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The Order of Things by Michel FoucaultThe Order of Things by Michel FoucaultThe Order of Things by Michel Foucault
In the modern age, literature is that which compensates for (and not that which confirms) the signifying function of language. Through literature, the being of language shines once more on the frontiers of western culture—and at its centre—for it is what has been foreign to that culture since the 16th century; but it has also, since this same century, been at the very centre of what Western culture has overlain. This is why literature is appearing more and more as that which must be thought; but equally, and for the same reason, as that which can never, in any circumstance, be thought in accordance with a theory of signification.

If language exists, it is because below the level of identities and differences there is the foundation provided by continuities, resemblances, repetitions, and natural criss-crossings. Resemblance, excluded from knowledge since the early 17th century, still constitutes the outer edge of language: the ring surrounding the domain of that which can be analysed, reduced to order, and known. Discourse dissipates the murmur, but without it it could not speak.

About the Author

Links Appropriate to Foucault Scholars
A Foucault Bibliography: The Untimely Past
The World of Foucault
Critical Inquiry's Foucault and His Interlocutors


Foucault carried on debates with Derrida and Lacan during his lifetime. He has also written on, or discussed in his works, other writers such as Freud, Heidegger and Artaud. You can also find a quotation from The Order of Things in Samuel R. Delany's sf work, Trouble on Triton.