Study Guide

Michel Foucault Files

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Before Shmoop went digital, we had the chance to sit down with Mr. Foucault and dig up some dirt. Things got a little confusing, but to make up for it, Michel gave us a page out of his journal, revealing some plans for his next big project. Which, unfortunately, never came to be.

Shmoop: Thanks for chatting, Michel. Love the denim suit, by the way. It's been a while since we've spoken, and you've written about—what?—five books since then? Obviously, you've been busy. What exactly have you been up to, you crazy guy?

Foucault: Eh, bien. Well, I write a lot.

Shmoop: Yes, yes, I just mentioned that. So when you aren't writing, what are you doing? We'd love to hear!

Foucault: [long pause] I lecture.

Shmoop: Well, that sounds great. What kind of topics are you hitting these days?

Foucault: Uh, I've being going full bore on the conundrum of truth-telling and whether we can ever see truth-telling as an activity we undertake, or just as a role we play out.

Shmoop: So, like, a Pinocchio kind of thing?

Foucault: No, not at all, actually. I'm concerned with how truth is revealed in unforeseen ways. Not some wooden puppet's nose growing, which is a clear indication of the lack of truth—some childish Italian idea that denies truth's utter lack of clarity. Gepetto, in fact, produces a false sense of right and wrong. Truth is much more complex than Gepetto allows with that silly nose. And while we're at it, I have a problem with all of the revisions to that story. That so-called Walt Disney is a real fabricator—oh, and Disney itself is an evil institution that uses power to control people in the form of swirling teacups. You get off and vomit not because of the spinning but because your body must purge the institutional domination.

Shmoop: Oh. Um… while we're on the subject, let's talk about California. We're proud of our Sunshine State and love that we can now count you among its population.

Foucault: And one other thing. The real story of Pinocchio doesn't offer any meaningful moral lesson, and the happy ending is just there so viewers can stay away from feeling true, overwhelming despair.

Shmoop: How 'bout that Fisherman's Wharf up in San Fran? Great crabs, right?

Foucault: In the original story, Pinocchio dies a ghastly death—hanged for his many flaws. His punishment is a page out of the 17th-century manual for public execution. Others had to witness his brutal death as a forewarning about their own bad behavior…

Shmoop: Wow! Okay, well we've actually got to run. How about a sneak peek at your next project before you go?

Foucault: I brought a copy just for you.

The Mall of America and the Destruction of the Human Soul

Begin research on the Mall of America aka MOA, Megamall, "The Megamess," "Sprawl of America," "Hugedale," and my favorite: "The Mall" (as though it represents all mallness across time and space. Walter Benjamin would have loved this stuff!)

• Book ticket for Minnesota
• Get floor plan ASAP (the place is 96.4 acres!)
• Pull out old prison blueprints from Discipline and Punish archives
• A-Z layout of mall and prison
• Study walkways and four different zones in the mall: how do they control human movement and bodies themselves? How does the location of escalators "force" human bodies to move all over and be exposed to maximum number of mediocre stores and restaurants (Forever 21, Body Shop, Hooters, Express, etc.)?
Don't forget: these store names are meaningful too (i.e., dominating the human body, erasing identity, dehumanizing, so on and so forth)
• Focus on IKEA: a new addition, and the whole versatile solutions for modern living thing. Just got busted for using slave labor in Eastern Europe. Tie back into the slavery of the body in the mall itself.
• Make big deal about mall as ultramodern institution; slaves to consumption; the gaze of the shopper; CCTV; body vs. identity; slave labor in third-world countries; poor taste (cite Simmel, Veblen, Kant on aesthetics)
• Keep to a max 800 pages. I mean it!
• Add malls to Institutions-I-Hate list, between orphanages and marriage. Should look like this now:

o Prisons
o Asylums
o Hospitals (I call them "clinics," but same)
o Schools
o Factories
o Barracks
o Orphanages
o Malls
o Marriage

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