Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Magic-User as Doctoral Candidate

In the depths of preparing my dissertation proposal, I find myself thinking about the ways in which we conceive of the old-fashioned D&D magic-user. Typically, graduate students in the United States go through initial training, then some sort of qualifying exam (though, thankfully, my program has no qualification exam) with a dissertation proposal which must be defended, then the grad student must focus on their dissertation. The Magic-user is seen as spending time in an apprenticeship, deep in study, then after some sort of tests, he or she leaves for journeyman work in the field to master the art.

So maybe the magic-user's spell book is sort of his or her qualifying exam— it includes the spells he or she has managed to glean and master through research, and reflect an intellectual approach to magic in the world. Sure, every apprentice learns the basic principles, but one magic-user may have done his literature review in divinatory magic, and another could have done hers on fire magic. This intellectual approach (perhaps even a formalized intellectual tradition) guides his or her initial approach as a level one M-U. But to get full membership in the group, he or she will need to finish a final dissertation, present and defend it for review, and then become a full-fledged member of magical society.

Or it could just be that doctoral work is warping my brain.