The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception

The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception

The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception

The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception

Synopsis

In this remarkable book Michel Foucault, one of the most influential thinkers of recent times, calls us to look critically at specific historical events in order to uncover new layers of significance. In doing so, he challenges our assumptions not only about history, but also about the nature of language and reason, even of truth. By analysing the methods of observation that underpinned the origins of modern medical techniques, Foucault is able to identify 'that opening up of the concrete individual, for the first time in Western history, to the language of rationality, that major event in the relationship of man to himself and of language to things.' The scope of such an undertaking is vast, but it is Foucault's skill that, by means of his uniquely engaging narrative style, his penetrating gaze is able to confront our own. After reading his words our perceptions are never quite the same again.

Excerpt

One of the characteristics of Foucault’s language is his repeated use of certain key words. Many of these present no difficulty to the translator. Others, however, have no normal equivalent. In such cases, it is generally preferable to use a single unusual word rather than a number of familiar ones. When Foucault speaks of la clinique, he is thinking of both clinical medicine and the teaching hospital. So if one wishes to retain the unity of the concept, one is obliged to use the rather odd-sounding ‘clinic’. Similarly, I have used the unusual ‘gaze’ for the common ‘regard’, except in the book’s subtitle, where I have made a concession to the unprepared reader.

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