published on July 19, 2018
Rebecca A. Longtin
The Visual Language of Foucault’s Archaeological Method
Scholars have thoroughly discussed the visual aspects of Foucault’s archaeological and genealogical methods, as well as his own emphasis on how sight functions and what contexts and conditions shape how we see and what we can see. Yet while some of the images and visual devices he uses are frequently discussed, like Las Meninas and the panopticon, his diagrams in The Order of Things have received little attention. Why does Foucault diagram historical ways of thinking? What are we supposed to see and understand through these diagrams? To examine the role of the diagram in Foucault’s archaeological method, this paper provides a close reading of how the classical quadrilateral visualizes the structure, function, content, principles, and underlying assumptions of language and thought. In analyzing the diagram as a way for visualizing history, this paper demonstrates how Foucault enacts a new visual language that emphasizes the contingency of thought.