Clare Spark is a historian, with degrees from Cornell University (B.S. ‘58), Harvard Graduate School of Education (M.A.T. in Science Teaching ‘59), and UCLA (Ph.D.’93). From 1969 through 1998 she produced hundreds of radio programs on the politics of the art world for Los Angeles Pacifica station KPFK, and was Program Director of the station from 2-81 through July 1982. (For a detailed CV focusing on academic work, see https://clarespark.com/2014/07/26/cv-as-of-2008-clare-spark-ph-d/.)
Her most noticed accomplishment at Pacifica is a 1971 four-hour collage-documentary, Jim Morrison: Artist in Hell, which took second place in the Major Armstrong Awards in 1972, and has served subsequent biographers of Morrison and The Doors. Collage remains her favorite form of presentation, and this website can be read as one big collage, as is her later published work in academe. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/09/16/thought-crimes/.)
Frustrated by the limitations of “quick and dirty” journalism, she took a degree in intellectual history starting in 1983. Her expanded doctoral dissertation was published by Kent State University Press in hardback in 2001 and in a paperback revised edition in 2006 as Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival. (By psychological warfare, she means the many techniques that elites use to damage morale in autodidacts who might, in a democracy, challenge established authority.) Prior to her “mango opera” another book (a collage!) was compiled and edited by Melville’s great-grandson: Enter Isabel: The Herman Melville Correspondence of Clare Spark and Paul C. Metcalf (U. of New Mexico Press, 1990). Another research interest is the career of Ralph Bunche and his changing politics from the 1930s through the 1940s, both while helping Gunnar Myrdal write An American Dilemma (publ. 1944), and then mediating the Arab-Israeli conflict for the United Nations (1947-49). A long article on Bunche and Myrdal was published as “Race, Caste, or Class? The Bunche-Myrdal Dispute Over An American Dilemma,” International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, Vol.14, No.2 (March 2001): 465-511. See also https://clarespark.com/2009/09/11/oil-politics-and-obamas-view-of-israeli-history/ for allusion to Bunche’s views on the proposed Jewish state (that he apparently viewed as “national communist,” i.e. Nazi-like. Or https://clarespark.com/2014/06/18/how-ralph-bunche-sold-out-and-failed-in-Palestine/.)
Clare’s major focus: the “ethnocultural turn” in history (1939) that substituted a collectivist notion of “cultural history” for empirical “scientific history,” e.g., the substitution of psychoanalytic conceptions such as projective identification for analysis of economic factors, such as monetary policy and taxes, class position, national and class interest, and class allegiance. The notion of scapgoating “the Other” was a strategy of conservative reformers who posited only “projection” of inner forbidden impulses to explain “prejudice” against Jews, women, and “racial” minorities. Such an entirely irrationalist orientation makes it impossible to separate irreconcilable conflicts grounded in competing material interests from those that can be compromised and resolved through mediation. Cultural studies generally exclude economic history and concrete social policies that impinge on “culture.” Psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, and other therapists working in the mental health profession might benefit from collaboration with historians, political scientists, and others who reconstruct the institutional and political settings that possibly affect their assessments of mental and physical illness. Moreover, as she argues in the blog “Panic Attacks” https://clarespark.com/2009/11/16/panic-attacks-and-separation-anxiety/, “modern” institutions such as the schools and mass media, insofar as they dispense mixed-messages (e.g. there is no conflict between Truth and Order), may well cause the symptoms that mental health professionals and physicians seek to alleviate. See also http://hnn.us/articles/4533.html for a controversial article on the origins of multiculturalism as counter-Enlightenment, slightly revised here as https://clarespark.com/2009/12/12/switching-the-enlightenment-corporatist-liberalism-and-the-revision-of-american-history/.
Clare has gone through the academic publishing route and found the academic presses to be as ideologically monolithic and unimaginative as the post-60s universities themselves (with the exception of Kent State UP that indulged her use of collage and gave no page limit). She uses this site to publish original work always experimental in form and content. She remains a maverick and unaffiliated with any partisan political grouping. An example of original scholarship is the series on the Jungians https://clarespark.com/2010/05/10/jungians-rising/, especially the three part series on managerial psychoanalysis as exemplified in the career of Dr. Henry A. Murray. Also the Anne Hutchinson article that is too short for a book but too long for an article, but is so important to reading the regnant frame on the varieties of protestantism that it is on the website. (If you can only read one or two sections of the Hutchinson essay, try https://clarespark.com/2009/09/29/anne-hutchinsons-red-regiment-and-the-cultural-historians-part-three/ and also part four. If you are up for the whole essay, see https://clarespark.com/2010/05/15/blog-index-to-anne-hutchinson-series/). Another article-length piece looks at the appropriation of Ernest Hemingway’s life and writing to make Maoist points about U.S. foreign policy. See https://clarespark.com/2011/06/30/links-to-review-essay-on-hemingway-spy-mission-to-china/. Another short book-length series considers Hitler’s own writing in explaining what he meant by the Big Lie: https://clarespark.com/2011/06/19/index-to-links-on-hitler-and-the-big-lie/. Briefly, Hitler did not consider himself a liar, but rather blamed the Jews and the German Social Democrats for deceiving the masses he claimed to rescue.
Many of the longer pieces have been vetted by major scholars in the field. This is not a site for “vanity publishing.” For more, see the consistently popular blogs http://clarespark.com/2009/08/19/noam-chomskys-misrepresentation-of-walter-lippmanns-chief-ideas-on-manufacturing-consent/, or the equally revealing https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/. And for others who think the mother-son bond has been insufficiently examined, see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/23/murdered-by-the-mob-moral-mothers-and-symbolist-poets/.
To sum up, there are thousands of bloggers who stay on top of breaking news and post their often partisan or uninformed opinions. Similarly, many a public intellectual has made a reputation with grand abstractions, and the liberal anticommunists could be as irresponsible as the schematically-minded Stalinists and Maoists they rejected. This is not the way of the Yankee Doodle Society or Clare Spark’s essays. They are more concerned with the individual life history, the case-study, the particular cultural artifact or genre, the particular social policy under consideration. The art historian Aby Warburg once said that “the dear God lurks in the details.” How that was transmuted into “the devil is in the details” is a question for the ages. Readers of this site will find sound and thorough research and very close readings of materials. Opinions and impressions will be labeled as such.
Clare Spark is composing these blogs as a volunteer, and as her contribution to the Yankee Doodle Society. She is not paid for her history blogs. Those who have found these essays original and valuable are urged to subscribe to the blogs, and where possible, to contribute to the Society (YDS). All donations are tax-deductible.
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