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Buffy and the role of the subject

AnthonyCordova

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Hi everyone. I have been reading and working on the philosopher Michel Foucault for some time, and I think I am getting closer to an idea of applying some Foucauldian themes to our favorite show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

To explain Foucault's entire work on the subject would be beyond my ability to do and would also go far beyond the scope of the article I wish to write. What I can say of Foucault on this topic (for those unfamiliar with his thinking) is that Foucault, beginning in the late 1970's, was deeply preoccupied with the history of the subject, and how the practices employed with regard to one's relationship to one's own subjectivity (defined by Foucault as "practices of the care of the self") in the western world became a regulative procedure that both normalized the subject for participation in social practices, and also defined for the subject a relationship with regard to truth, an episteme, which for Foucault implied many deep layers of power relationships, which in the case of the western world, opened up a method for society that kept the subject in a clearly defined space, one that placed the subject in a role of submission towards the Other but also by producing productive aspects of power to encourage the subject's continual commitment to such defining roles of subjectivity.

So what does any of this have to do with Buffy? I think what I would like to do is reconstruct different elements of the show, and especially the various characters, and ask both 1.) what is the nature of their subjectivity presented to the audience, and 2.) show how the internal logic and program of the show encourages or discourages the various characters in their own project of growth and self-fulfillment. So for example the narrative with regard to the character of Buffy exhibits many power relations (e.g. the watcher's council and the discourse on the nature of the slayer that reaches out to her and gives definition to her vocation) whose effect is to both define for her what positive relations she can have towards her own sense of self, i.e. her subjectivity, as well as define for her what passes for proper truth with regard to her own orientation towards the world at large. In what sense can it be said that Angel or Buffy's characters are in full possession of their own self-determination? Can we clearly delimit the extent to which an outside episteme is enforced on their subjectivity and thus over-determines it? And in broad strokes, in the big picture, what can we say ends up being the consequence of all of this for each character, what would such an analysis of all of this have to say about the nature of subjectivity for the show, and in what way does the show demonstrate itself to be a product of the age, in the ways it either reinforces or resists such broad cultural influences?

So what I am putting forward here could be called an abstract for what I intend to write at some point next year. I have degrees in philosophy, but this essay is purely a personal project, part of a larger project that I hope to finish that will employ a variety of Foucauldian techniques in a series of articles/essays that I hope might contribute in the long term to what I perceive as an absence in Buffy Studies on the topic of Foucault and what his thought might offer in terms of an augmentation of our appreciation of these two shows (BtVS and AtS).

Anyway, if there is a large enough interest, I'd like to post my articles here in this forum. Thoughts on any of this would be very welcome. Since I fear that this part of the forums might be overlooked or unread, I was in particular hoping to hear what @TriBel might have to add to all of this.

Thanks everyone in advance.
 

AnthonyCordova

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Sineya
Also, I forgot to add that if anyone has come across similar articles out there dealing with similar themes, I would greatly appreciate it if you could point them out to me. Thanks!
 

EarthLogic

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AnthonyCordova
AnthonyCordova
Thank you!

The Bronze

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That went right over my head but you should definitely post it here for us to read :)
 
Grace
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Hear, hear!

TriBel

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I'd be interested in reading it. I'm not a Foucauldian in the purist sense (I followed a more Marxist/Psychoanalytic route) but, if I'm honest, I'm not anything in a purist sense. In addition, my main focus has been on Spike and the "darker seasons" (5 onwards) so I'm not sure my voice will carry much weight with regard to the earlier seasons. I'm a bit busy at the moment so I'll comment on your post later if that's okay?

I had a quick look at what's available and, as you've identified, there's a dearth of writings informed by Foucault so obviously a gap to be filled. This surprises me given the theme of S7 but probably indicates the extent to which Foucault's been incorporated into the work of later theorists (Judith Butler springs to mind particularly in relation to Spike).

I've read the two articles @EarthLogic mentions and I'm sure you'll find them useful. There's a section in Kevin Durand (Ed) Buffy meets the Academy (2009) called Power and the Buffy Canon. It consists of 6 chapters by different academics but none of them cite Foucault. Nevertheless, it might be useful if you can reconceptualise some of their ideas. Rhonda Wilcox cites The History of Sexuality in Why Buffy Matters (to my mind, Wilcox is the best writer on BtVS).

I've had a look at the bibliographies in the following (they were on the shelves at home): Gregory Stevenson, Televised Morality: The case of BtVS / Joy Davidson (Ed), The Psychology of Joss Whedon (unauthorized) / Wilcox and Laverty (Eds), Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in BtVS / Ros Kaverney (Ed), Reading the Vampire Slayer / Anne Billson, BtVS (Bfi) / Stacey Abbott, Reading Angel / Lynne Edwards et.al , Buffy Goes Dark but there was no reference to Foucault.

If I get a chance, I'll check the library shelves at work. I had a quick look through the university database but I need to refine my search. Hope this helps!
 

AnthonyCordova

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@TriBel I don't have easy access to a university library any longer, so thank you. As I said above, I think this will probably take the form of various character analyses. I'll come back and offer more details later
 
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