December 24, 1980

"I wish I could have slipped surreptitiously into this discourse which I must present today, and into the ones I shall have to give here, perhaps for many years to come. I should have preferred to be enveloped by speech, and carried away well beyond all possible beginnings, rather than have to begin it myself. I should have preferred to become aware that a nameless voice was already speaking long before me, so that I should only have needed to join in, to continue the sentence it had started and lodge myself, without really being noticed, in its interstices, as if it had signaled to me by pausing, for an instant, in suspense. Thus there would be no beginning, and instead of being the one from whom discourse proceeded, I should be at the mercy of its chance unfolding, a slender gap, the point of its possible disappearance." 
-- "The Order of Discourse," Inaugural Lecture at the Collège de France, given 2 December 1970

Seminar Introduction

The one-hour recording included here is the final presentation in the National Public Radio series, A Question of Place: Sound Portraits of 20th Century Humanists, a 13-part series produced by National Public Radio with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It was the brainchild of Robert Montiegel at NPR and was written by Robert Malesky.

A Question of Place is one of NPR’s classic productions from its early years and received many accolades. It was experimental, using the full range of audio production techniques to tell a complex story in sound. Beginning on October 13, 1980 with a portrait of Sigmund Freud, the subjects ranged from such artists as James Joyce, Bertolt Brecht and William Faulkner to such thinkers and activists as Noam Chomsky, Claude Levi-Strauss, W.E.B. DuBois, Michel Foucault, Simone de Beauvoir and Bertrand Russell.

The treatment was an interesting blend of education and show business, with dramatic episodes frequently blending into narration and analysis of the subjects' work and many noteworthy performances by people not particularly associated with radio: Tennesee Williams portraying Faulkner; Theodore Bikel playing a many-faceted role as Stravinsky; Viveca Lindfors as Simone de Beauvoir; Robert Frost reading Robert Frost; and John Houseman as Bertrand Russell.

We wish to express our gratitude to NPR for granting permission to make this recording available, and to Robert Malesky for providing key resources to make this page possible.

English Translation


This recording, which aired a decade after Foucault's inaugural lecture at the Collège de France, offers an overview of the successive steps in Foucault's writing, from Madness and Civilization to the first volume of the History of Sexuality, titled La Volonté de savoir.

Michel Foucault, A Question of Place

Transcript forthcoming

French Transcript




Lectures in this Seminar

Lecture Date: December 24, 1980