YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

August 6, 2016

Krauthammer diagnoses Trump, long distance

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New Theater Hitler as narcissist, 1936

New Theater Hitler as narcissist, 1936

Read these short entries first. http://www.mediaite.com/online/krauthammer-diagnoses-trump-beyond-narcissism-has-infantile-hunger-for-approval/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/donald-trump-and-the-fitness-threshold/2016/08/04/b06bae34-5a69-11e6-831d-0324760ca856_story.html

I used to revere Charles Krauhammer as Fox’s resident genius, until I saw the homage documentary designed (?) to debut CK’s collected essays (Things That Matter); that “documentary” produced a blog that focused on CK’s search for unity https://clarespark.com/2013/10/26/krauthammer-fox-news-channel-and-the-search-for-unity/. This search for coherence in a polarized polity would suggest that he is an organic conservative, despite his claims to be a moderate, which would align him with other “moderates” on Fox News Channel. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Krauthammer), In other words, CK is a mystic, not a scientific materialist, as his medical training would suggest.

I learned from the Wiki entry that CK had indeed never been in independent clinical practice as a psychiatrist (he is board-certified), but had gone on from being chief resident in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (three whole years as a resident!), directly into politics, working for the Carter administration in “psychiatric planning.” (Wiki also states that CK contributed to DSM III, though they are not detailed.)

In other words, CK had little experience in clinical practice, yet he is a respected diagnostician of persons he seems not to have ever closely examined. (I have written extensively about another Harvard graduate, a Jungian: Dr. Henry A. Murray, who, like CK, made long-distances inferences about major figures; for instance, Murray testified at the trial of Whittaker Chambers, opining that Chambers had a “psychopathic personality” (based on reading! and linking him to CK’s highly respected opinions. (On Murray’s methods see https://clarespark.com/2012/03/26/henry-a-murray-and-the-tat/.)

Just as CK has labeled Barack Obama a “narcissist,” Dr. Krauthammer judges Donald J. Trump to be unstable, and more than a bit mad. Oddly, Adolf Hitler was judged to be a nutty criminal/psychopath by Dr. Henry A. Murray and assorted Stalinists, though none of these had any professional (psychiatric) relationship with the object of their scorn. Dr. Murray went so far as to infer that Hitler must have had Jewish blood, setting the stage for later Harvard social psychologists (https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/).

Dr. Krauthammer famously switched political allegiances mid-career. But his haughty opinions on the Republican nominee’s mental states, bear comparison with those of other “moderate men” seeking to be “fair and balanced.”

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October 22, 2013

“Masters of Sex” and 70s feminism

masters-of-sex_[Update: December 10, 2013. This has turned out to be the most feminist show I have ever seen on television. Far deeper as it developed than anticipated when I first wrote this blog. Lizzy Caplan singing “You Don’t Know Me” in episode 11 said it all, for all women.]

This blog is not about porn, but about the la-dee-da attitude shown by some feminists not only with respect to the rigors of child-rearing, but without prior understanding of the emotional components and complications of human sexuality. I remember reading John Bowlby’s pioneering work on attachment theory and separation anxiety (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bowlby). I don’t remember which of his many books I read, but I remember thinking that the feminists of my acquaintance would probably hate his theories, as he emphasized the crucial role of mothering in early childhood, with lifelong dire effects if not properly managed (some of his theorizing was probably autobiographical, but what about Winnicott and Mahler?).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masters_of_Sex

http://www.npr.org/2013/07/30/206704520/pioneering-masters-of-sex-brought-science-to-the-bedroom

I. I will take a partly dim look at the new Showtime series Masters of Sex, created by a woman, Michelle Ashford. I have watched the first four episodes and see this effort as another docudrama that represents a hidden history of science and sex. The hint in the NPR summary is wildly mistaken that (the ubiquitous) Freud was displaced by a more accurate measurement of, to use the character Dr. William Master’s words, “What happens to the body during sex?” During my dissertation research, I was surprised to discover that the two of the three ogres of the 19th century, Marx and Freud (not Darwin), were not equally loathed and feared. The bourgeois Freud was far more controversial as progressives went about reconstructing the humanities curriculum. (Here is my index on Freud blogs: https://clarespark.com/2013/03/16/blogs-on-freud-and-anti-freudians/.)

Briefly, Freud saw repressed sexuality as the source of hysteria and other psychosomatic ailments, and leaned heavily on the Oedipus complex, but few had the money and time to indulge in the “talking cure.” And who wanted to recognize ambivalence within families, or lifelong troubled attachments to the parent of the opposite sex? Freud’s colleague Carl Jung was a different story: he saw Freud’s Id as a source of creativity (as opposed of everyday unhappiness), and many a Jungian analyst used Jung’s dubious theory of archetypes to treat their clients. In the battle of the titans: Jung versus Freud, the younger man penetrated school curricula and the practice of social psychology. (For my copious blogs on Jung and his followers see https://clarespark.com/2010/05/10/jungians-rising/.)

II. Michelle Ashford is the creator of the series. A brief internet search does not link her with the second wave of feminism, but the major demands of 1970s feminism—to celebrate liberated sexuality, to eliminate back-alley abortions, to establish day care centers in workplaces, to de-stigmatize homosexuality, to bring fathers further into the day-to-day burdens of child-rearing, to recognize prostitutes as “sex workers” and not pariahs, to rewrite history to emphasize the roles and condition of women (often in Women’s Studies departments), to break through the “glass ceiling,” to identify “science” with masculinity and the illicit penetration of Mother Earth—have at least partly been accomplished. (For an example of “feminist science” see the work of Donna Haraway and Carolyn Merchant. For a rehabilitation of domestic feminism see Kathryn Kish Sklar’s book on Catherine Beecher.)

Though network television does not show breasts and buttocks, female actors playing professionals often show their cleavage in the dead of winter. But on pay for cable networks like HBO and Showtime, sex acts are routinely demonstrated, though not with male frontal nudity or the details available in porn shops. The achievement of Masters of Sex, though it seems to be a defense of the liberated woman, is the separation of romance and sexuality. I.e., women are entitled to be as promiscuous and detached in their sex lives as men are imagined to be. As the series proceeds, I hope that more nuance is brought into the subject.

Ashford’s heroine, “Virginia Johnson” as played by Lizzy Caplan, is represented as “ahead of her time.” She is the mother of two, both in the series and in Johnson’s real life. That is, like many women today, she believes that she  can “have it all.”

I wish that it were that simple. Perhaps robots will be devoid of the feelings that we have yet to master. But such fantasies do get eyeballs to the television set, and the actors (Michael Sheen is outstanding) are fine.

[Added 10-23-13: Upon thinking it over and considering what crappy jobs many men hold, a woman is lucky to be a wife and mother if she has a good man to support her. When babies are tiny, it is undoubtedly strenuous, but there is no greater intellectual, physical, and emotional challenge than holding a marriage together and raising functioning children who go on to successful relationships in every sphere of life. I include self-direction and independent thought as desirable in offspring. I don’t think that this judgment disqualifies me as an advocate for women’s rights.] [Added 10-29-13: Episode five was well done, since it showed the mother of Masters in complete denial as to her son’s mental problems. She socialized him to be a stoic, and “Virginia Johnson” touches him with words, understanding that nobody could be so strong as to be detached from the loss of a child (and other distorted relationships), and Michael Sheen does a persuasive job in acting out a man cracking up with hitherto repressed grief. Everyone should watch this episode, for the series is about much more than acceptable porn for the middle class.]

For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2014/07/06/the-hobby-lobby-decision-and-the-war-on-women/.

The real Masters and Johnson

The real Masters and Johnson

December 9, 2012

Holiday blues, Unhappy families

norman-rockwell-coupleOne of Freud’s primary themes in treatment of his patients was the separation of (idiosyncratic) neurotic anxiety from objective anxiety. Since anxiety disorders (along with depression and post-traumatic stress disorders) are widely present in our culture, I thought that the general subject was worthy of focus and exploration.

Keep in mind that many of Freud’s original writings were published before the events of the 20th century, with horrors such as the Great War leading to innovations in his repertoire, for instance “the death wish” or a general pessimism regarding the human condition (“everyday unhappiness”), not to speak of his attack on all religion as infantile regression in The Future of An Illusion (1928). But the Freudians today are few and cater to an older, usually moneyed urban clientele, while it is the Jungians whose influence has penetrated into popular culture and even school curricula, owing perhaps to Jung’s postulation of a racially-specific unconscious that blends well with racialist theories of multiculturalism. (For my numerous blogs on Jung and Jungians, see https://clarespark.com/2010/05/10/jungians-rising/.)

It is more often the case that Freud’s influence, if any, is filtered through the structural functionalism of Talcott Parsons and similar social theorists who are more interested in adjustment and functionality (stability in interpersonal and international relations), than in the tracking of personal traumas and intertwined social traumas that lead to troubling “symptoms” such as the anxiety disorders. Indeed, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders  has been funded by liberals and their foundations and related organizations, including the MacArthur Foundation, U.S. government agencies, the World Health Organization, and the American Psychiatric Association. Their approach is managerial, as opposed to an orientation to cure, for that could lead to radicalization or other postures deemed destabilizing to social order imagined by the moderate men.

NPR recently interviewed a psychiatrist in the know about changes to DSM-V, the diagnostic manual used by physicians of every kind in labeling and prescribing treatment for their patients. This psychiatrist stated that it was likely that grief (a subject that has not been previously “medicalized” as abnormal) would be limited to two months, after which antidepressants might be indicated. (For a general summary of proposed changes in DSM-V see http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/controversy-changes-dsm-diagnosis-1205127, posted December 6, 2012.)

Some passages from the Introduction to DSM-IV bear quoting, especially as they are not only as indecipherable as Parson’s own famously awful prose, but are careful to avoid positing dualisms between mind and body, or labeling suffering “individuals”:

“In DSM-IV, each of the mental disorders is conceptualized as a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual and that is associated with present distress (e.g., a painful symptom) or disability (i.e., impairment in one or more important areas of functioning) or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom. In addition, this syndrome or pattern must not be an expectable and culturally sanctioned response to a particular event, for example, the death of a loved one. Whatever its original cause, it must currently be considered a manifestation of a behavioral, psychological, or biological dysfunction in the individual. Neither deviant behavior (e.g., political, religious, or sexual) nor conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict is a symptom of dysfunction in the individual as described above.” [I have not yet found a definition of “the individual”; rather, progressives are careful to define the “individual-in-society.”  See https://clarespark.com/2009/12/12/switching-the-enlightenment-corporatist-liberalism-and-the-revision-of-american-history/. CS]

[DSM-IV, cont.:]  “A common misconception is that a classification of mental disorders classifies people, when actually what are being classified are disorders that people have. For this reason, the text of DSM-IV (as did the text of DSM-III-R) avoids the use of such expressions as “a schizophrenic” or “an alcoholic” and instead uses the more accurate, but admittedly more cumbersome, “an individual with Schizophrenia” or “an individual with Alcohol Dependence.” ( my emphasis, pp. xxi-xxii)

This is the language of progressivism, pretending that these experts believe in the discrete, unique individual, while all along using quantification and statistics that attempt to describe disruptive (mal-adjusting) group behaviors: “disorders that people have.” Moreover, their language is so vague and abstract that I for one, can barely decode their language. But I suspect that “defiant” individuals (who have their own section in DSM-IV) are deemed dysfunctional no matter how rationally based their nonconformity may be. (I was considered to be “defiant” or excessively “experimental” in graduate school by leading professors, sometimes in private, sometimes in public. See https://clarespark.com/2012/12/22/my-oppositional-defiant-disorder-and-eric-hobsbawm/.)

The language that I have quoted is so abstracted from the real life experience of classes, genders, or other groupings that one wonders if the suspicions of the anti-psychiatry theorists are not themselves more rational than the mental health practitioners who rely upon DSM’s diagnostic codes to prescribe pills and other remedies for symptoms that are imposed by the concrete life experiences of soldiers, abused and neglected children, or simply members of families that do not meet their individual emotional and biological needs.

But as I read the section in DSM-IV on post-traumatic stress disorders, I was struck by the usefulness of these causal situations to current day problems that are often global in nature: the direct experience of war and falsifying propaganda; the demoralizing teaching of history as non-stop atrocity; the hyper-sexualization of American culture that exposes children to sexual scenes at early ages; the crime shows on television or in the movies that are graphically violent and sexual in nature; the constant broadcasting of apocalyptic scenarios that blame industrialization for the imminent end of life on our planet; “rage against the machine” by rock bands and other counter-culture wannabe stars; gangsta rap; the barrage of images of the happy gift-giving, problem-solving family (especially from Thanksgiving on through Christmas)–families untroubled by generational conflict, misunderstanding, or sibling rivalry.

While I object to the introductory material that I have quoted, the many social-cultural-political sources of PTSD are useful to the understanding of “objective anxiety.”

How neurotic are we, or are most of us rationally reacting to an objectively terrifying world? (For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2009/11/16/panic-attacks-and-separation-anxiety/. For a description of the controversy surrounding revisions of DSM-IV, see http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2012/12/inside-controversy-over-bible-mental-disorder/59849/.)

Why does Norman Rockwell have a German helmet circa WW1 perched on top of his easel?

Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell

November 19, 2012

Abandonment anxiety and “moderation”

Over the weekend, I discovered that my computer had been hacked. It set me into waves of panic. The panic was about abandonment, and the subject leads me back to certain themes on my website that have been discussed at length: attachment theory, panic attacks, the neutral state, rival conceptions of managing conflict, and the psychiatry wars between Freudians, Jungians, and anti-“talking cure” pill-dispensers.

As my Facebook friends are aware, I live in Southern California, which is home for New Age mystics and those who seek “healing” of conflicts that have lodged in the material body, or, worse, conflicts that are omnipresent in the (mis-named) “body politic.” It is to these latter seekers after “peace of mind” that this blog is mostly addressed.

It has long been my position that traumas inflicted in early childhood can never be healed, no matter how much insight into family dynamics, the poor parenting skills of our caretakers, or knowledge of world, national, and local history. For instance, I could dwell on women as particularly susceptible to abandonment fears, but men have abandonment fears too, whether they go beyond the typical feminine fear of aging and being dumped for a younger woman, or not.

This blog is not consoling, except in one respect: as mature persons looking at conflict inside or outside our own psyches, we may learn to manage conflicts, even if they can never be resolved. In the public sphere, we should beware of politicians and pundits who preach the opposite: that a neutral, artful, manipulative mediator can get warring parties to agree on compromise.

We are facing two particularly unresolvable conflicts today: 1. Israel and the Palestinians; and 2. Republicans and Democrats (the political parties not only have divergent views on capitalism, but are internally incoherent). The term “moderation” is a favorite conception of psychological warfare practitioners. “Moderation” is something that every healthy person strives for, but the word is too abstract, taken by itself, to be useful.

When we look to “moderation” are we talking about the portions of pasta that we consume, or “compromising” with the person with a gun or missile pointed at our home? We have seen how ineffectual appeasement has been in the past, while through the 1930s, Hitler constantly tested the democracies who were loath to embark upon another war after the war-weariness that ensued after the Great War. There are times when the enemy must be resisted and defeated, not pacified.

Families and family histories are a different matter. Paraphrasing Tolstoy, each family is miserable in its own unique way, whether over political differences, memories of past injuries, generational conflict, sibling rivalry, or marital strife. Liberals recommend better “communication skills” as if these techniques actually soothed the savage beast that often emerges at such moments as Thanksgiving or similar holidays. Some religions advise “forgiveness” as if such a gesture would confer “closure”, restoring a harmony that never existed, maybe not even in the womb.

My own view is that no amount of appeasement, compromise, or reparations can cure ancient hurts, but that self-knowledge (including knowledge of those organs where rage is stored), knowledge of our relatives’ sore spots, and particular needs, are skills that everyone can acquire in time. “Healing,” like the sentimental songs that the Yankee Doodle Society have reconstructed, is a utopian fantasy, but wise management of irreconcilable conflict is realizable.

Happy Thanksgiving, and work on your deep breathing. (For a different take on Thanksgiving, see https://clarespark.com/2011/11/24/thanksgiving-the-power-of-a-national-symbol/. Especially timely given the new Spielberg movie on Lincoln.)

June 9, 2011

When did “modernism” begin?

Ze’ev Sternhell

[This is an updated comment I once made on the Melville discussion group “Ishmail” in 2003. It reflects my reading at the time.]

First, was “modernism” as an art movement, modern, or was modernism a revolt against “feminized” Victorian culture/liberalism and rationalism, an entity that is for me the very model of modernity? Roger Sandall, a conservative anthropologist, sees the lot of modernists as romantic primitivists and a bad thing that influenced recent trends in the humanities (postmodernism). I have no doubt that the irrationalists Sandall excoriated were terrified of modern women. [Update: I should have mentioned the invention of the printing press as the beginning of modernism, but was not aware of this dating until I started noticing how “liberals” attacked autodidacts as assassins in the late 1990s. This became a major theme of my book on the Melville Revival (2001).]

Second, were 1930s cultural figures who expressed vicious statements about “the Jews” and their baleful influence in bringing about the transformations generally called modernity (but not always), also opponents of artistic modernism? I think that (leftist) Ze’ev Sternhell’s book Neither Left Nor Right: Fascist Ideology in France treats the problem in France and Italy, but I can recommend a run of a particular journal that shows how slippery these labels can be (Robert Paxton dislikes Sternhell’s “middle way” interpretation, rejecting the notion that France was ever fascist, though fascist writers and intellectuals surely existed there).

 American Review was published by Seward Collins, a supporter of the Southern Agrarians, and from whose ranks many of the New Critics emerged. Frankly profascist, it appeared from 1934-37, and attempted to synthesize the thought of New Humanists (incl. Irving Babbitt and More), the English Distributists (incl. G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc), the Neo-Thomists (incl. Robert Maynard Hutchins), and the Southern Agrarians (incl. Alan Tate, Donald Davidson). I read most of every issue, and I recall the animus toward James Joyce and Alfred Stieglitz, contrasting with the admiration for Eliot and Pound. In 1934, they published T. S. Eliot’s famous Barbour lecture at the University of Virginia in which he made his remark about limiting the number of freethinking Jews lest community cohesiveness be jeopardized.

I have described a lot of the materials in this fascinating journal (and it was a revelation to me) in my book Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, as a number of their writers were great fans of Herman Melville.  (See https://clarespark.com/2010/03/05/organic-conservatives-and-hitler/, for names of famous critics who published in AR.) There was also some crossover with the writers of American Literature, founded in 1929 I think. I have yet to go through Southern Review or other literary periodicals of the 1930s with similar politics.

The Trotskyists of Partisan Review were a confusing lot also. Picasso published a piece decrying the Stock Exchange in an early issue. They published T. S. Eliot (in 1943 I believe) and their writers were in the front lines defending Ezra Pound in the Bollingen Prize controversy of 1949, insisting on the separation between art and life.

It is only lately that I have discovered that “modernism” is seen as prefascist by more than Ze’ev Sternhell. I am reading (Catholic) Richard Noll’s history of The Jung Cult and was amazed to see Freud, Nietzsche, Wagner, Jung, and other “bourgeois” and crypto-Protestant cult leaders all grouped together as promoting the romantic individual, hence part of the supposedly volkisch ideology that fed Hitler and the Nazis. Theodor Herzl is similarly classified with these very bad, very modern fellows in a biography by Amos Elon.

I raised this issue on my KPFK program once (probably in the 1990s), and got a phone call from a frightened academic who said that it was professional suicide to make distinctions between the left-wing and right-wing modernists. If you are interested in the ideology of the New Critics who were so influential in the reconstruction of the humanities curriculum in the late 1930s, please read https://clarespark.com/2009/11/22/on-literariness-and-the-ethical-state/. You will see why my radio caller was afraid to be identified, even by his first name.

November 16, 2009

When lobotomies cured the Romantic agony….

This blog begins with an eighteenth-century prescription for neoclassical “balance,”  the collage continues, my commentary ends with the victory of Jung over Freud. Has our society been lobotomized since the late 1930s?

Image (93)

Walter Freeman’s “cases” and a lonely American princess

[Lessing, quoting Winckelmann, Laocoön, p.7]  “As the depths of the sea always remain calm, however much the surface may be agitated, so does the expression in the figures of the Greeks reveal a great and composed soul in the midst of passions.  Such a soul is depicted in Laocoön’s face–and  not only in his face–under the most violent suffering….However, this pain expresses itself without any sign of rage either in his face or in his posture.  He does not raise his voice in a terrible scream, which Virgil was doing; the way in which his mouth is open does not permit it.  Rather he emits the anxious and subdued sigh described by Sadolet.  The pain of body and nobility of soul are distributed and weighed out, as it were, over the entire body with equal intensity.  Laocoön suffers, but he suffers like the Philoctetes of Sophocles; his anguish pierces our very soul, but at the same time we wish that we were able to endure our suffering as well as this great man does.

Expressing so noble a soul goes far beyond the formation of a beautiful body.  This artist must have felt within himself that strength of spirit which he imparted to his marble.  In Greece artists and philosophers were united in one person…Philosophy extended its hand to art and breathed into its figures more than common souls….”

[Eleanor Melville Metcalf, writing to boys and girls and published by the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union: The Horn Book, 1927:]  “My grandfather was a pilgrim by land and sea–not an adventurer gone out to see the world, but a pilgrim in search of the Regal Soul.”

[TIME mag, 1936:] SOUTHERN DOCTORS The night after the Southern Medical Association began its annual meeting in Baltimore last week there was not a respectable hotel room for rent in the city. Doctors with pocketbooks filled and minds agog commuted from Washington 40 miles away. No medical meeting had been so well attended since the 1920s.

Well rewarded were the troubled Southern doctors by two medical diversions at the convention: 1) an operation by which Drs. Walter Freeman & James Winston Watts of Washington actually cut the ability to worry out of the brain; 2) operations by which Dr. Hugh Hampton Young of Baltimore remodels anal, urinary and genital defects. Psychiatrists and brain surgeons stormed at each other concerning the good sense of Drs. Freeman and Watts’s work.

  Lobotomy. Dr. Freeman, a poetaster in his spare time, was nervous when he rose to tell a fascinated audience how he and Dr. Watts ameliorated chronic anxiety, insomnia, and nervous tension in six patients during the past two months. In addition the patients were relieved of various “disorientations, confusions, phobias, hallucinations, and delusions.” …All six Freeman-Watts “patients have become more placid, more content, more easily cared for by their relatives.”…Dr. Freeman withstood all heckling, asserted: “Our patients were treated by seasoned psychiatrists.  Then they came to us. The results are permanent, apparently, and not temporary…We have not removed the idea by this operation.  The idea is still there, but it has no emotional drive…I think we have drawn the string, as it were, of the psychosis or neurosis.” [1]

MOBY DICK A Reflection EARL HENDLER The pure and sacred evil that was Ahab/ split up the snapping seas. So absolute/ his pride, from pole to pole no whale could hide./ Another’s commerce, full of oil and drab,/ would never play his line strung like a lute/ with notes of harpoons struck in the whale’s white side.

A spout from Moby’s brow spilled some salt tunes/ that jarred his metaphysics to the point/ where God Himself could speak but in typhoons./ His world, lopsided, hobbled on one joint./ A lunatic’s integrity that fails/ on fish must justify itself to whales/ of meaning larger than the simple quest,/ and so his Pequod sailed abstractly West. [2]

 [NYT editorial, 1949:] EXPLORERS OF THE BRAIN  Quackish as their system of feeling bumps on the head and thus judging human capabilities, F.J. Gall and J.C. Spurheim, founders of phrenology, had the sound conception of a brain in which traits of ability and what we call character were realized. Since their time, every nook and cranny of the brain have been poked into, dissected, examined. The brains of animals have been electrically stimulated in spots and the areas and centers thus discovered that control movement, seeing, hearing, swallowing, winking, breathing, sweating and other functions. One of the bold explorers who discovered some of the brain’s correlations with bodily functions and explained why some of the functions are supposedly instinctive is Prof. Walter Rudolf Hess, director of the Physiological Institute at the University of Zurich.

The information that such explorers as Hess, Harvey Cushing, Walter Cannon and others clicked together about 1935, when the International Neurological Congress was held in London. Among those who attended was the Portuguese neurologist, Dr. Egas Moniz.  After listening to the papers that were read he decided on his return to Lisbon that the time had come to cut worry, phobias, and delusions out of the brain. He induced his surgical colleague, Dr. Almeida Lima, to bore through the skull and cut the connections of the prefrontal lobe with the thalamus, which is the seat of emotions and which lies deep in the head.  This sensational operation justified itself.  Hypochondriacs no longer thought they were going to die, would-be suicides found life acceptable, sufferers from persecution complexes forgot the machinations of imaginary conspirators. Prefrontal lobotomy, as the operation is called, was made possible by the localization of fears, hates and instincts.

It is fitting, then, that the Nobel Prize in Medicine should be shared by Hess and Moniz. Surgeons now think no more of operating on the brain than they do of removing an appendix. Hess, Moniz and Cushing before them taught us to look with less awe on the brain. It is just a big organ with very difficult and complicated functions to perform and no more sacred than the liver.[3]

[Political scientist/New Critic and 1960s hero, John Schaar; 1979:]  What does that balanced character and outlook look like: earlier…I suggested the formulation, “pessimism of intelligence, optimism of the will.”  It is something like the temperament of the person touched by grace, as the Puritans understood that: the one who has the almost divine or supernatural ability to hold incompatible qualities in harmony; the one who lives in the world fully and caringly, and yet with “weaned affections,” neither wildly raised up nor woefully cast down by victory or defeat but hewing to the middle line.  To try another formula, perhaps the right temperament for action is a stoicism blended of equal parts of self-assertiveness and self-denial: an assertiveness which gives one the resoluteness to act and accept responsibility; a self-denial which enables one to subdue one’s personal pain in a compassionate awareness of the general human lot, which is mainly a condition of shortage and failure.  If I read Melville correctly here, his real hero Jack Chase and his fictional hero Captain Vere most closely resemble this standard of the whole man and actor. Delano and Cereno represent crippled halves of the whole. (p.81.).

[Psychosurgeon Walter Freeman worries about excessive lobotomies:]  We are whittling down the ego-ideal.[4]  [end collage]

[Clare’s comments:]   ” No one pays to hear a bitter kvetch.” Man up!  Given the political context met by the academic Melvilleans, writing, like Melville, in an age of revolution and counter-revolution that was devastating man and nature alike, it would be surprising had Melville scholars not choked off the passionate curiosity of Ahab/Pierre and Isabel, elevating Captain Vere in their stead, for they were dependent upon institutions that had either caused wars or were impotent to stop the killing.  A Lessing-style Laocoön was needed in a postwar world shrieking with “shell shock” and other forms of human misery, with mutilated veterans demanding to be seen and heard, their sacrifices vindicated by the able-bodied.[5]  If Melville’s façade of classy stoicism (as Vere) were to prove only a false front, his usefulness to conservative nationalists wanting a solid monument linking democratic Greece and democratic post-war America would be negated.  As Lessing wrote of the need to suppress the scream in art,

” When a man of firmness and endurance cries out he does not do so unceasingly, and it is only the seeming perpetuity of such cries when represented in art that turns them into effeminate helplessness or childish petulance.  This at least, the artist of the Laocoön had to avoid, even if screaming had not been detrimental to beauty, and if his art had been allowed to express suffering without beauty.” [6]

[Clare, cont.]”I retch in private….”  With the exception of  Raymond Weaver, Melville’s revivers have generally minimized the permanence of his rage and suffering (the “insanity” read perhaps as a female complaint), generally limiting his spells to the mid-1850s, while contradictory textual facts and other inescapable biographical materials encroached upon their favored formulations.  It is an inside narrative.

Melville’s wished for mastery over his feelings, the artist fully in control of his materials, attests to the legitimacy of ruling elites, in this case their superior endurance in the face of adversity or upsurges from below.  But his outbursts (veiled or not) on behalf of the unjustly imprisoned and oppressed call forth answering murmurs: As their own words have testified, Ivy League professors are not leisured aristocrats in an exclusive club but servants of powerful interests, operatives in “a badly run factory,” complained John Dewey in 1917; they were no less in thrall to the big money than their parents, the workers or small businessmen they had left behind.  They do not command their own labor; their virtue has been pasted on, not somaticized through battle with ignorance.  They tingle with Melville as he turns his back on commercial success and easy fame; he has lapsed into “silence” while the blazing eyes remain fixed on illegitimate authority; he is able to write without plaudits.  A crescendo of indignation has shattered the illusion of academic rectitude and self-mastery; parts of themselves love this artist, but they do not follow his example.  Shadowed by Pierre’s surveillance, a grand national monument morphs into Isabel; cornered sculptors perform a witch hunt energized by vulnerable positions in middle management: beneath brave and placid surfaces, their deepest feelings toward their subject and each other marry fear and resentment: they cannot merge with their subject, will not know something definite of that face.  For a period, Melville’s famous manliness shores up the ruins of class identity, recomposes the disintegrating helplessness and petulance of Melville’s academic readers as the facts of their limited autonomy inevitably return.

Locating the systematic censorship of crucial facts in Melville’s life and art, I have proposed that the deepest layer of repression responds to the ideological imperatives of postwar corporatist liberalism, the vital center yet to be understood fully and repudiated by New Left intellectuals.  Social psychologists disassociated childish “romantic yearning” and “sentimental culture” from the critical realism of eighteenth and nineteenth-century bourgeois art.  Though fascists and New Deal liberals similarly viewed themselves as progressives and centrists, “fascism” became synonymous with extremism as American “moderates” increasingly distanced themselves from “the Far Right” and from Hitler and Mussolini, figures who were acceptable to upper-class policy-makers in the West until the late 1930s.  We have seen that the Bad Mother directed the sentimental family ever leftward; her red consummations and her consumerism were diagnosed as the source of totalitarianism; pre-war and postwar Melville scholarship connected with the grandeur of the corporatist liberal project, as lobotomists, by disconnecting Melville along with the rest of the critical thinkers, cutting the ties that bound analytic thought to feeling, then to (appropriate) corrective action.  Melville’s conservative characters and the corporatist liberals I have studied speak with one voice as they evacuate materialist “exotics” in the name of wholeness and integration.  Of course the Melville who mocked such antics as Plotinus Plinlimmon-ish “virtuous expediency” remains at large.  I have summoned him, the deconstructive psychologist, to help me understand his own mental processes and those of his champions who, ironically, identify most strongly with the bound, unfeeling parts of himself that his better angel passionately rejected.

[Dr. Kik meets Jeannie, The Snake Pit (novel):]  There was a high table, like an operating table, and she knew she was supposed to get up on it.  She got on it and the woman with the silly voice fussed around her.  This woman was in an R.N. uniform and the room had somewhat the appearance of an operating room.  I’d forgotten I was to have an operation. You don’t eat before an operation, of course.  I should have remembered.  I wonder what I am being operated on for.  What haven’t I had removed?  I believe I still have my gall bladder.

“Well, Jeannie.  And how is Jeannie this morning?

It was he, the Indefatigable Examiner, come out of the bushes.  He was wearing a white coat.  He had blue eyes and a hawkish nose, and very slender face and his hair was fair and curly, like Grace’s, only shorter.

“And did you enjoy being outside in the park yesterday? He said this with a heavy accent that you have never been able to place.  It wasn’t German, French, Italian or Scandinavian. Polish perhaps…Now the woman was putting clamps on your head, on the paste-smeared temples and here came another one, another nurse-garbed woman and she leaned on your feet as if in a minute you might rise up from the table and strike the ceiling.  Your hands tied down, your legs held down.  Three against one and the one entangled in machinery.

She opened her mouth to call for a lawyer and the silly woman thrust a gag into it and said, “Thank you, dear,” and the foreign devil with the angelic smile and the beautiful voice gave a conspiratorial nod.  Soon it would be over.  In a way she was glad. [7]

[Clare returns:]     After the second world war, Ahab returned as Freud, that foreign devil who looks like mother, the Indefatigable Examiner Dr. Kik; no longer the antipuritan libertine who, at times, had fascinated 1920s bohemians.  Freud’s ideal of autonomy and the critical awareness that never stops, made explicit in The Future of an Illusion (1928), and Moses and Monotheism (1939), was turned on its head by outraged aristocratic radicals; it is Jung’s concept of individuation that now informs moral relativists and multiculturalists. Why can’t Freudians and Jungians get along?    For Freudians, the neurotic in treatment retrieves and historicizes immemorial faces, becomes aware of the inflated primitive imagos that have unconsciously ruled his actions and made him anxious and overly defended; now consciously aware of his self-destructive impulses and, restoring proportion to parents and their mightily looming surrogates, he may be more self-possessed, his perceptions of other human beings are less distorted; he may evaluate ‘universalist’ ethics with less of an irrationalist undertow; he may imagine institutions and cultural practices that could uplift, instruct, and heal suffering humanity, that do not not merely serve the selfish interests of the golden few; as a tactician for change, he will think twice before he subordinates means to ends as an excuse to act out volcanic rage (rage which, at first glance, may look like sex); and most certainly will he not follow idealized leaders.  He is not perfectly free from suffering, perhaps he remains anxious, but he knows the multiple sources of his feelings, for he is an indefatigable self- and social examiner, separating objective from neurotic anxiety. Such nice distinctions confer balance.

But Jungians, for purely political reasons, adapting to amoral, pragmatic institutions, associate Freudian scrupulosity with the repressive Mosaic code, with “pathological puritanism” and “narcism” (Murray) and it is Jung, not Freud, whose archetypes inform the cultural histories of “the New Left.”  For Jungians, the restored son escapes Amerika (the switching mother’s Hebraic influence, embodied in Freud or the Mother State, healthy only in war) to merge with the racial group and its particularistic interests: he finds golden nuggets of creativity and liberation in the racially-specific unconscious: he finds out “who he really is.”  That individuated face is definitely not Hitler’s. [8]


[1] Time, Nov. 30, 1936, 66, 68.

[2] Commentary, Jan. 1949, p.44.

[3] Editorial, New York Times, Oct.30, 1949, IV, p.8.

[4] Quoted by Jack Pressman, UCLA, Nov.4, 1989.

[5] Bromberg, Psychiatry Between The Wars, 1918-1945, pp.5-7, makes the overly simplistic but not uninteresting claim that the millions of “insanities” created on the battlefields of the Great War were the impetus for the mental hygiene movement which followed and which shaped the course of twentieth century psychiatry.

[6] Lessing, p.20.

[7] Mary Jane Ward, The Snake Pit, 1946, 42-44. Is Dr. Kik[e], the Indefatigable Examiner, Moses/Freud, and is Jeannie the genius of Christianity?

[8] Academics should reassess their professional responsibilities, putting emancipation from unnecessary mental illness and other forms of preventable suffering on the academic agenda as professional objectives and standards of performance.  See Peter Loewenberg, De-Coding the Past (New York: Knopf, 1982) on graduate education, specifically the pretense that students and professors are “equals.” Cf. Pierre’s mother has mystified authority by encouraging the conceit that she and Pierre are brother and sister; this seems more illuminating than talk of an “Oedipus Complex.”

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