July 28, 2005

Frodo Baggins, ABD -- An Article in the Chronicle

The Chronicle of Higher Education published a great essay today by a former Cornell graduate student who successfully defended her dissertation in 2004. She likens the dissertation process to The Lord of the Rings trilogy:

He travels across a land called Middle-earth to throw a ring into the middle of a volcano called Mount Doom -- an action that, for doctoral students, is known as "filing the dissertation."


She goes on to point out that Gollum is the eternal ABD, destined never to finish, while Frodo's faithful companion Sam will be written about in the Acknowledgments.

I particularly like her translation of the scene where Frodo's mind is so damaged and his spirit is so broken from years of tortured, lonely journeying that he can't let go of the ring. I have seen this so many times with clients who can't let go of even one chapter. "The ring is mine!" Frodo proclaims.

The author, Susie J. Lee, ends the metaphor by describing how Frodo, still recovering, sails off with his mentor and other professors in a faraway land called tenure."

Is there one graduate student, past or present, who wouldn't relate to this tale as a beautiful metaphor of their experiences? If you have a subscription to the Chronicle (highly recommended for insight into academe and job information,) please read the article!

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