Sunday, January 20, 2008


What does it mean when you reluctantly drag yourself into your cubicle on Sunday only to find the following two papers placed on your chair?

The first was what looked like an old photocopy of a chapter entitled "The Hiring Process in Academia." Okay, so I know I need a job. At this point maybe any job. So that's fair.

The second and more telling paper was also an old photocopy, but this time of a chapter called "The dissertation's deadly sins" by Robert Plant Armstrong (Not, I don't think, of Led Zeppelin fame). So you can experience this along with me, here's an pretty representative excerpt from his introductory remarks:
"The dissertation system must have laid at its door an enormous squandering of creativity, youth, time, and money each year upon the execution of prose works that do not communicate significantly and are therefore dysfunctional."

...Armstrong continues by describing, in barely constrained glee, the "six grievous assaults" upon discourse perpetrated by the graduate student via his devil tool, the dissertation as "...amateurism, redundancy, trivialization, specializationalism, reductionism, and arrogance. One or all of these defects can usually be found in any given dissertation."


What I wonder, is this tempting fate? Is it too cynical to simply assume that I too will write such crap? That by having such low expectations I will fulfill them? Or is it a pragmatic view that will help me get out the door?

Perhaps I can feel comforted that the leaver of said papers tried to mask this indictment as a gift by also leaving behind a small plastic cup full of flowers and a giant shipping tube.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

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8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are not tempting fate. It is quite safe to assume that some small portion of your dissertation will be crap, and allowing some of it to be crap does help you get out the door....
Most of it, however, will NOT be crap. The trick is to practice remembering who you are when you walk away from mirrors--of all sorts.

10:43 AM  

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