Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Professor Thomas E. Willey


This thesis examines Michel Foucault's elucidation of a mode of subjectivity upon which he could predicate the possibility of resistance to power. While most studies of his thought have emphasized the extent to which, for Foucault, subjects are the products of power, this thesis seeks to examine that mode of subjectivity which, for him, can escape the reach of power or can resist power. This thesis shows that Foucault borrowed extensively from the works of Georges Bataille and Georges Canguilhem in articulating a vitalist conception of the subject, a subject whose ability to resist power resided in the vital forces which traversed it.

In achieving these tasks, this thesis responds to the liberal critics of Foucault who argue that his conception of power effectively eliminates the rationale for or possibility of resistance. The thesis also elucidates for the first time the nature of the intellectual influence Bataille had upon Foucault, showing that Foucault used Bataillean conceptions of sovereignty and the sovereign subject. It also radically reinterprets the influence Canguilhem had on Foucault, showing that, beyond well documented methodological influences, Canguilhem provided Foucault with a framework for theorizing power and resistance.

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