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February 13, 1967 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1967-02-13
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-WV

t

W7ook;'ow, Jesus and the Viennwse Exegete

THE MIDWEST

Thomas Woodraw Wilson: A Psy-
chological Study, by Sigmund
Freud and William C. Bullitt.
Houghton Mifflin Company. $6.00.
This psychological s t u d y of
Woodrow Wilson fails for two rea-
sons. First of all, Freud's axioms
are highly questionable, especial ly
when used to reduce the complexi-
ties of a mind burdened with con-
siderations of international politics
to a simple tug-of-war among ego,
id, and super-ego. Secondly, the au-
thors are unable to disentangle
their own hostilities to Wilson. As a
result bitterness pervades the work.
and its objectivity must be chal-
lenged. Whether or not the authors
are attempting an historical study,
their method, coupled with their
thinly disguised distaste for Wilson
forces us to question or even negate
their conclusions.
One would expect S i g m u n d
Freud to be objective. Bullitt, in his
foreward, describes him as "a man
of ruthless intellectual integrity."
("Ruthless" is the key word here.)
Yet Freud. the self-acclaimed un-
prejudiced inquirer, pettily con-
demns Wilson for destroying Euro-
pean culture by acceding to the de-
mands of the Allies during the
peace conference. Freud and Bullitt
unceasingly lambaste Wilson with
"ruthless intellectual integrity."
Such judgements constitute neither
an historian's interpretation nor a
psychoanalyst's evaluation: they are
rather the condemnations of an an-
tagonized acquaintance and have
no place in a study by Sigmund
Freud.
The venom of William Bullitt is
frustrating for one who expects new
insrihts from an intimate of Wilson
during the Versailles fiasco. The
character of his regard for Wilson
is established early in the digest of
facts from childhood and youth. His
preoccupation with the nickname
"Tommy" lasts throughout the
book; indeed, he refers to Woodrow
Wilson as "Tommy" even during
his Presidency. (Incidentally, Wil-
son dropped the name "Thomas" in
his twenties; Freud interprets this
act as mother identification, as
Woodrow was his mother's maiden
name.) This annoying detail is not
significant in itself; but considered
with the rest of Bulltt's bitter
prose, it reveals a disgusting antipa-
thy. From the style of this section,
Bullitt's contributions to the rest of
the chapters are easily identified:
Whenever he indulges in phycho
analytic procedure, he slings Freud's
lingo like a parrot mocking a skilled

Wilson's reason. Freud's.

famous

6
4 Gy
o
,

elocutionist. One wonders if Freud
became the co-author of this book
in order to analyze Bullitt through
the perspective of Bullitt's father
figure, Woodrow Wilson.
Freud's analysis of Wilson is
comprehensive: every fact present-
ed in the book fits perfectly into the
definition of the man's psychic con-
stitution. Beginning with his basic
assumptions about the subconscious
and libidinal economics, Freud dis-
cusses the importance of Wilson's
minister father, the resolution of
his Oedipus complex and the re-
sulting repressions, identifications,
and sublimations. The analysis is
consistent and precise within the,
limitations of information available
on Wilson.
From this "limited" analysis, the
authors conclude that Wilson satis-
factorily resolved his Oedipus con-
flict and encountered normal rela-
tions with women (whew!), although
little libido was needed for the pur-
suit of his sexual gratification or
mother identification. They further
resolve that a significant portion of
his libido was centered in Narcis-
sism and that an inordinately large
portion of libidinal energy was con-
centrated in passivity to his father.
This last conclusion is particularly
relevant for Freud and Bullitt,
since they use it repeatedly to ex-
plain Wilson's inconsistent behavior
and relationships with other men.
Passivity to his father resulted in
Wilson's identification with Jesus

Christ, and a contradictory tenden-
cy, activity to the father, resulted in
his identification with -God. So
Woodrow Wilson, throughout most
of his life, was in his subconscious
both God and Jesus Christ.
These unusually strong identifi-
cations are, for the authors, the
most important causes, perhaps the
only causes, of Wilson's fame, of his
eventual disgrace and mental col-
lapse, of the United States' delay in
entering the World War, of Wil-
son's failure at Versailles, of his dif-
ficulties as President of Princeton,
of his weird love-hate relationships
with younger men, of his hate rela-
tionships with older men, and, final-
ly, of his indigestion. This is quite a
comprehensive set of causes.
While Freud's system may ex-
plain many of these incidents, one
wonders about the relegation of
Wilson's rationality to a position
where it is solely controlled by his
subconscious.
Indeed the manner in which the un-
conscious employs the conscious
portion of the mind as a tool to
carry out the wishes of the libido,
using reason to find excuses to jus-
tify actions desired by the uncon-
scious, has rarely been more vivid-
ly illustrated than by the argu-
ments Wilson used... . Facts ceased
to exist for him if they conflicted
with his unconscious desires.
This statement is repeated in
stronger terms when the authors
discuss Wilson and the Treaty of
Versailles. Certainly, from the facts
about Versailles presented in the
book they feel justified in ignoring

comparison of the mind to an ice-
berg seems ominous in view of Wil-
son's contradictory statements dur-
ing the conference. But to ignore
man's reason in favor of a facile ex-
planation is extremuely dangerous
when one considers the relevance of
reason in making a decision based
on political reality. Granted, in the
context of the facts, Wilson did rot
appear overly rational: but to brush
aside his rationalizations and seek
solutions in the conflicts between
ego and id completely obliterates
the perspective of reality, the de-
mands forced upon the man by sit-
uation. Was Wilson capable o"
dealing with the reality of Ver-
sailles? Freud believes he was not
because of the turmoil in his sub-
conscious. But what case can be
made for the confusion of an over-
whelming number of details and
perhaps Wilson's intellectual inca-
pability for ordering them? What.
about the lack of sufficient facts for
determining the situation historical-
ly?
These points are best illustrated
by another incident in Wilson's life,
the entrance of the United States
into the war. Freud claims that Wil-
son's indecision was rooted in his
identification with Christ: he want-
ed to be the Savior of mankind and
could not satisfy this subconscious
wish if he committed the United
States at a time when an "evil
peace" was inevitable. His identifi-
cation with God would also be chal-
lenged if he could not dictate terms
of lasting peace to his "flock."
Again, this preoccupation with sub-
conscious motives led Freud to neg-
lect the fact that Wilson was tor-
tured by a huge moral burden: to
"sentence our young men to death"
and "insure the destruction of bil-
lions of dollars worth of capital" for
a war which would end in an "evil
peace" and almost certainly result
in continued warfare and entangle-
ment for both Europe and the Unit-
ed States was beyond his compre-
hension. Wilson regarded, perhaps
justly, the motives of both the Al-
lies and the Central Powers with
disgust. That he should enter a war
on either side under conditions
which would inevitably lead to an-
other war was a reality which he
, recognized and, however inconsis-
tently, sought to alter by negotia-
tion with both sides. But Freud and
Bullitt insist that his agony was
produced by subconscious identifi-
cations and not by a rationalization
of the morality of the situation. For
them God and Jesus Christ dictated
terms to Wilson's reason, not the
realities of an ugly war resulting in
an ugly peace.
Ted Krontiris
Mr. Krontiris is a third-vear student
majoring in mathematics at The Univer-
sity of Chicago.

Vol 4, No. 3

And Sometimes the Twain Shall M4

Two Views, by Uwe Johnson, trans-
lated by Richard and Clara Win-
ston. McGraw-Hill Book Company.
$4.50.
For centuries, the literature of
Germany has been driven by an in-
tellectuality at once dynamic and
entirely isolated from social activi-
ty. There were, of course, the same
soggy masterpieces of popular cul-
ture. written by the Teutonic equiv-
alents of Richardson and Sir Walter
Scott. But Germany has always had
profound reverence for the scholar,
an awe for his very towering dis-
tance from earthly concerns, un-
matched in Europe or the United
States. Here, where scholars are
canonized only for their pragmatic
contributions - sanctified in the
glow of the second-stage rocket -
it is difficult to conceive of an au-
thor as both esthete and culture-
hero. But the contrary is true of
Germany, and for this reason -the
metaphysical has often outweighed
the physical in German literature.
Nietzsche. Mann and Rilke: these
are masters of a form which rejects
both the mundanitY of extreme na-
t u r a l i s m and the uncontrolled
dreaming of 'surrealism. Instead,
then have created a literature of'
vivid complexity and universal hu-
manity. Even in Brecht. the revolu-
tionary, we see an uberwelt of alle-
gory. while contemporary German
poets have been described as "find-
ing reality only in the synthetic
process of artistic creation."
But the novel in post-war Ger-
many has notcontinued in the steps
of such visionary authors as Her-
mann Hesse. The Marshall Plan
seems rather to have affected more
than the reconstruction of an econo-
my. If Uwe Johnson's latest novel,
Two Views, may be considered an
adequate representative, we may
look for refractions of our own im-
age in current German literature.
There is the same highly profession-
al control of technique, which wide-
ly skirts the line dividing genius
from insanity. There is total lack
of daring in questions of form,
and psychological insight is zealous-
ly revealed without becoming re-
vealing.
For most readers, the book will
be at fault for its lack of contempor-
arv interest. The dramatic core of
the novel is the erection of the Ber-
lin wall - a drama which has al-
ready been re-enacted in every

setting is Ea
the author's
real unity c
by political
is forcibly d
distinction
and commun
inception of
which the a
tomatically
Friedrichsha
And withou
the geograp
of automatic
Part of this
arises from
-after all,
hardly be e:
romance of s
ten. The pul
come the p
map of Berl
of Johnson's
reader who
cover every
(contin
TAB L
Aesthetics:
Forms an
Arts, b
Biography:
h o mas
Sigmund
C. Bull
Fiction:
loons
Jordan i
D~igginxgo
son
The Ravi$
M~arguer
The Riot.
Sauve Qu
Durrell
Two View
T'he Wom
Fox. by
History:
History of
League,
land
Letters:
Letters o
by W. Il
Paperback
Social Com
Studs 'f

FFEABYV

REVIEII

form from poem to puppet extrava-
ganza. Even in Germany itself, the
wall has lost much of its tragic fas-
cination. The most serious reading
and the most heated discussion now
centers on Karl Jaspers, the pioneer
existentialist, and his study of the
growth of neo-Nazism. International
tension is aroused by this newly
Prussian aspect in West German
politics; the world has a raw memo-
ry of what a truly potent Germany
could do.
Against this emotional back-
ground, Uwe Johnson has trouble
arousing much of the proper sympa-
thy. This would cause no problem if
the occasion of the novel were
merely that - a means of launch-
ing the narrative. But Two Views
depends greatly upon the fear and

pity which the Berlin construction
once evoked. The building of the
wall is the motivating force behind
complete transformations of charac-
ter -it is the power which defines
the separate "views" of the book's
title. But the wall is vaguely de-
fined throughout the novel. The au-
thor relies on the audience's memo-
ry of horror-and this modern
memory is a battleground for far
too many horrors.
Two Views is a novel saturated
with place as well as situation; this
too is neither explained nor tran-
scended. Street names, are contin-
ually dropped before the reader.
without further illumination. In the
early stages of the book, before the
imprisonment of the East Germans,
it is difficult to know whether the

A Prophet
Newfield

12 MIDWEST LITERARY REVIEW 0 February, 1967

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