Fall 2013 Syllabus

                                                    Tuesday/Thursday 7:00-8:15

Professor Linda Martín Alcoff
Office: 1419 Hunter West
Office Hours: Thursdays 1:30-3:00 and by appointment

Course Description:


    Michel Foucault was one of the most important and influential philosophers of the last half of the 20th century and his prescient diagnosis of neo-liberalism, bio-power, and the security state are more relevant than ever. In general, Foucault’s  work provides a new analysis of the modern forms of social oppression and an original account of the ways in which power circulates through knowledge systems. He offered a serious challenge to the way we conceptualize liberation, freedom, truth, and subjectivity. Foucault was not merely a critic but also an activist with a powerful sense of the open-ended possibilities for social transformation.

This course will provide an extensive analysis of Michel Foucault's works. A major question we will pursue is how to understand his claim that modern societies are characterized less by freedom and autonomy than by discipline and docility. We will also look carefully at his claim that there is a constitutive relationship between knowledge and power. And we will cover in some depth his analysis of sexuality and the construction of sexual identities.

Required books are available at Shakespeare Books on Lexington:

  1. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish.


  1. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction.


  1. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 2: The Use of Pleasure.


  1. The Essential Foucault  edited by Paul Rabinow.


  1. Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France 1978, 1979.


6. There will also be a coursepack of readings.


Course Requirements:

Requirements include: attendance, participation in discussion, two in-class exams, four short 2-3 page papers, one class presentation, final 8-10 page paper, and observing classroom decorum.

    Attendance and participation in discussion is required. It is very important for students to come to class having done the assigned readings in order to understand the lectures and make our discussions fruitful. Students who miss no more than 2 classes during the semester for whatever reason will receive a third higher letter grade at the end of the course, for example, going from a B- to a B or a B+ to an A-.  This will not include the first week of class. (The reasons for absences have no effect on this bonus: the bonus comes only if you miss no more than two classes, for whatever reason).  

    Classroom presentations will be a short summary and analysis of a section of the reading, no more than 10-15 minutes. We will schedule these the first week of class.

    Short papers will be spaced throughout the semester to test your understanding of the reading and will provide an opportunity for you to learn how to put philosophical ideas in your own words and develop philosophical argumentation. The final paper will allow you to cover a particular topic in the course readings in more depth.

    Classroom decorum: Arrive on time. Do not go in and out during class time. Turn off all electronic devices, including cell phones, Ipads, and lap-tops.  If you must eat or drink, do so quietly.

    Final grades will be tabulated as follows: average of short papers 50%; final paper 30%; class presentation 10%; class participation 10%.

Academic Integrity Statement

“Hunter College regards acts of academic dishonesty (e.g. plagiarism, cheating on examinations, obtaining unfair advantage, and falsification of records and official documents) as serious offenses against the values of intellectual honesty. The College is committed to enforcing the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity and will pursue cases of academic dishonesty according to the Hunter College Academic Integrity  Procedures.”

                    Schedule of Readings

Aug 29, Sept 3: Introduction to Foucault’s work

“History of Systems of Thought” (hand out)

Essential Foucault: vii-xxxv; 1-5.


Sept 10, 12: Discipline and Punish Part 1: Torture and Part 2: Punishment

First Short Paper Assignment Handed Out: Due Sept. 19

Sept 17, 19: Discipline and Punish Part 3 Discipline

Sept 24 (STAY LATE): Discipline and Punish Part 4, chapter 2 “Illegalities and Delinquency”

Essential Foucault: 246-258.

Second Short Paper Assignment Handed Out Sept 24; Due Oct. 8


Oct 8, 10:

Joseph Rouse “Power/Knowledge” (Hand-out)

Essential Foucault 18-24, 43-57.


Oct. 17: Selections from The Archaeology of Knowledge (Hand-out)

Oct 22 (STAY LATE): Essential Foucault: 126-144, 180-201.

Third Short Paper Assignment Handed Out Oct 22: Due Oct 29.


Oct 29, 31: History of Sexuality Vol. 1, Part 1, 2, 3.

Nov. 5, 7: History of Sexuality Vol. 1, Part 4, 5.

Nov. 12, 14: The Use of Pleasure Introduction, Part 1, 2.

Hand out from David Halperin, Saint Foucault.

Fourth Short Paper Assignment Handed Out Nov. 14: Due Nov. 21

Nov. 19, 21: The Birth of Biopower    2, 6, 7   

Nov. 26, Dec. 3, 4: The Birth of Biopower 9, 10, 11

Dec. 10, 12: Essential Foucault:  423-442.

Final Paper Due December 18.