to a “serial” bus, and the more student-centered approach is like a parallel bus. I did have a few questions for Amy, particularly about the issue of agency. I would like to have seen more discussion of the relationship between students and how information flows between students as nodes. Also, I was curious about how the flow back of information from student might impact the entirety of the network.

Case Study 1: The Enunciative Derivation of La Leche League

Foucault’s approach to the archaeological study of discourse, particularly the “tree of enunciative derivation,” described in his text The Archaeology of Knowledge, is a very useful concept for exploring the way in which networked organizations develop and how each node in the organizational network functions within the larger frame of the network. To explore the way in which Foucault’s theory can be applied to a large networked organization, I have chosen to examine La Leche League, an international organization dedicated to supporting breastfeeding mothers and to promoting understanding of breastfeeding. La Leche League was officially formed in 1958 by a group of nursing mothers in Illinois, and has now grown to an international organization of “mother-to-mother” breastfeeding support and advocacy groups. The organization has a board of directors, an Executive Director, and an Associate Director. Countries with a La Leche League presence have their own national chapters of La Leche League. (The US umbrella organization is called La Leche League USA.) The USA organization is further broken down into state or regional groups. These groups are further divided into either individual meeting groups (in cities with one La Leche League group), or in large cities they may be divided into a city-wide group that is further divided into several individual groups. At the local level, La Leche League meetings are headed by a certified La Leche League Group Leader. While the primary goal of La Leche League is to provide support for breastfeeding mothers and advocate for breastfeeding in the local La Leche League meetings, the organization also has other ways of meeting these goals, such as the Peer Counseling program where non-certified La Leche League members counsel others who are nursing. The organization also hosts conferences and other educationally focused meetings.

Map of International La Leche League Groups.

Map of International La Leche League Groups.

If we were to view the organization as a network, the central node in the group would be the central organization, which has a “core philosophy” composed of 10 separate statements. Other nodes (listed in order of their distance from the central node) include national umbrella groups, regional groups, individual groups, the group leaders, and individual group members. Foucault’s concept of the “tree of enunciative derivation” includes statements at all levels. According to Foucault, the statement has no criteria for unity, and it is not a unit; instead, it is a “function that cuts across a domain of structures and possible unities and reveals them with concrete contents, in time and space” (87). By looking at the dispersion of statements through the network of La Leche League, I hope to uncover evidence about the way in which statements that seem abstract at the base level of the tree of enunciative derivation are put into action and revealed in the “concrete contents” and “time and space” (87) of the local Le Leche League meeting.

At the base level of the tree of enunciative derivation, “are the statements that put into operation rules of formation in their most extended form” (147). The core mission of La Leche League, the rules of the organization that are meant to govern its activity at all levels, are include it the 10 statement philosophy:
• Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.
• Mother and baby need to be together early and often to establish a satisfying relationship and an adequate milk supply.
• In the early years the baby has an intense need to be with his mother which is as basic as his need for food.
• Breast milk is the superior infant food.
• For the healthy, full-term baby, breast milk is the only food necessary until the baby shows signs of needing solids, about the middle of the first year after birth.
• Ideally the breastfeeding relationship will continue until the baby outgrows the need.
• Alert and active participation by the mother in childbirth is a help in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.
• Breastfeeding is enhanced and the nursing couple sustained by the loving support, help, and companionship of the baby’s father. A father’s unique relationship with his baby is an important element in the child’s development from early infancy.
• Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.
• From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings. (La Leche League)

The central node of the organization, the base of the tree of enunciative formation, is a guiding philosophy, but until these statements are acted upon by the node branching from the central node, they remain merely untested, undescribed statements. La Leche League’s philosophy , as the root of the network, are the governing statements “that concern the definition of observable structures and the field of possible objects, those that prescribe the forms of description and the perceptual codes that it can use, those that reveal the most general possibilities of characterization, and thus open up a whole domain of concepts to be structures, and those that, while constituting a strategic choice, leave room for the greatest number of subsequent options” (147). La Leche League may have broad rules guiding the general workings of a meeting, and group leaders may be expected to behave in certain ways, share certain types of materials, and provide certain types of support to nursing mothers, but the central organization is not directly involved in these acts. It seems then, that agency is most strongly associated with the nursing mother. The mother and her child are the subjects of most of the statements guiding the organization. Foucault says that “the subject of the statement is also the subject of the operation” and that a proposition can be called a statement if “the position of the subject can be assigned” (95). While other nodes in the network have some agency (such as in the case of the group leader, who can report back to the organization, which may in turn act on the leader’s information), the primary agency belongs to the mother. It is the activity of the mother, along with her child, that is the subject, and it is only the mother who can see that the true goals of the organization are meet (or at least attempted to be met).

It is in the individual meetings, often several nodes removed from the originating node of the central administration of the organization, that the true significance of the governing statements is made evident. It is here that nursing mothers come, looking for real answers to real problems with nursing. Here, at the local meeting, the interaction between network nodes is much more specific. The nursing mother, the far summit of the network, comes to the group leader seeking information. The group leader shares information based on the basic philosophies of the organization, but much more specific in nature (such as proper latch techniques and information about using a SNS (supplemental nursing system). The mother may report back that the techniques have not worked for her, and the group leader may suggest alternative solutions. This specificity of the local meeting reflects what Foucault says about the far reaching branches of the tree of enunciative derivation. He says, “at the end of the branches, or at various places in the whole, a burgeoning of ‘discoveries’ (like that of fossil series), conceptual transformations (like the new definition of the genus), the emergence of new notions (like that of mammals or organisms, technical improvements (principles for organizing collections, methods of classification, and nomenclature)” (147). It is at the local group level that the need for new interpretations or articulations of statements is made evident. The necessity for specific transformations or understandings of core statements becomes evident, and the group leaders may report these transformations back to the central organization, which may then develop a new statement giving suggestions for how group leaders may want to address specific issues that could possibly arise. This seems to have been the case when, in 1987, La Leche League published an article called “Guidelines for Helping Employed Mothers Breastfeed” in Leaven, La Leche League’s quarterly journal. Accoding to a note on the website, “These guidelines for holding a special meeting for employed breastfeeding women are the culmination of a 1986 Pilot Study conducted in Colorado and Wyoming. It was developed by Alice Edwards, Regional Administrator of the Mountain Region” (La Leche League). It seems that the need for strategies to helping employed mothers was noticed at the local level, and a regional administrator attempted to pilot specific strategies to do so, then reported back to the organization, which disseminated the information for other group leaders.

Map of La Leche League Network. The orginzation serves as the base and includes 10 key statements of philosophy, which guide activities at other levels. Each level further from the base interprets the statements with increasing specificity. The nodes at the summit report back and inform the future of the organization.

Map of La Leche League Network. The orginzation serves as the base and includes 10 key statements of philosophy, which guide activities at other levels. Each level further from the base interprets the statements with increasing specificity. The nodes at the summit report back and inform the future of the organization.

While at the organizational level, there is a network of leadership, the base of the organization is the statements that guide the organization. It seems likely that, if the organization were to transform, it would do so at the local level first before it does at the organizational level because it seems to be at the local level hat “the appearances of objects, types of enunciation, concepts, strategic choices, (or transformations that affect those that already exist)” occur at the local (or regional levels)—the branching from the tree. Foucault says that archaeology shows that events (like individual meetings or conversations between group leaders and mothers may transform statements by being presented, becoming an object for discourse, being recorded, “described, explained, elaborated into concepts, and provide the opportunity for a theoretical choice” (167). So what happens at the summit may inform the base organization. This is why I believe that if the network dissolves, it will do so first at the local level. The unique moments of the network may pass away, and groups may stop meeting. Eventually, if the meetings are discontinued, then what remains? I suppose it would be the base of the tree of enunciative derivation, those statements that guide the organization, as well as new statements that have been introduced into the discourse through the activity of the organization.

Foucault’s tree of enunciative derivation was very useful for examining the network of La Leche League, but one thing that I think that I would like to explore further that I do not see a way into with Foucault’s theory is genre theory’s focus on action and the way in which action is guided by meaning, by perception, and not by material (Miller 156). I also would be very interested in exploring Bazerman’s claim about the three levels of analysis of a speech act: the literal statement, the intended act, the actual effect (Bazerman 315).

Works Cited

Foucault, Michel, Alan Sheridan, and Michel Foucault. The Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Pantheon Books, 1972. Print.

“LLLI Philosophy.” La Leche League. N. p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2014.

MindMap #3: The Statement and The Discursive Formation

MindMap Week 3 Cropped

This week I decided to add a bit more of Foucault’s theory to the MindMap activity. I revised the mindmap to include a node branching off of Foucault’s Archaeology that focuses on the concept of the statement. From there, I added new nodes that deal with the focus of each of the chapters focusing on the statement along with a statement and/or quote regarding what I believed to be a primary claim regarding each aspect of statements. These nodes dealt with: the function of statements, methods of describing statements, the rarity of statements, and historical a priori/the archive. Because I decided to focus my attempt to analyze the Ph.D. program using some aspect of Foucault’s theory on discursive formations and statements, I attempted to map the various layers of the discursive formations and statements that are involved in the Ph.D. program. The first level I included was the field of English Studies, which I identified as a discursive formation. Within that field, I identified ODU’s Ph.D. program as a statement among the many statements that make up the field, but one a more local level, it is also a discursive formation. From the Ph.D. program node, I included the three established emphases. From each of those, I listed individual courses as statements within the discursive formation of the program, and I also identified them as discursive formations. From the nodes representing courses, I added nodes that represent the course syllabi and goals, course texts, and discussions as possible statements within the discursive formation of individual courses within the program.

The Archaeology of Knowledge Reading Notes: The Sequel

Michel Foucault. Image from "Foucault On Obscurantism: ‘They Made Me Do It!’

Michel Foucault. Image from “Foucault On Obscurantism: ‘They Made Me Do It!’”


Part III: The Statement and the Archive

Part 3 of Foucault’s the Archeology of Knowledge focuses on a length examination of statements. The various chapters focus on defining the concept of the “statement,” describing the function of the statement, discussing the analysis of the statement, and exploring the relationship of statements to the archive.

Chapter I: Defining the Statement

In an effort to explore statements, he compares the statement to units of language (such as the sentence) and material objects, and it describes the way in which statements are unique. According to Foucault, the statement has no criteria for unity, and it is not a unit; instead, it is a “function that cuts across a domain of structures and possible unities and reveals them with concrete contents, in time and space” (87). The statement is a structure that operates similarly to a sign, but the referent or signified is not static.

Chapter 2: The Enunciative Function

Chapter 2 focuses more on the function of the statement. Foucault opens by discussing the ways in which a statement relates to that which it represents. A statement is not merely a group of signs, but the statement contains “something else”- “a specific relation that concerns itself—and not its cause, or its elements” (89). There is no signified/signifier, proposition/referent, or sentence/meaning relationship. The “correlate of the statement” is “a group of domains in which such objects appear and to which such relations may be assigned” (91). The referential of the statement “forms the place, the condition, the field of emergence, the authority to differentiate between individuals or objects, states of things and relations that are brought into play by the statement itself” (91). The subject is related to the statement is a function that varies. The position of the subject is linked to the existence of an operation. The subject may or may not be the author. An enunciative function can operate without an associated domain. It doesn’t work in isolation, but must be related to the field (97). The statement must have a material existence. The materiality of the statement is the “order of the institution” (103). Statements have constancy, and become part of the field of knowledge (105).

Chapter 3: Description of Statements

Chapter 3 focuses more thoroughly on describing statements and analyzing their discursive elements. He first focuses on the vocabulary of the statement. You cannot analyze statements as you would language, but a descriptive model must be used. To define a statement, we must define “”the conditions in which the function that gave a series of signs […] an existence” (108). The hidden elements of statements function according to the enunciative modality (110). There are always gaps in statements prevent certain forms of use of statements. The statement is not visible; it requires a “certain change of viewpoint and attitude to be recognized and examined in itself” (111). The enunciative analysis exposes the obstacle that philosophical discourse opposes on analyses of language: the name and the origin (113). Foucault attempts to establish a possibility for analysis (115). Discursive formations are groups of statements linked at the statement level (115). We must uncover the discursive formation to describe statements (116). To conduct analyses: Mapping the discursive levels reveals the level of the statement and individualizing discursive formation (116).The regularity of a statement is defined by the discursive formation (116). Discourse, then, is “”a group of statements in so far as they belong to the same discursive formation” and is “made up of a limited number of statements for which a group of conditions of existence can be defined (117). So, discursive practice is “the body of anonymous, historical rules, always determined in the time and space that have defined a given period, and for a given social, economic, geographical, or linguistic area, the conditions of operation of the enunciative function” (117).

Chapter 4: Rarity, Exteriority, and Acculumation

In Chapter Four Foucault focuses on describing the ways in which statements are rare, exterior, and how the accumulate. The law of rarity of statements and discursive formations involves: 1) “everything is never said” (118), 2) Study the limits of what is not said to see how some statements emerge and others don’t, 3) analyze statements as always in their own place, and 4) statements are not infinite but are rare, collected in unifying totalities, and the meanings in them are multiplied (120). Analysis of discursive formations requires the weighing of the ‘value’ of statements. The analysis treats them as “the systematic form of exteriority” (120). The “initiating subjectivity” “always lags behind manifest history” and is part of a “more fundamental history, closer to the origin” (121). Enunciative analysis attempts to free itself, and analysis involves: 1) the presupposition that “it is accepted, in its empirical modesty, as the locus of particular events, regularities, relationships, modifications and systematic transformations” (121), 20 That the domain refers to “an anonymous field whose configuration defines the possible position of speaking subjects, 3) the field of statements does not obey the temporality of the consciousness as its necessary model (122). The function of analysis is “to follow awaken the [texts] from their present sleep, and, by reciting the marks still eligible (122). Remamnence, additivity, and recurrence are all taken into account. We must avoid the idea that discourses “return,” but we must examine statements as they have accumulated (125). The description of statements is a fragmented, incomplete meaning. (Like computer networks?)

Chapter 5: The Historical a priori and the Archive

Chapter 5 of the text discusses the relationship of positivity to discourse. Positivity “characterizes its unity throughout time” beyond individual texts, and all texts/voices “communicate by the form of positivity of their discourse (126-127). Positivity allows for “historical a priori”- an a priori “that is not a condition of validity for judgments, but a condition of reality for statements” (127). It involves the history of things that have been said (127). The historical a priori is concerned with “different types of positivity” and “divided up by distinct discursive formations” (128). Historical a priors involve “density of discursive practices, systems that establish statements as events, […] and events, and this system of statements is the archive (128). The archive, as the “root of the statement event” “defines the system of its enunciability” (128). It is also the system of the statement things’ functioning (128). The archive is the “general system of the formation and transformation of statements” (130). It cannot be described in totality, but must be it emerges in fragments and levels (130).

IV: Archaeological Description

Chapter 1: Archaeology and the History of Ideas

The first chapter of this section seems to focus on the ways in which the archaeological analysis that Foucault has been describing can be applied. He wasn’t to differentiate his archaeological analysis from the history of ideas. He claims that the history of ideas is “the discipline of fluctuating language (languages), of shapeless works, of unrelated themes. The analysis of opinions rather than of knowledge, of errors rather than of truth, of types of mentality rather than forms of thought” (137). It is also a boundary-crossing practices that deals with disciplines from the outside (137). The primary ways in which archaeological analysis differs from the history of ideas are: 1) archaeology focuses on the discourses themselves rather than on the “thoughts, representations, images, themes, preoccupations that are concealed or revealed in discourse; 2) archaeology attempts to define discourses in their specificity, to show the set of rules as irreducible, to follow discourses’ ridges (139); 3) the aeurve is not a relevant division, and it defines the rules for discursive practices of aeurves (139); it does not try to repeat what has already been said; it is a rewriting-a “preserved form of exteriority”; it is “the systematic description of a discourse-object” (140).

Chapter 2: The Original and the Regular

The history of ideas deals with the traditional or original (old/new). The history of ideas does not examine these concepts in the same way. To examine the traditional, the history of ideas looks at inventions, transformations, and changes, while the original “reveals history as inertia and weight, as a slow accumulation of the past;” statements are “treated by weight and in accordance with what they have in common”. The are neutralized and their importance (whether of author, place, time) are diminished (141). The extent of these neutralized ideas must be measured for continuity (141-142). Conflicts between old and new are described (142). By contrast, “archaeological description is concerned with those discursive practices to which the facts of succession must be referred if one is to establish them in an unsystematic and naïve way (144). Originality is not relevant. It attempts to “establish the regularity of statements” (144). Archaeological analysis “designates, for every verbal performance […] the set of conditions in which the enunciative unction operates, and which guarantees and defines existence” (144). Regularity “specifies and effective field of appearance” (144). The attempt is to “uncover the regularity of a discursive practice” (145). The field of statements that is studies is not inert, but is active throughout (145). Foucault suggests that the analysis of discursive regularities includes: 1) statements characterized by forms of regularity, but also by disconnections (145). 2) “interior hierarchies within enunciative regularities” (146). This involves a tree of enunciative derivation: “at its base are the statements that put into operation rules of formation in their most extended form; at its summit, and after a number of branching, are the statements that put into operation the same regularity, but one more delicately articulated, more clearly delimited and localized in its extension” (147). Archaeology operates as a tree of derivation of discourse (147). At it’s root are governing statements, and at the end are “discoveries” (147). Archaeological has it’s own enunciative homogeneity with temporal articulations (148).

Chapter 3: Contradictions

The history of ideas sees coherence in discourse, and contradictions are to be overcome (149). By contrast, archaeological analysis does not attempt to overcome contradictions or view them as secretive principles (151). They are to be described for themselves. Archaeology attempts to show how two share common origins. Contradictions themselves are studied. This is done by looking at different types of contradictions, different levels of contradictions, and the functions of contradictions (153-154). Contradictions are important because “A discursive formation is not, therefore, an ideal continuous, smooth text that runs beneath the multiplicity of contradictions;” rather, it is “a space of multiple dissentions; a set of different oppositions whose levels and roles must be described” (155).

Chapter 4: The Comparative Facts

Archaeological analysis “compares discursive formations by opposing them to one another in the simultaneity in which they were presented, distinguish them from those that do not belong to the same time-scale, relate them, on their basis of specificity, to the non-discursive practices that surround them and serve as a general element for them” (157). Comparisons in archaeological analysis are different than others because: 1) they are limited and regional, 2) they attempt to uncover “the play of analogies and differences as they appear at the level of rules of formation” (160), and they reveal “relations between discursive formations and non-discursive domains” (162). What the archaeological description of discourses attempts “to discover that whole domain of institutions, economic processes, and social relations on which a discursive formation can be articulated; it tries to show how the autonomy of discourse and its specificity nevertheless do not give it the status of pure ideality and total historical independence; what it wishes to uncover is the particular level in which history can give place to definite types of discourse, which have their own type of historicity, and which are related to a whole set of various historicities (165).

Chapter 5: Change and Transformations

The fifth chapter of the text discusses change and transformations. Discourse is “ a discontinuous atemporality” that is “immobilized in fragments”(166). Archaeological analysis is a “suspension of temporal successions” because rules of discourse can be “found in statements or groups of statements in widely separated circles” (167). Archaeology defines the rules of formation for a group of statements and do not all have the same level of generality (168). Archaeology “is much more willing than the history of ideas to speak of discontinuities, ruptures, gaps, entirely new forms of positivity, and of sudden redistributions (169). Archaeology does not attempt to overcome differences, but to analyze them. Archaeology: 1) distinguishes several possible levels of events within the very density of discourse; 2) to analyze changes, “We must define precisely what these changes consist of: that is, substitute for an undifferentiated reference of change[…] the analysis of transformation (172); 3) “to say that one discursive formation is substituted for another […] is to say that general transformations of relations has occurred” and “that statements are governed by new rules of formation” (173); 4) archaeology attempts to “establish, between so many different changes, analogies and differences, hierarchies, complementarities, coincidences, and shifts” (175).

Chapter 6: Science and Knowledge

This chapter focuses on the relation between archeology and the analysis of sciences (178). Discursive formations can be identified as neither sciences or as scientific disciplines (181). “Discursive practice does not coincide with the scientific development that it may give rise to […] The sciences […] appear in the element of a discursive formation and against the background of knowledge” (184). Science does not adopt all of the knowledge that led to its current stat. “Science […] is localized in a field of knowledge and plays a role in it” (184). Foucault says that “it is possible to describe several distinct emergences of a discursive formation” (186), which Foucault details. These include the thresholds of formalization, scientificity, and epistemologization (187). There are several types of history of the sciences that are possible due to the multiple thresholds (189). Foucault concludes the chapter by claiming that archaeology is not solely useful in the analysis of scientific discourse, but in the description of knowledge itself and can be used to explore different types of formations (195).

Part V: Conclusion

The conclusion of the text is structured as dialogue between Foucault himself and a critic of the text and his views on the archaeology of knowledge. Foucault seems to use the conclusion as a way of anticipating and answering future challenges to his theory. The critic claims that discourse is historical and cannot be analyzed outside of its time. Foucault’s response describes the limitations of his claims about subjectivity, but he also claims that he rejects “a uniform model of temporalization” (200). The back and forth focus on misinterpretation, structuralism (which Foucault denies he is practicing), his approach to subjectivity, Foucault’s ability to objectively analyze discourse, and Foucault’s negativity toward other methods.


Associated field – pg. 98 – The “associated field” is a “sentence or series of signs into a statement, and which provides them with a particular context , a specific representative content, forms a complex web. It is made up first of all by the series of other formulations within which the statement appears and forms one element;” “it is made up of all the formulations to which the statement refers;” it “is also made up of all the formulations whose subsequent possibility is determined by the statement, and which may follow the statement as its consequence, its natural successor, or its conversational retort;” and it “is made up of all the formulations whose status the statement shares” (99).

Discourse – pg. 117 – Discourse is “a group of statements in so far as they belong to the same discursive function; it does not form a rhetorical or formal unity, endlessly repeatable, whose appearance or use in history might be indicated” (117).

correlate of the statement – pg. 91 – The correlate of the statement “is a group of domains in which such objects may appear and to which such relations may be assigned” (91).

referential of the statement – pg. 91 – “The referential of the statement forms the place, the condition, the field of emergence, the authority to differentiate between individuals or objects, stats of things and relations that are brought into play by the statement itself; it defines the possibilities of appearance and delimination of that which gives meaning to the sentence, a value of truth to the proposition” (91).


Quotes: Life Cycle of a Statement

In Chapter Two of Part III of the text, Foucault describes the life cycle of the statement within discourse. He says, “the statement, as it emerges in its materiality, appears with a status, enters various networks and various fields of use, is subjected to transferences or modifications, is integrated into operations and strategies in which its identity is maintained or effaced. Thus the statement circulates, is used, disappears, allows or prevents the realization of a desire, serves or resists various interests, participates in challenge and struggle, and becomes a theme of appropriation or rivalry (105). When I read this description of a statement, I was reminded of the discussion of the way in which information is transmitted over a computer network via packets. According to Jonathan Strickland, packets “are parts of a file that range between 1,000 and 1,500 bytes. Packets have headers and footers that tell computers what’s in the packet and how the information fits with other packets to create an entire file. Each packet travels back up the network and down to your computer. Packets don’t necessarily all take the same path — they’ll generally travel the path of least resistance.” By saving information in the form of a packet, it is recorded in a material form that can circulate on other devices that are connected to the network. That packet becomes part of the network. The packet itself is so small that it does not contain enough information to make sense on its own. A packet operates in the context of other packet of information. the function of the packet, like the function of a statement, is dependent upon the context. When discussing the function of a statement, Foucault says, “the enunciative function–and this shows that it is not simply a construction of previously existing elements–cannot operate an a sentence or proposition in isolation” (97). He also says, “A statement always has borders peopled by other statements (97). A packet’s function, it’s operation, depends upon the way in which “your device arranges them according to the rules of the protocols” (Strickland). Strickland compares this to “putting together a jigsaw puzzle”.

Question: What are the commonalities between Foucault’s discussion of the original and the regular and Biesecker’s discussion of the origin of texts?

In The Archaeology of Knowledge, Foucault explores an approach to discourse analysis that he describes as and archeological approach, while Biesecker’s “Rethinking the Rhetorical Situation” explores rhetorical analysis through the use of deconstruction, which “allows us to take seriously the rhetoricity  of discursive practices” (120). Both author’s discuss the concept of the origin of discourse. While the use of the term “original” in the title of Foucualt’s chapter might imply “origin,” here it refers to a unique interruption or discontinuity in tradition of the discourse. The “regular” is the status quo of the discourse, while the original is a unique interruption. Foucault says that “a group of statements is characterized, then, by a certain form of regularity, without it being either necessary or possible to distinguish between what is new and what is not” (145). For Foucault, discourses are organized with a wide base representing the rules of that discourse, while derivations from the strict rules that have defined that particular discourse are narrow branches at the top. Foucault call this the “tree of enunciative derivation” (147). He describes the more unique branchings as ” the statements that put into operation the same regularity [as the base rules], but one more delicately articulated, more clearly delimited and localized in its extension” (147). Biesecker includes a similar concept, borrowed from Derrida, called différance (120). Différance is “the way in which all texts are inhabited by an internally  divided non-originary ‘origin'”. While Foucault’s “tree of enunciative derivation” seems to allow for differences between texts that are part of the same discourse co-exist,  Biesecker’s description of the way in which “The divisiveness of that ‘originating’ moment is, so to speak, covered over, or, as I put it earlier, finessed into a unity by the writing and the speaking” (120). “In fact,” she says, “the finessing of the non-identical into an identity is, as we noted above, precisely the activity that makes signification happen” (120). This glossing over of the differences or the divisiveness in discourse is reminiscent of Foucault’s discussion of the approach of the history of ideas to contradictions. Foucault says that “discourse is perpetually undermined from within by the contradiction of their [men’s] desires, the influences that they are subjected to, or the conditions in which they live; but to admit that if they speak , and if they speak among themselves, it is rather to overcome these contradictions, and to find the point from which they will be able to be mastered” (149). In this way, the attempt to solve the problem of contradictions in a discourse seem to serve to, as Biesecker said, shape the non-identical into an identical discourse, serving to solve the problem of discontinuity in the history of ideas.

Relation of Text to Course Objectives

It seems to me that Foucault’s The Archaeology of Knowledge seems to help meet the course objectives in several ways.

Objective #1: Describe and analyze different elements of “networks” as defined in different theories; including (but not limited to): node, connection, agency, circumscription…

It seems to me that the text helps meet the first course objective in that Foucault’s text envisions the development of discourse, of the development of knowledge, as a network. For example, the statement may be representative of the node. Because “A statement always has borders people by others statements,” it is akin to a node in a network. The other nodes (statements) are vital in order for that statement to make sense.

Course Objective #5: To articulate a theoretical framework for describing a methodology.

The entirety of the text seems to be focused on developing a theoretical framework for describing a method for looking a the history of discourse development.

Works Cited

Biesecker, Barbara A. “Rethinking The Rhetorical Situation From Within The Thematic Of ‘Différance’.” Philosophy & Rhetoric 2 (1989): 110. JSTOR Arts & Sciences VIII. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.

Eugene. “Foucault on Obscurantism: ‘They Made Me Do It.‘” Critical Theory. N.p. 11 July 2013.

Foucault, Michel, Alan Sheridan, and Michel Foucault. The Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Pantheon Books, 1972. Print.

Strickland, Jonathan. “Packet, Packet, Who’s Got the Packet?” N. p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.

ENGL 894: Reading Notes Week 1

Michel Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language

The Archaeology of Knowledge. “Michel Foucault: The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969-) [FR, ES, IT, EN, PT, AR, SR, TR, CZ, RU] — Incunabula: Ong’s Hat.”

Outline Summary with Quotes

Part I: The Introduction

In this very complex introduction to the Archaeology of Knowledge Foucault discusses two approaches to history: 1) an approach that looks for the continuities and linear successions in history and 2) an approach that looks for the disruptions or discontinuities in history. Foucault discusses some of the many ways that the interruptions may occur: epistemological acts and thresholds, displacements and transformations, recurrent redistributions that reveals several pasts or connections, architectonic unities that occur within systems, and theoretical transformations (4-5). For those who study the discontinuities, the problem of history is not that it is linear but that “it includes “transformations that serve as new foundations, the rebuilding of foundations” (5).

According to Foucault, the linear theory of history that focuses on continuities studies the document as evidence, but the vision of history as a series of discontinuities studies the document itself to examine “unities, totalities, series, relations” (7). It seems that what Foucault is suggesting is that in our text-based society, the document has the ability to shape history rather than simply record it as it happened. The discourse evident in documents may act on history rather than merely act as a memory.

Foucault identifies several aspects of the new approach to history:

  1. “The proliferation of discontinuities in the history of ideas” and “The problem now is to constitute series” (7).
  2. “the notion of discontinuity assumes a major role in the historical disciplines” (8).
  3. “the theme and the possibility of total history begin to disappear, and we see the emergence of […] general history” (9).
  4. “the new history is confronted by a number of methodological problems”

Foucault says these problems in the field of history are important because 1) we see how the field has changed and 2) the problems in the field are similar to those in other fields (11).

The concept of the subject, the human consciousness, is very important to the field of history because it is the “founding function” of continuous history (12). Foucault suggests that there is a reluctance to “conceiving of difference, to describe separation and dispersions, to dissociating the reassuring form of the identical” because “we were afraid to conceive of the other in our won time of thoughts” (12).

Foucault closes the introduction by discussing his aims, including:

  1. Understanding transformations in the field of history
  2. To describe a method of historical analysis

Part II: The Discursive Regularities

While in the introduction, Foucault gives a broad overview of his theory regarding the emerging transformations in the field of history, in Part II of the text Foucault describes his theory of historical analysis.

Chapter I: The Unities of Discourse

Foucault begins the chapter by identifying the theoretical problems of historical analysis: “discontinuity, rupture, rupture, threshold, limit, series, and transformation” (21), but in order to examine these problems, Foucault says that we must rid ourselves of the notions of tradition, influence, development, evolution, spirit, familiar divisions and groupings, the book, and the oeuvre (21-23). The chapter details the problems with each of these notions and the ways in which discontinuity counters many of these notions. Foucault says that “The frontiers of a book are never clear-cut: beyond the title, the first lines, and the last full stop, beyond its internal configuration and its autonomous form, it is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network” (23). Books and collections of works do not stand on their own. They are all part of a larger conversation.

Foucault feels that it is important to recognize that there is no such thing as a sudden interruption, and that “everything that is formulated in discourse was already articulated in that semi-silence that precedes it” (25). The “’not said’ is a hollow that undermines from within all that is said” (25).

Foucault explains that forms of continuity “are always the result of a construction the rules of which must be known, and the justification of which must be scrutinized” (25).

If we analyze in such a way as to avoid a focus on continuities and to recognize the disruptions, we should examine the totality of all effective statements (whether spoken or written), in their dispersions as events and in the occurrence that is proper to them;” to create a “pure description of discursive events” (27). In order to do this, Foucault says “we must grasp the statement in the exact specificity of its occurrence; determine its condition of existence, fix at least its limits, establish its correlations with other statements that it may be connected with, and show what other forms of statements it includes” (28).

Chapter 2: Discursive Formations

As the chapter title suggests, this chapter focuses on how discourse is formed. Foucault is concerned with relations “between the statements that have left in their provisional, visible grouping” (31).

Foucault makes a series of hypotheses regarding the development of discourse:

  1. “statements different in form, and dispersed in time, form a group if they refer to one and the same object” (32).
  2. The form of statements and their type of connections.
  3. Is it possible to establish groups of statements by determining the system of concepts involved? (34)
  4. The identity and persistence of themes. (35).

All hypotheses failed, so Foucault decided to turn to “describing these dispersions themselves; of discovering whether, between these elements, which are certainly not organized as a progressively deductive structure […] one cannot discern a regularity: an order in their successive appearance, correlations in their simultaneity, assignable positions in a common space, a reciprocal functioning, linked and hierarchized transformations (37). We are looking for a discursive formation (38).

Chapter 3: The Formation of Objects

In the third chapter, Foucault focuses on how objects are formed. To examine how objects form, Fiucault suggests that we:

  1. “map the first surfaces of their emergence” (41).
  2. “describe the authorities of delimitation” (41).
  3. “analyze the grids of specification” (42).

These approaches are limited; however, because they do not provide objects and there are “several planes of differentiation in which the objects of discourse may appear” (43).

Foucault says that a “discursive formation is defined […] if one can establish such a group [a group of relations]; if one can show how any particular object of discourse finds in its place the law of emergence; if one can show that it may give birth simultaneously or successively to mutually exclusive objects, without having to modify itself” (44).

He makes several claims about objects:

  1. There are complex conditions for the formation of an object (44)
  2. Relations do not constitute the object, but enable it to appear (45)
  3. Distinguish types of relations with the object: real/primary, reflexive or secondary, and discursive (45)
  4. Discursive relations are not internal, nor are the external, to the discourse; they are at the limit of discourse (46)

Objects do not remain constant; it is the surfaces on which they appear that remain so (47).

Foucault says that, discursive practices are guided by rules which define the ordering of the objects (49). He defines discourse “as practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak” (49).

Chapter 4: The Formation of Enunciative Modalities

In this brief chapter, Foucault poses a series of questions in order to “discover the law operating behind all these diverse statements, and the place from which they come” (50):

  1. Who is speaking? (50)
  2. Describe the sites of discourse, and the places “from which its legitimate source and point of application)” (51).
  3. The situation of the subject in regards to domains or groups (52).

Foucault concludes by stating that “”discourse is not the majestically unfolding manifestation of a thinking, knowing, speaking subject, but on the contrary, a totality, in which the dispersion of the subject and his discontinuity with himself may be determined” (55).

Chapter 5: The Formation of Concepts

Chapter 5 of the text focus on the formation of concepts. In order to explore the formation of concepts, Foucault says that we must “describe the organization of the field of statements where they appeared and circulated” (56) by:

  1. The organization of an object involves forms of succession, orderings of enunative series (order of inferences, implications, and reasonings; order of descriptions; order of descriptive accounts); types of dependence of statements; and rhetorical schemata (56-57).
  2. It involves forms of coexistence including the field of presence; field of concomitance; and the field of memory (57-58).
  3. Define the procedures of intervention applied to statements. Procedures might include: techniques or rewriting; methods of transcribing; modes of translating; approximation; delimits; transfers; and systemizing (59).

Foucault claims that “what makes it possible to delimit groups of concepts […] is the way in which these different elements are related to one another,” and “it is the group of relations that constitutes a system of conceptual formation” (59-60).

The preconceptual level is important to the development of concepts (60). Foucault defines preconceptual as a combination of attribution, articulation, designation, and derivation and he explains how these elements contribute to the development of concepts (60-61). Foucault also defines the ‘preconceptual’ as the group of rules that operate within history (62). The preconceptual allows for the “discursive regularities and constraints” and “have made possible the heterogeneous multiplicity of concepts” (63).

Chapter 6: The Formation of Strategies

The sixth chapter of the text focuses on the formation of strategies. Foucault himself explains that this is a complex topic into which he cannot go into much detail (64), but he does describe a method of examining the formation of strategies:

  1. “Determine the possible points of diffraction of discourse” (65), including points of incompatibility, points of equivalence, link points of systemization.
  2. “Describe the authorities that guided one’s choice” (66).
  3. The “determination of theoretical choices” is made by the function of the discourse “in a field of non-discursive practices”; the rules and processes of appropriation; and possible positions of desire in relation to discourse (68).

Chapter 7: Remarks and Consequences

The seventh chapter seems to focus primarily on revisiting the concepts covered in the first six chapters and on revisiting some important ideas from the first chapters. He attempts, in this brief chapter, to answer the following questions: “Can one really speak of unities? Is the re-division that I am proposing capable of individualizing wholes? And what is the nature of the unity thus discovered or constructed?” (71)

Foucault says a dispersion can be described in its uniqueness if one is able to determine the specific rules in accordance with which its objects, statements, concepts, and theoretical options have been formed” (72).

Foucault says that:

  1. “A system of formation does not only mean the juxtaposition, coexistence, or interaction of heterogeneous elements […] but also the relation that is established between them—and in a well determined form—by discursive practice” (72).
  2. Systems of formation are not static and are not imposed from the outside, but there are internal to the discourse, and the system may change or morph over time (73-74).
  3. “Systems of formation” are not the final stage of discourse; analysis is anterior to the completed construction (75).

Application of Foucault’s Theory to other Texts we Read

How can put the discussion of the rhetorical situation from last week’s texts in conversation with Foucault?

As I was reading Foucault, I was reminded of Vatz’s critique of Bitzer’s theory of the rhetorical situation. Bizter claims that “the presence of rhetorical discourse obviously indicates the presence of a rhetorical situation” (PAGE). Vatz counters this by saying, “if we view the communication of an event as a choice, interpretation, and translation, the rhetor’s responsibility is of supreme concern” (158). He also says that, “To view rhetoric as a creation of reality or salience rather than a reflector of reality clearly increases the rhetor’s moral responsibility” (158). This critique of Bitzer’s claim that discourse proves that there is indeed a rhetorical situation calls to mind Foucault’s discussion of the role of silence in discourse. Foucault uses the terms “already-said,” “never-said,” “not said”. For Bitzer, it would seem that the “already-said” is that which has already been stated in rhetorical discourse, while Foucault claims that the ‘already-said’ “is not merely a phrase that has already been spoken, or a text that has already been written, but a ‘never-said’, an incorporeal discourse, a voice as silent as a breath, a writing that is merely the hollow of its own mark. It is supposed therefore that everything that is formulated in discourse was already articulated in that semi-silence that precedes it, which continues to run obstinately beneath it, but which covers and silences” (25). Vatz seems to be suggesting that it is the decision of the rhetor to bring a thought to light, to say what has so far been left unsaid (the not-said) that creates the rhetorical situation. It seems, then, that the rhetorical situation is much more complex than Bizter suggests. Bitzer says that “rhetorical discourse comes into existence as a response to a situation, in the same sense that an answer comes into existence in response to a question, or a solution in response to a problem” (5). In light of Foucault’s discussion of the meaningful semi-silences and the “not-saids” in discourse, this definition of rhetorical discourse seems simplistic. Bitzer also says that, “a rhetorical situation must exist as a necessary condition of rhetorical discourse, just as a question must exist as a necessary condition of an answer” (5). This too seems simplistic, because it overlooks the possibilities of the meaningful silences. Can the “not-saids” and the silences precede rhetorical situation? Could it be that a rhetorical discourse brings about a rhetorical situation? Vatz suggests that it is the rhetor, not the reality, who interprets the rhetorical situation and contributes to discourse.

Connection to Course Outcomes

“Describe and analyze different elements of “networks” as defined in different theories; including (but not limited to): node, connection, agency, circumscription,…”

I was a bit surprised to come across the term “node” fairly early in the reading of the text. Foucault uses the term early in the text when he describes individual texts as “a node within a network” (23). He says, “The frontiers of a book are never clear-cut: beyond the title, the first lines, and the last full stop, beyond the internal configuration and its autonomous form, it is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network” (23). The statement made the connection between the concept of a network and the concept of discourse more clearly than I had so far imagined myself. While the text was complex and dense, the focus on the formation of discourse was very helpful in helping to see the ways in which discourse operates within a network.

Question about the Text

The connections between the object and the network are illuminated in Chapter 3 when Foucault explains that the “discursive formation” of a rhetorical object when “a group of relations established between authorities of emergence, delimitation, and specification” (44). Does this mean that an object of rhetorical study because an object because it is agreed upon by the relationships between those who have an interest in the object? It would seem so. Foucault says that discursive relations “determine the group of relations that discourse must establish in order to speak of this or that object, in order to deal with them, name them, analyse them, classify them, explain them etc…” (46). Again I am reminded of Bitzer’s approach to the rhetorical situation. Would Bitzer believe the object precedes the rhetorical relations–that the relations are formed around the object or a shared interest in the object, or would he believe that the object is defined by the relations between the rhetors who share an interest in the object? For myself, after reading Vatz and Foucault, I am inclined to believe that the object is interpreted by the rhetoricians involved in the study of that object.

Location/Mapping of Key Ideas from the Text

Continuous history vs. interruptions and discontinuities (4-5)

Analysis of the document as the primary task (6-7)

Total history vs. general history (9-10)

Books vs. discourse (23)

Silence; “already said”’ “never-said;” “not-said” (25)

How discourse is formed (31-36)

Types of relations (45)

Forms of coexistence (57)

Procedures of intervention (58-59)

Works Cited

Bitzer, Lloyd F. “The Rhetorical Situation.” Philosophy & Rhetoric (1992): 1. JSTOR Arts & Sciences VIII. Web. 20 Jan. 2014.

Foucault, Michel, Alan Sheridan, and Michel Foucault. The Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Pantheon Books, 1972. Print.

“Michel Foucault: The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969-) [FR, ES, IT, EN, PT, AR, SR, TR, CZ, RU] — Incunabula: Ong’s Hat.” Web. 21 Jan. 2014.

Vatz, Richard E. “The Myth Of The Rhetorical Situation.” Philosophy & Rhetoric 6.3 (1973): 154-161. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 20 Jan. 2014.