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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 5/23/17

Kleinian Theory and Trump Voters

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) May 23, 2017: My favorite scholar is the American Jesuit cultural historian and theorist Walter J. Ong (1912-2003; Ph.D. in English, Harvard University, 1955) of Saint Louis University, the Jesuit university in St. Louis, Missouri.

Thomas M. Walsh has compiled a complete bibliography of Ong's 400 or so publications, including information about reprinted and translated items, in "Walter J. Ong, S.J.: A Bibliography 1929-2006" in the book Language, Culture, and Identity: The Legacy of Walter J. Ong, S.J., edited by Sara van den Berg and Walsh (New York: Hampton Press, 2011, pp. 185-245). Ong published 109 book reviews and review essays.

In a review essay in 1952, Ong discusses the thought of the French Jesuit paleontologist and religious thinker Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) regarding three spheres: (1) the cosmosphere, (2) the biosphere, and (3) the noosphere (Greek, nous, noos, mind). Today, our news media greatly expand our sense of the scope of the noosphere, including reports of events and developments that we may feel threatened by.

Now, among other things, Ong alerted us to the emergence of secondary orality (oral culture 2.0) engendered by communications media that accentuate sound, which he differentiated from pre-literate primary orality (oral culture 1.0) and residual forms of oral culture 1.0.

With the emergence of the Gutenberg printing press in the 1450s, residual forms of oral culture 1.0 waned as print culture 1.0 emerged in Western culture. Under the influence of our contemporary oral culture 2.0, print culture 2.0 has emerged in Western culture over the last half century or so.

It appears to me that oral culture 2.0 is here to stay -- for better or worse.

Oral culture 2.0, like oral culture 1.0, and like residual forms of oral culture 1.0, resonates deep in the human psyche. In the terminology of the Swiss psychiatrist and psychological theorist C. G. Jung, M.D. (1875-1961), oral culture 2.0 resonates with the feminine dimension of the human psyche, including the archetypal feminine dimension and the personal feminine dimension of ego-consciousness associated with the infant's experience of his or her mother, or mother-figure.

Concerning Jung's thought, see my essay "Understanding Jung's Thought":

Now, the British Freudian analyst and psychological theorist Melanie Klein (1882-1960) closely studied infants' experience of their mothers. From her observations of infants and their mothers, she posited two basic positions: (1) the paranoid-schizoid position and (2) the depressive position.

In effect, Richard Hofstadter alerted us about the paranoid-schizoid position in The Paranoid Style in American Politics (New York: Knopf, 1965). In light of Hofstadter's classic essay about the paranoid style in American politics, it is obvious that Donald J. Trump used the paranoid style in his 2016 presidential campaign to appeal to his most fervent supporters.

Now, the American psychiatrist Justin A. Frank, M.D., works with Kleinian theory in two books:

(1) Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper, 2007);

(2) Obama on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President (New York: Free Press, 2011).

In his 2011 book about former President Barack Obama, Dr. Frank provides a useful glossary of terminology (pp. 233-42).

However, I do not expect the Kleinian terminology about the posited paranoid-schizoid position and the depressive position experienced by infants that Dr. Frank uses to catch on, even though he carefully explains this terminology in his 2011 glossary (pp. 239-40).

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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