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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/5/16

Both Brooks and Blow Analyze Trump

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Charles M. Blow - The New York Times
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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) August 5, 2016: As readers of OEN know, Donald J. Trump has emerged as the Republican Party's presidential candidate in 2016. As a result, columnists at the New York Times have devoted numerous columns to discussing him and his candidacy. I want to reply to two recent columns: Charles M. Blow's "Trump Reflects White Male Fragility" (dated August 4, 2016) and David Brooks' "Trump's Enablers Will Finally Have to Take a Stand" (dated August 5, 2016).


First, I want to turn to Brooks' piece about Trump's so-called "enablers." Brooks, as self-styled conservative, draws on psychiatry to characterize Trump as manifesting "the classic symptoms of medium-grade mania." I note Brooks' careful qualification here "medium-grade." But I have no idea how Brooks could possibly know if Trump is experiencing sleeplessness, one of the classic symptoms of medium-grade mania (also known as hypo-mania).

Brooks says, "His [Trump's] speech patterns are like something straight out of a psychiatric textbook. Manics display something called 'flight of ideas.' It's a formal thought disorder in which ideas tumble forth through a disordered chain of associations. One word sparks another, which sparks another, and they're off to the races."

But I have a bit of difficulty squaring "medium-grade mania" up with Trump's penchant for short Tweets.

As an alternative to Brooks' use of a psychiatric category to characterize Trump's ways of expressing himself not only in Tweets but in numerous other presentations, I want to suggest a literary analogy.

I would liken Trump's uncensored expressions to stream-of-conscious expression that the Jesuit-educated Irish novelist James Joyce (1882-1941) uses to portray the thoughts and feelings of three characters in his famous novel Ulysses (1922): a young man named Stephen Daedalus (a semi-autobiographical character), middle-aged Leopold Bloom, and his earthy wife Molly Bloom. In Joyce's famous novel, stream-of-conscious expression proceeds by associations.

Of course the British novelist Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) also pioneered stream-of-conscious expression in novels.

My point is that we should not pathologize Trump's stream-of-conscious expression, as Brooks does. Granted, it is extraordinary in American political discourse. But Trump is an extraordinary presidential candidate, to say the least. And his uncensored style of expression enables him to communicate effectively enough with his supporters.

Put differently, I see his uncensored style of expression as a kind of trickle-down stream-of-conscious expression pioneered by James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.

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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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