June 23, 2024

Dan Dervin Publishes Article in Journal of Psychohistory

Daniel Dervin, professor emeritus of English, recently published an article in The Journal of Psychohistory called The Auction Block, the Battlefield Angels, and the Politics of Purity.

According to an abstract of the article:

“The evolution of psychoanalytic theory entered new territory with the work of Melanie Klein (1882-1960). Previously, apart from Freud’s formations on narcissism, the prevailing framework was the Oedipal triad of desire, conflict, defense, adaption, and self-identity issuing from the child’s struggles to master issues involving both parents. Klein took a step back in child development phases and forward in clinical theory when she honed in on the dyad of infant and primary caregiver. Hers was the realm of preoedipal issues involving primal urges and frustrations. These she epitomized as good breast/bad breast. However resolved, transformed, or displaced, they set the stage for subsequent development. We don’t want to yield to reductionism, yet in psychohistory we continually observe regression to primitive levels of splitting one’s object-world into either/or absolutes of all-good vs all-bad. These dyad derivatives have increasingly dominated our polarized cultural and political discourses. Noting Trump’s “all-or-nothing” governing style, Lindsey Ford cites his off-and-on-again tactics with North Korea (NY Times, 25 May 18, p. A21); in this light Trump epitomizes these primitive processes. The present study examines this polar mode manifest in wide-ranging ideals of purity. Group-fantasies of white supremacy from our Civil War period are being revived. We see this in the controversies over Confederacy names and monuments: grappling with them anew injects our troubled past into our present. What we had assumed to be dead and buried evidently thrived in the margins, biding their time. More disturbing, their reentry is being aided and abetted at the highest levels of government. As these disparate phenomena echo and reverberate, psychohistorical perspectives fit them into larger patterns cued by the politics of purity.”