Archaeology of Knowledge – Unities of Discourse – Foucault

One last precaution must be take to disconnect the unquestioned continuities by which we organize, in advance, the discourse that we are to analyze: we must renounce two linked, but opposite themes. The first involves a wish that it should never be possible to assign, in the order of discourse, the irruption of a real event; that beyond any apparent beginning, this is always a secret origin – so secret and so fundamental that is can never be quite grasped in itself. Thus one is led inevitably, through the naivety of chronologies, towards an ever-receding point that is never itself present in any history; this point os merely its own void; and from that point all beginning can never be more than recommencements or occultation (in one and the same gesture, this and that). To this theme is connected another according to which all manifest discourse is secretly based on an ‘already-said’; and that this ‘already-said’ is not merely a phrase that has already been spoken, or a text that has already been written, but a ‘never-said’, and incorporeal discourse, a voice as silent as a breath, a writing that is merely the hollow of its own mark. It is supposed therefore that everything that is formulated in discourse was already articulated in that semi-silence that precedes it, which continues to run obstinately beneath it, but which it covers and silences. The manifest discourse, therefore, is really no more than the repressive presence of what it does not say; and this ‘not-said’ is a hollow that undermines from within all this is said. This first theme, sees the historical analysis of discourse as the quest for and the repetition if an origin that eludes all historical determination; the second sees it as the interpretation of ‘hearing’ of an ‘already-said’ that is at the same time a ‘not-said’. We must renounce all those themes whose function is to ensure the infinite continuity of discourse and its secret presence to itself in the interplay of a constantly recurring absence. We must be ready to receive every moment of discourse in its sudden irruption; in that punctuality in which it appears, and in that temporal dispersion that enables it to be repeated, known, forgotten, transformed, utterly erased, and hidden, far from all view, in the dust of books. Discourse must not be referred to the distant presence of the origin, but treated as and when it occurs. (pg 27 – 28 The Unities of Discourse)

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