C343f7b8-4881-44b1-aa75-3ee12916cc91Allen Shelton at Public Books:

For at least three decades, starting in the 1970s, Michel Foucault was a phenomenon nearly comparable to the Beatles, or his predecessor on the academic scene, Claude Lévi-Strauss. In a history of the leather jacket in the New York Times Magazine, Foucault appears like a god alongside Marlon Brando and the Ramones as a marker for the mid-1970s, when he was becoming a worldwide celebrity. I first encountered Foucault in collections of structuralist essays in the stacks of a small Southern college library around that time. Only one other person at the school read those books; a bald French professor named Simpson. His name was always ahead of mine on the checkout card. Unbeknownst to me, Foucault was in New York at the time, as a visiting scholar for the French department at SUNY Buffalo. While he was there he visited the town of Attica, and the prison there. He gave a lecture on Manet at the museum on a Thursday night. He lived in an old hotel half a mile from where I would eventually live. A friend of mine saw him give a lecture at the university. He was dressed in a black velvet suit. The talk was entirely in French. My friend didn’t understand a single word, but he described it as a turning point in his life. There were shockwaves emanating from Foucault. This was before he became an institution and declined into something like an ancient part of Las Vegas; the inevitable result of thousands of dissertations, essays, and books appropriating his voice. Is it possible today to write anything about Foucault that isn’t already empty?

This is the big question the sometimes poet, hypertext novelist, and theorist Michael Joyce’s epistolary novel confronts. The letters are addressed to a ghost-like woman named Gabrielle, and to the historical figures of Foucault’s lover Jean, his mother, and a colleague and mentor.

more here.