Frodo Baggins, A.B.D.

When I had pneumonia a few years into my current job, I spent 10 days bedridden (or, having been banished to the basement, futon-ridden), and watched the extended Lord of the Rings trilogy over and over, since I needed something that would occupy my mind enough to distract me from my suffering, but I couldn’t do any of the things I usually do (read, write, think, etc.). I spent a lot of that time worrying how I would possibly recover the lost time I might otherwise have been teaching a full load (four courses), so I am psychologically prepared to see a close link between Frodo’s struggle and the pressures of academic life.

Careers Cover Illustration resizedThe drama of filing the dissertation is heightened at the end of the process, in those last months of writing, editing, and formatting. A critical scene in The Return of the King highlights the deep emotional struggle between Frodo and his alter ego, Gollum.

Frodo and Sam have finally arrived at Mount Doom, which means that Frodo finally has the full draft. But he looks terrible; he has been defeated emotionally and spiritually by the burden of carrying the ring. He has reached the end of his long journey, but will he file?

At the volcano, Sam yells to Frodo to throw in the ring. But by this time, the strain and burden of carrying the ring for so long has damaged Frodo’s mind; he doesn’t want to let go. He looks at Sam with a crazed look and says, “The ring is mine!” which, translated, means that he can’t or won’t finish; he has more research to do, more editing; the dissertation is just not good enough; he must reformat the page numbers.

He has taken the step toward becoming Gollum. He will remain A.B.D. forever.

via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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