Clare O’Farrell on Foucault

There are a lot of introductions to the work of Michel Foucault but none better than Clare O’Farrell’s Michel Foucault published in 2005 (Sage).

I’m not quite sure how she does it, but she covers all periods of Foucault’s work in rich detail, provides an extensive and remarkably useful annotated listing of key concepts (worth the price of the book alone), a list of websites, a chronology, and a long bibliography–all in 184 pages.
O’Farrell is a Lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology and a well known Foucault scholar (she was founding editor of the journal Foucault Studies). The book is accessible and written very well, with an obvious sympathy toward but not uncritical acceptance of Foucault’s work.

The main reason the book is so good is straightforward: she has read pretty much all Foucault’s work and thought about it. This might seem obvious, but it’s very hard to do. Most people have their preferences for one or another area of his work. Then again, he was very prolific so knowing about all his work is a true task of commitment and scholarship. Then to present that mass of information clearly and vitally is another skill that not everybody possesses.

This book certainly sets new standards for introductory books and one that I know I will refer to over and over again.


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