Foucault's Spectacle of Torture

Topics: Prison, Death Penalty, Crime Pages: 4 (1310 words) Published: March 7, 2006
Foucault's Spectacle of Torture

Michael Foucault's Discipline and Punish is a historic look into the penal system. He attempts to break down all the aspect of punishment and how the role of power affects the punishment. Also, he follows the development of the penal system into modern society. Discipline and Punish covers and array of issues dealing with the penal system. These issues range from Judging of the Criminal Soul to his idea of Docile Bodies. This paper, however, is going to focus on Foucault's idea of The Spectacle of Torture and how it relates to Kafka's "In the Penal Colony" and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. I believe that "In the Penal Colony" follows Foucault's theories more directly than The Bluest Eye.

According to Foucault, the definition of torture involves an exact, measurable quantity of pain. In his book he states that the role of torture is to reveal the truth of a crime. In terms of the penal system, torture has a defined structure and logic. A popular form of torture in this text is the public execution. It was designed so that the criminal's body showed the truth of the crime. Foucault considered the execution as a remembrance or reenactment of the crime. Also, it gave the public a direct punishment for a specific crime and warned them of the consequences if they too committed a similar crime.

Foucault implements a certain hierarchal system when dealing with the spectacle of torture. At the very top of this chain is the sovereign. He is considered to be the king with all the power. In this system, to commit a crime is to challenge the sovereign's power.

The audience was the most important part of an execution. The spectators must witness order being replaced for the ceremony to work correctly. If they did not see order being restored, then there would be no meaning to the execution. However, the spectators are only allowed to watch the execution. If they decide to attack the sovereign or try to free the...
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