A Brief Intermission: Denzler Update

Daniel Denzler

Daniel Denzler was the University of Chicago faculty member who was recently denied tenure; some speculated that the denial was related to the fact that he had been keeping a personal blog. At the time, I entered a brief commentary (10/2005)related to that event. As a pleasant update, Denzler has announced his recent faculty appointment at Tufts University, in The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. His comments about the appointment can be found at his blog, http://www.danieldrezden.com/blog. A fairly accurate review of his comments are provided below:

Saturday, Nov. 5.

“So Friday was a pretty good day….

Friday was a great day for two reasons. First, a 70-degree day in Chicago in November is a rare treat and needs to be properly savored.

[Wow, you’re keeping up such a brave face after getting denied tenure–Editor] Well, that leads to the second and more important reason why Friday was a pretty good day.

I have formally accepted an offer to be an Associate Professor of International Politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, starting in the summer of 2006. Next year at this time, I will be teaching students pursuing a M.A.L.D. (Masters of Arts in Law and Diplomacy) or a Ph.D. at Tufts University in Medford, MA.

[Wait a minute. Wait just a friggin’ minute. What exactly does “Associate Professor” mean?–Ed.] It means that, subject to the approval of Tufts University’s Board of Trustees, I will be a tenured professor.

[Why Fletcher? Did you have any other options?–Ed.] I received a number of inquiries (at various levels of seriousness) from academic and non-academic institutions — the latter including government, think tank, and publishing opportunities. This was both gratifying and useful. Gratifying because it’s always nice to be wanted. Useful because it gave me the chance to ponder whether the academy was for me. In the end, Fletcher was the best choice for a combination of personal and professional reasons.

[So how are you feeling now? Still bitter at the University of Chicago?–Ed.] I’m feeling pretty good, actually. Fletcher is an excellent public policy school for what I study, and they actually like the fact that I write for a wider audience on occasion. Oh, and Tufts seems to be doing an excellent job of facilitating policies I like.

As for the U of C, no, I’d say the bitterness level is down to a very tiny nub. Mind you, I still think they screwed up, but they’ve screwed up other decisions even worse. Anyway, that’s the department’s problem now, not mine. I will always have very fond memories the institution, the students, and many of my colleagues. We will miss Hyde Park’s rumored restaurant renaissance — but this will be more than compensated by the plethora of supermarket choices in the Boston ‘burbs.’

[So how do you feel about the blog now? Now that you’re tenured, can you really cut loose?–Ed.] No, it’s just the opposite, I’m afraid. Brian Weatherson hit the nail on the head in Scott Jaschik’s Inside Higher Ed story on blogging and academia:

While some believe tenure allows more freedom for a blogger, Weatherson said that if your audience grows, that–not tenure status–may be the factor that leads to restraint online. “The more widely the blog gets read the more cautious I am about saying something critical of anyone without quite a lot to back up the criticisms,” he said. “Basically these days I can assume that anything I say critical of anyone in philosophy will get back to them, and I write as if the target of the criticism will be reading. So I probably hold back a little more than I did pre-tenure, when sometimes I would assume that the blog would just remain among friends.”

[So you’ll be tenured, huh? Well, there goes the last shred of any connection you have with the “real world” in which other American workers must cope!–Ed.] You’ve been reading the comments too much. I don’t want to go off on a rant here, but the meme about academics having no connection to the real world is a crock of s$#*. Yes, tenure equals lifetime employment. However, consider the following:

1) Compared to other professions that require equivalent education, academics earn lower wages. This is clearly a choice for many of economic security and a more flexible work schedule over increased income. But it is a choice with real economic costs.

2) It’s not like getting a tenured position at a top-drawer school is the easiest thing to do in the world. You have to get accepted into a good Ph.D. program, write an excellent dissertation, demonstrate an ability to generate research of high quality and quantity, and trust your luck that these skills will be recognized by your senior colleagues inside and outside your university.

3) I can’t stress this enough — a professor’s wage is almost entirely determined by the market. Yearly raises in our profession range from infinitesimal to nonexistent. The only way to earn big raises is to demonstrate our value to the outside market by getting a competing job offer. That’s about as real as you can get in terms of the wage structure.

[Yeah, but you academics don’t have to deal with your jobs being outsourced!–Ed.] Err…no, that doesn’t wash. The premier positions in American academia have had a global labor market for decades now, so the effect is analogous to off shoring. The long-term effect of professorial podcasting will be interesting, because it suggests an inexpensive way to commodify aspects of teaching.

[Man, a lot has happened to you since you started the blog — you’re going to need to update that “About Me” page–Ed.] Yeah, I already thought of that.

Posted by Dan on 11.05.05 at 08:48 AM

Posted in Blog, Blogs, Cultural, Entertainment, Higher Education, Internet, Media, News/Journals, Personalties, The Univ. of Chicago. Comments Off on A Brief Intermission: Denzler Update

Gentle Evening Thoughts: Starting Points

Gentle Evening Thoughts

The first commentary in this series of discussions serves as an introduction to the general perspective on the relational analytic process that is advanced in the sequence of narrations that will follow. This perspective was born primarily from an encapsulation of my clinical experience.I’m not convinced about whether in emerged at the very beginning or not, but it seems as though in many aspects, almost as far back as I can remember in my career as a therapist, I have been working in a certain way with my patients.

The purpose of this writing is to provide a conceptualization of that way of being a therapist. It strives to clarify the implicit principles and underlying assumptions that have been at work in the process as I experienced it. Of course, in reality, it has not been that simple or that linear. There have been a multitude of external influences–personal, professional, theoretical, and cultural–that have shaped my clinical experiences. For example some of the theoretical influences have included the contributions of Merton Gill, Irwin Z. Hoffman, Donnel Stern and Stephen Mitchell.

Secondly, just as unformulated experiences generate the creation of principles, so too have the principles, once becoming explicit, shaped my manner of working and my way of construing what I was doing. As with the chicken and the egg, there is little sense in trying to determine which came first. In addition, in both directions the connection is not simply an instance of cause and effect. There is a space between the source of influence and its significance, an area in which one is present taking an active role, as a subject making choices.

The unformulated aspects of clinical experiences are ambiguous; there is more than one acceptable way to organize a set of principles that fits them, and consciously or unconsciously, one is “choosing” among them. Obversely, the principles, once clarified, are not inflexible. There is wide latitude in the manner that they may be put into practice. The particular path taken, in turn, promotes a new current of unformulated or implicit impressions.

The remarks in the initial (1/11/2005) brief commentary, Gentle Evening Thoughts, began by setting a context for the note, “In solitude.” Underlying the reference to solitude is the distinction between being alone and feeling lonely, which is to feel desolate and miserable over aloneness. The lonely one feels friendless, a loner and a loser. Feelings of inadequacy engender an emotional state of shame.

Where one has developed the capacity to be alone, solitude takes on the power to be creative, the ability to promote renewal and regeneration, and a sense of hope about the future. William Wordsworth fittingly portrayed this vision of solitude, seen from this self-enriching perspective:

When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign, is Solitude.

Wordsworth, taken from “The Prelude.”

The initial remarks also refer trying to determine strategies to cope with a significant conflict in an important area of work. However, “trying” to determine is somewhat like “trying”to remember. “Trying” to remember, in fact, usually makes actual remembering almost impossible. It is usually the case that when one moves on to some other activity that what one was trying to remember almost spontaneously comes to mind. That was the case in this discussion, where throughout the efforts to develop strategies to manage the significant conflict in the external world of work, my thoughts periodically returned to some of my own interpersonal experiences earlier in the day, and slowly the words to clarify those experiences began to emerge.

As this growing awareness emerged, my admiration in turn deepened for the welcoming acceptance of uncertainty as a crucial element of the path leading to a sense of compassionate understanding. Embracing the value of a solid recognition of uncertainty is enhanced by a capacity to tolerate the feelings of anxiety, or fears of possessing potentially inadequate resources to master the challenge, which are aroused by the inevitably constituent ambiguities characterizing our initial perceptions of concepts that others so easily reify or accept as realities. This internal reminder of the pivotal significance of the acceptance of uncertainty opened a door, which in turned helped me to become more creative in developing the strategies that were needed to face the external work conflicts.

This recognition and welcome acceptance of uncertainty is one of the foundations of the analytic model that this sequence of discussions hopes to clarify.

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New Meanings: An Advance in Relational Theory

Meaning and Metaphor

snow on mountain top
melts, gives rise to new plant life
death makes room for life

night comes, sleep arrives
depart from many harsh truths
and wake up renewed

I. Introduction.

From the very beginning, the major context of the commentaries that have been presented has been that the meanings conveyed within the reflective thoughts in the discussions would reflect a sense that powerful surprise, the shock of recognition, underscored the emergence of unformulated experiences into explicit meaning. An associated context was that the commentaries would be composed in a manner that included an awareness of subtle meanings related to persecution and the art of writing. That context is significantly deeper and more complex than the more simple attempt to maintain “anonymity.”
At a manifest level, the commentaries focussed upon social and cultural topics, historical issues, brilliant and/or eccentric personalities, and reflective thoughts about personal experiences. The first discussion was entitled Gentle Evening Thoughts, which can now be understood as the prelude to a Beginning. The last commentary concluded with a notation that Joan Didion’s new book, A Year of Magical Thinking, had just received the 2005 National Book Award. From one perspective, writing and the process of publication come to an end after receiving a highly pretigious award, since at that point a book takes on a life of its own. Consequently, the previous discussion represented an Ending.

Therefore, it is now possible to consider the commentaries presented from the first posting to the last one as metaphors, specifically symbolic representations of a new psychoanalytic model that contributes a considerable advancement to contemporary relational theory and practice. This advancement may, in many ways, be considered a bold transformation of the most progressive reational theory, dialectical social-constructivism.

The discussions to come will begin with a re-examination of the first posting, followed by unpacking the subsequent postings. At times, the discussions will include (sequentially) more than one posting, for example when they represent various aspects of the same technical topic being considered. It will be an arduous odyessy, but one that I hope will be a valuable and enriching one. The process leading to my understanding of this endeavor has been extensive and strenous; it has taught me well that patience is a considerable personal attribute.

The journey begins.

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Joan Didion: A Year of Magical Thinking


Joan Didion: On Grief and Isolation

At the recent 2005 Chicago Humanities Festival, Joan Didion appeared to provide reflections about her new book, “The Year of Magical Thinking”, as well as some of the feelings that were evoked by the events described in her book. Joan Didion’s memoir is about grieving for her husband, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne. The couple had been married since 1964. Her thoughts presented in Chicago were starkly realistic–an attitude shaped by the sudden death of her husband and her only child. She described the almost immediate dramatic, life-altering effect that she experienced: “The notion that I could control things died hard…I do not believe in an afterlife; I wish I did.”

Dunne died of a heart attack at the end of 2003. His death came suddenly, just as the couple was sitting down to dinner after visiting their daughter in the hospital, who had fallen into a coma after being treated for pneumonia and septic shock. In her memoir, Didion contemplates how the rituals of daily life were fundamentally altered when her life’s companion was taken from her.

Her impressions, both sharply observed and utterly reasonable, portray a deeply engaging image of an exquisitely intelligent woman grappling with her past and future.The year referred to in the title would take its toll on Didion in another way, as well: despite showing signs of recovery, Didion’s daughter died in August of this year, several weeks after Didion submitted her final manuscript.

Her initial struggle to begin writing about the thoughts and feelings of grief, sorrow and utter isolation aroused by this tragic experience began with four magnificantly dignified short lines:

Life changes fast.

Life changes in the instant.

You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.

The question of self-pity.


Joan Didion, whose memoir “The Year of Magical Thinking” is quickly becoming a classic portrait of sorrow and grief, won the National Book Award for nonfiction Wednesday night (11/16/2005). “There’s hardly anything I can say about this except thank you,” said Didion, praising her publisher for supporting her as she wrote her acclaimed best seller about the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and the illness of her daughter, Quintana Roo.

The 70-year-old Didion, who had never won the National Book Award, has long been admired by many distinguished authors for her precise, incisive fiction and literary journalism. However, “The Year of Magical Thinking” brought her a substantially larger readership, with booksellers saying that her memoir has been especially in demand from those who have lost a loved one or knew someone who had.

Author Joan Didion giving her acceptance speech after winning the National Book Awards Nonfiction prize for “The Year of Magical Thinking,” at the National Book Awards ceremony in New York, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2005.



Our seemingly established right to freedom of expression may be seen as caught between two different trends of disenchanted modernity. The first trend relies upon the demands of an extremely pragmatic form of rationalization, leading to the framing of our thoughts as legitimate only when subordinated to the dictates of scientistic objectivism and the dominant governmental ideology.

At perhaps an even more personal level, it can lead one to become subjugated to an increasingly impaired quality of thought processes (often a rapidly progressing, narrow focus upon issues related to the draconian pursuit of power) characterizing whatever institution to which one has been devoted.

The second trend is to anchor feelings of confidence upon introspective self-inquiry, which offers one the opportunity for a sense of freedom from the dictates of orthodoxy, inequality, and authority.

However, the reaction against the first trend of submission to external domination may tend to produce, in its emphasis upon introspective subjectivity, a vulnerability to reifying counter-ideals of not-knowing and mutuality, which must also be carefully deconstructed. Differences in meanings achieved by others who also choose to rely ever more upon the liberating capacity of subjectivity suggest pluralism will make new knowledge demands upon us. The development of new critical abilities will be needed to help form a way of knowing that is based upon collaborative, democratic processes, where knowledge itself can be used homeopathically as an antidote to the old ideal of the knowing authority.

In the history of psychoanalysis, there is hardly a more striking anecdote than a comment made by Freud in a letter to Oskar Pfister in 1910:

“Discretion is incompatible with a good presentation of psychoanalysis. One must become a bad character, disregard the rules, sacrifice oneself, betray, behave like an artist who buys paints with the household money belonging to his wife or bums the furniture to heat the studio for his model. Without such a bit of criminality there is no real achievement.”

This statement, notably to a non-analyst, reminds us how, despite its present appearance of orthodoxy and reverence for the founder, psychoanalysis began as a marginal, radical enterprise. From its inception, psychoanalysis took up a quietly critical stance toward authority, bourgeois conventional norms and what were then the certainties of conscious knowledge.

In contemporary life, the renewed sense of enrichment provided by a turn to self-inquiry, as opposed to living as a servant to external powers, is accompanied by sometimes distressing feelings of disenchantment, an awareness that the modern condition no longer allows us to call upon religious, mysterious, and awe-inspiring forms of truth, upon authority founded in such revealed truth. One of the consequences of this disenchantment is that the ultimate and most sublime values have retired from public life, at best into the brotherliness of immediate personal relationships.

At the same time we are required either to suffer a great deal more uncertainty or, more constructively, learn how to embrace it. Those who find this condition too difficult to bear will retreat vociferously, in a manner that obscures the uncertainty of life, into the arms of churches which promise them a renewed sense of entitlement and power over others, often over the unfortunate and disadvantaged.

My concluding remarks are perhaps the most difficult to formulate clearly. In contemporary psychotherapeutic and “self-help” thinking, feelings of resignation are unanimously associated with feelings of depression, inadequacy and a sense of low self-worth. There are, however, important incidents in the history of psychoanalysis that point out an entirely different dimension of “feelings of resignation.”

One striking example involved the psychoanalyst Edith Jacobsen in the 1930s, who at that time was a member of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute. Jacobson was arrested by the Gestapo for participating in a resistance group in 1934 and was sentenced and held for more than two years in a Gestapo prison; she was finally released due to illness and managed to escape.

It subsequently been revealed that Anna Freud responded to the Nazi persecution of Jacobson solely in terms of her deep worry that Jacobsen had jeopardized the psychoanalytic movement in Berlin, which had hoped to preserve the Institute and continue treating patients without interference, by complying with the authorities, accepting (demanding) the resignation of its Jewish members, and generally being on best behavior.

For Anna Freud, then, “resignation” was in fact both an oppressive demand and a despicable compliance with the Nazi domination and persecution of the Jews. Jacobson committed herself to an entirely different, firm “sense of resignation” to refuse the vulgar type of “resignation” demanded by Anna Freud, displaying a noble, moral and life-enriching form of resignation.

In the United States, the history of psychoanalysis presents other practical instances where the sense and enactment of feelings of resignation were pioneering and moral acts of justice. One of the more significant of these events took place in the 1930s, with the simultaneous resignations of Karen Horney and Clara Thompson from the New York Psychoanalytic Institute in protest against the degrading understanding of women that it expounded, viewing women as innately inferior and damaged humans.

The subsequent body of writings about women created by Karen Horney can quite justifiably be understood as a major cornerstone for the feminist movement that emerged. Clara Thompson went on to become a founder of the William Allison White Institute in New York City, which from its very beginnings has served as a fountainhead for contemporary relational thinking.

“Feelings of resignation,” then, need not necessarily be understood to reflect underlying depression, lack of self-confidence, feelings of incompetence and inadequacy. Instead, feelings and acts of “resignation” may serve as a firm commitment to the affirmation of justice, the defiance of authoritarian domination, the refusal to be ruled by primitive forms of reason and the pursuit of humanitarian achievements. In this manner, “the sense of resignation” stands proudly as a beacon of hope for all mankind.

The Mountain’s Daily Speech Is Silence


The mountains daily speech is silence
Profound as the Great Silence
between the last Office and the first
Uninterrupted as the silence God maintains
throughout the layered centuries
All the mountain’s moods,
frank or evasive,
its whiteness, its blueness,
are shown to sight alone
Yet it is known
that fire seethes in its depths
and will surely rise one day, breaking open
the mute imperturbable summit. Will the roar of eruption be
the mountains own repressed voice,
or that of the fire? Does the mountain
harbor a demon distinct from itself?

Denise Levertov, 1997.

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“I WOULD NOT BE STANDING HERE TODAY, NOR STANDING WHERE I STAND EVERYDAY, HAD SHE NOT CHOSEN TO SIT DOWN…I KNOW THAT.” This was Oprah Winfrey’s statement during her “sorrowful” publicity act at a three-hour memorial service for Rosa Parks at the historic Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Washington, D. C. on Monday.

Yes, dear Oprah, where WOULD you be standing? Standing outside a Parisian Hermes store after it had closed, stamping your feet and degrading its employees, since you were SO FAMOUS that they had no right not to open it up after-hours just for you and the entourage that you employ to cater to your every whim??

Or perhaps standing and pretending to be so empathic and caring for the plight of the many characters that you parade across your stage each week on your daily television talk show? An “empathic facade” that is well-known, by large numbers of people in Chicago, to immediately evaporate as soon as the television cameras turn away or when the show cuts to a commercial break.

Where was even a pittance of financial support (from your immense fortune) for Rosa Parks when not too long ago her landlord was about to evict her from the humble Detroit apartment, where she lived alone in abject poverty? There was none–you were too involved in all of the “draining”activities of keeping your face everywhere as a national entertainment personality.

Shame, shame, deep shame upon you…and upon all of the other big names who now show up to “piously” bask in the spotlight of her memorials. Shame on you and President Bush and Former President Bill Clinton and Rep. John Conyers and Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan and U. S. Senator Barack Obama and Reverand Al Sharpton and Bishop Adam Jefferson Richardson and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Aretha Franklin and Cicely Tyson and the NAACP and the many other politically powerful, famous and wealthy so-called supporters of human dignity and rights.

Where were any of you when Rosa Parks really needed your help? Nowhere to be found.

Shame, shame, shame, eternal shame upon all of you.

Posted in Cultural, Media, News/Journals, Personal Thoughts, Personalties. Comments Off on OPRAH WINFREY: HYPOCRISY ABOUNDS
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