Tuesday, July 6, 2010

An Overdose of Freud

Oh, woe is me! Never have I felt so mentally unclean! I wish I could shower my entire brain in scalding water.

I have been working on perhaps one of the oddest papers I have ever written. Back in the spring, I was able to acquire a number of primary documents (about 2,000+ pages worth) on the psychological profiling that the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) did on Hitler. From perusing the documents and also reading several books on OSS psychological operations, I noticed an interesting blend of Freudianism and Realpolitik in the OSS mindset. This, then, led me to my present paper.

In order to prove my thesis, I had to not only give considerable focus to the writings of several psychoanalysts on Hitler; I also had to read a heck of a lot of Freud. Ohhhhhh...... Let's just say, Freud was a very, very, very, very, very, VERY dirty man. I have no idea how he ever came to be taken seriously. The man's mind never strayed farther than an inch from his crotch! Ugh. Is it possible for a brain to vomit? Mine certainly wants to.

Lest my complaints mislead anyone, let me assure one and all that, despite my distaste for Freud, I have found this to be a thoroughly interesting and intriguing paper. While learning about the sexual peculiarities of Hitler was, shall we say, disturbing to the utmost, it was also quite enlightening, since I understand some of his actions a bit better (understand, not condone or empathize with). Mixing psychology with history has its dangers, but analyzing psychology's impact on history is quite fascinating. I realized only yesterday that although my major focus in my work is military history, I have yet to approach any topic in the same way as military historians. I am repeatedly coming at my topics from social, cultural, psychological, and even literary (without straying into lit-crit) angles. I may just be carving out a unique niche for myself in this field after all!

This present class ends on Thursday. After I turn in this research paper later today, I'll have only a short film analysis paper and a presentation to prepare. The film analysis paper will be a fun diversion for me; I'm using a classic film (of course) and analyzing it using two excellent books (which both specifically mention that film), plus the first-hand experiences that I had when visiting the exact locations where the storyline takes place. How neat it that! My film is So Proudly We Hail!, an account of the nurses who served first in Manilla and later on Corregidor. The film was supposed to be an accurate depiction, but Hollywood even back in the 1940s never let the truth stand in the way of a good (or bad) story. The nurses who survived wrote two accounts of the events, which gives me primary sources with which to analyze the film. In the summer of 2008, I myself went to both Manilla and Corregidor, where I retraced the steps of the nurses who served over there (for pictures and details of my experience, look in my blog archive for August 2008). I think this may be the most direct personal involvement I have ever had in a history paper. It's too bad that it has to be such a short little paper.

After this class concludes on Thursday, I'm planning to take a few days off from any history research at all, and shall just enjoy a bit of summer fun here in lovely (and HOT!) Virginia. I may take a few daytrips out to a few historic sites for fun (okay, so maybe the no research thing might not work out). After a break for a few days, I'll be leaping into my thesis research, which will mean considerable time spent up in Washington, D.C., digging through dusty archives. Because I'm a complete history nerd, I'm really looking forward to the archival research. It's fun to look at primary documents that only a select few people have ever before seen. Maybe I should consider a career as an archivist.

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"