Stuart Elden’s thoughts on a new translation of Surveiller et punir.
Alan Sheridan’s translation of Foucault’s Surveiller et punir as Discipline and Punish is almost forty years old, and it is sometimes said that great works of literature need to be retranslated each generation. (For some examples of this for works of theory, see my post here). Foucault scholarship has advanced quite dramatically in the last forty years. The collected shorter writings, and especially the lecture courses, have given us a new sense of what Foucault was doing. The debates in the secondary literature have moved on too – Sheridan’s Michel Foucault: The Will to Truth was the first book on Foucault in English in 1980. Compare that book to more recent secondary studies and you’ll get a sense of how debates have changed.
Sheridan deserves enormous credit for the work he did, translating several of Foucault’s books and writing that first, important, study of his work. A good many…
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