Stephen Katz’s Seminar on Foucault

I’m about two hours commute from OISE, and I haven’t made the trek into campus this week because it’s spring break, and I don’t have to go in for any meetings. Besides, I have a lot of thesis research to work on. Still, I’m a social person, and exchanging emails with other students and faculty doesn’t always stave off the feeling of utter isolation. My husband Will’s graduate experience at Trent University’s Frost Centre exacerbates my sense of seclusion. His program is such a small, inclusive community compared to mine.

Fortunately, they are a warm and friendly bunch, one that invites disconsolate grad students like me to seminars like Stephen Katz’s on Foucault, which I found thoroughly engaging. Stephen is wickedly funny, which made his lecture based on his chapter on Foucault in Profiles in Contemporary Social Theory accessible, rather than abtruse.

Pedagogically, I prioritize active student participation in a graduate seminar; however, I enjoyed passively listening, and I think I learned a lot. I was actively wrestling with how I could use Foucault’s work as a “theoretical toolbox” to look at prosaic problems in an intellectual way that defies political affiliations. Thus, I scribbed in my research journal the ways in which Foucauldian idea of discontinuity turns the idea of systematic scientific progress upside down on its head, how emergence can mean that things may come from where you don’t expect them to and you can’t control it, etc.

At the end of the seminar (the second installment to be held next week), he encouraged all of us to email him so we could continue talking about how Foucault might relate to our own research. This impressed me. I have no reason to complain, my committee members are really supportive and respond right away to my emails, but they are usually so busy, I’d feel guilty asking them to give up four hours of their time to hold seminars like these.


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