Friday, July 09, 2004

True Confessions

I'm going to admit being obsessed with finding out what happens next in the life of Emma Jane over at Barely Tenured. It's taking all my good manners and common sense not to dash off an email begging for an update on what has taken place since Wednesday. Also, it would be embarrassing to get a reply back from some PR person explaining that Professor Maple and her very compelling story are not as real as I think they are but are instead just a part of some guerilla marketing campaign. (Unlikely, but possible.)

What makes Barely Tenured so compelling is that it is structured very much like a classic Greek tragedy. The archetypical tragic hero is highly successful and of a noble background but is doomed due to the tragic flaw; the tragic hero has full control over his or her actions and is destined to make a bad decision.

Barely Tenured tells the story of a professor who came from the best schools, who teaches at a college with good students, and whose research is relevant enough to be "scooped" and good enough to earn her tenure. Others in her field probably view her CV with envy. Life should be good.

Unfortunately, Emma Jane's tragic flaw is family. Her mentally ill mother provided her with a sometimes shaky home life, and now Emma Jane needs to make sure her mother is taken care of. It's pretty clear that this will never be the sort of relationship which people expect in a typical family. And so Emma Jane has chosen to have a family of her own. We know that this is a choice that she's making because she blogs about her struggles with infertility.

And we all can guess what will happen to her research program and her academic success if she has a baby. So I'm sitting here silently yelling, "No, don't do it!" and waiting to find out what happens next.