August 13, 2019

New book looks at Foucault’s time in Claremont

Simeon Wade (left) with Michel Foucault
Photo from the book "Foucault in California" (Heyday Books) of History Professor Simeon Wade (left) with Michel Foucault in 1975 in Claremont.

When famed French philosopher Michel Foucault visited Death Valley in 1975 to expand his consciousness with a carefully organized LSD experience, Simeon Wade was there.

Wade, who taught history at CGU in the 1970s, records his reminiscences in Heyday Books’ Foucault in California: [A True Story―Wherein the Great French Philosopher Drops Acid in the Valley of Death], a book recently reviewed by English Professor Eric Bulson —along with several other books by and about Foucault—in a May issue of the Times Literary Supplement.

Read Bulson’s full review in the Times Literary Supplement here.

Bulson describes how Wade, deeply immersed in Foucault, created a program with curriculum based in his work and invited him to Claremont in the 1970s. The Foucault whom we meet in Wade’s book is a “remarkably affable, if at times shy, human being, self-effacing, generous, witty and engaging,” Bulson writes.

Wade also proves to be very good at painting a portrait of the philosopher using metaphors from that era.  When Foucault dresses in a white turtleneck with mirrored sunglasses to visit Death Valley, for instance, Wade writes that he looked “like the child of Kojak and Elton John.”

Photo of book cover of "Foucault in California"
Claremont served as home base for the French philosopher’s California explorations.

Bulson’s review is a helpful guide to students of Foucault—whose History of Sexuality was significantly influenced by that SoCal visit—as well as to CGU-centric readers interested in hearing about Foucault’s trips (the non-psychedelic ones, too) along Route 66 and up to Mt. Baldy.

Read more about recent books from the CGU community in the latest issue of the Flame magazine