CONTRIBUTOR: Frankel, Matthew [faculty advisor, Department of English] DATE: 2006 SUBJECT: Literature FORMAT: Microsoft Word document, 83,315 bytes 2006 URI Senior Honors Project


Foucault, Self Writing, Hupomnemata


Michel Foucault tells us about a form of self writing called the hupomnemata in an essay titled Self Writing in his book Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth. In its simplest definition, the hupomnemata is a notebook, or journal of sorts for the Ancient Greeks. However, unlike the intimate, confessional journals later found in Christian literature, the hupomnemata does not intend “to pursue the unspeakable, nor to reveal the hidden, nor to say the unsaid, but on the contrary to capture the already said, to collect what one has managed to hear or read, and for a purpose that is nothing less than the shaping of the self” (Ethics 210-211). The hupomnemata is not an art object that is distinct and separate from the writer, “they must form part of ourselves: in short, the soul must make them not merely its own but itself” (Ethics 210). The creation of the hupomnemata is the creation of the self, or as Foucault claims, the hupomnemata is a tool for the Greeks concept of “epimeleia heautou,” or “care of the self.” It is not a detached documentary, the hupomnemata makes the writer just as surely as the writer makes the hupomnemata. In this project, I will examine the differences between the hupomnemata, and modern forms of self writing. I will also examine the relationship between Foucault’s work on the hupomnemata and his work on the concept of parrhesia, or fearless speech, and his ideas about the nature of authorship. Following this analysis, I will create my own piece of writing which, in the spirit of the hupomnemata, attempts to enable me to “form an identity through which a whole spiritual genealogy can be read” (Ethics 214).