Are doctorates worthwhile?
Australian Universities' Review
What did that degree do to you?
Re-visiting and Re-visioning
the Ph.D. Books
A publisher by principle
A publisher by principle
Daily News [Dartmouth,
N.S.], 7 July 1996, page 48
Milner is author of The Yankee Professor's Guide to Life in Nova Scotia,
and teaches English at St.F.X.
Cude is an independent man of letters. When asked a question, he puts
his head back and speaks carefully. His words are precise, forming sentences
and paragraphs with short and long pauses where semi-colons and commas
and periods would go if he were writing instead of talking. His good eye
lights up and thoughts flash across his face. He occasionally strokes
his neat salt-and-pepper beard when he reaches for a word, but otherwise
his arms usually remain crossed over his chest.
runs a small publishing company, serves as an editorial consultant to
various publications and individuals and teaches occasional English courses
at St.F.X. or UCCB. He also writes books, book reviews and articles. Like
many eastern Nova Scotia intellectuals, he once ran for parliament for
the NDP. He's affiliated with no university, magazine, or newspaper. There
is not much demand for independent men of letters these days, and rural
Cape Breton seems a particularly unlikely place in which to find one.
"Mary Pat and I originally moved to the Loch Bras D'Or (a few miles
from St. Peters) because we could live here economically while I worked
on my PhD dissertation," Cude explains. "I built the house during
the summer of 1972. Excepting two-year teaching stints at the University
of British Columbia, at the Coast Guard College in Sydney, and at Concordia
University in Montreal, we've lived here ever since."
The Cudes also keep bees, sell honey, make a locally famous mead (honey
wine), and, like many of their neighbours, work the pogey as best they
Cude just finished helping a neighbour write and publish a book. George
Grinnell, a retired professor of the history of science and technology
at McMaster University in Hamilton, moved to River Bourgeois in 1994.
Cude met him when both were fighting a plan to establish a used motor
oil reclamation centre near their homes.
"We were both opposed to locating an oily soil reclamation facility
on Sporting Mountain in Richmond County," Cude, who was born in Montreal,
remembers. "Over the course of our association, George told me the
about his canoeing adventure. He had been writing about it for 40 years.
I offered my services as a professional editor. George accepted, and 'Death
in the Barrens' was published this spring."
In 1992 Cude's Medicine Label Press published "The Promised Land"
by Tessie Gillis, an unknown writer who wrote short stories about loneliness,
alcoholism, poverty, and spousal abuse in a rural Cape Breton Scottish-Catholic
community in the 1950s.
"Wilf recognized Tessie Gillis's talent while other publishers hedged,"
says Jim Taylor, a St. F.X. English professor who edited Gillis's short
stories for publication. "He played a vital role in publishing an
important writer whose work might otherwise have been lost to the reading
Memories are long around Glendale, and readers recognized real life prototypes
for Gillis's blighted characters. Sales were spurred by this unexpected
notoriety. Taylor also attributes the book's sales "to Wilf Cude's
flexibility and energy in promoting it."
Cude became a publisher reluctantly. His second book, The Ph.D. Trap,
was accepted for publication by the James Lorimer Publishing Company in
Toronto. But an editor pointed out that the book would "attract the
fire of academic heavyweights," and Lorimer reneged.
"I decided to publish it myself," Cude said. "I drew out
the maximum cash advance from my VISA card, went to City Printers in Sydney,
and had 500 copies printed. It was reviewed favourably in the Globe and
Mail and elsewhere. It sold out in two months. The second edition, aided
by my appearance on CBC's Fifth Estate, also sold out."
Cude completed his PhD course work with distinction at the University
of Alberta. His thesis, on the literary values of several Canadian writers,
was published by the University Press of America before he defended it.
For this and other breaches of university protocol, the thesis was never
granted a formal examination. He found himself among the 60% of students
in PhD programs who never receive their degree.
In The Ph.D. Trap, Cude tells about Theodore Streleski, a doctoral
candidate in math at Stanford University in California. After 19 years
of work toward his PhD, his marriage had collapsed, he was near financial
ruin, and still had no PhD At that point he took a hammer and bludgeoned
his thesis supervisor. When police opened his briefcase, they found the
hammer and a list of names that included his thesis supervisor, the department
chairman, the dean, the president of the university.
"Stanford University took 19 years of my life with impunity, and
I decided I would not let that pass," Streleski said.
Cude says, "Though we agree the system is unjust, we certainly differ
on our methods of dealing with it. Streleski used a hammer, I use a pen."
Cude is finishing a sequel, The Ph.D. Trap Revisited. It updates
the information, and draws on the letters Cude has received from fellow
victims and other critics of PhD programs.
I should introduce a personal note. In 1989, Wilfred Cude and I began
sharing an office in St. Martha's Convent. The Convent, nestled under
St. F.X.'s smoke stacks, seemed like the right place for two crotchety
teachers who couldn't get along with anybody, and weren't wild about each
other. Cude saw me as a hustler out for myself. I saw him as an injustice
collector who would soon be embroiled in one unwinnable fight or another.
But he taught his two quasi-remedial freshman courses with real dedication.
He marked student papers meticulously, insisted his students rise to his
standard, helped poor writers clean up their grammar and find their voices.
One day, I showed him a sheaf of essays and stories I'd written over the
years, and he helped me see how they might become my first book.
Cude persists in a romantic notion that if you insist on fairness and
justice, you will achieve it. I was little help to him in his battle with
the university power structure. Be that as it may, his seriousness in
the classroom and his quixotic fearlessness in the face of institutional
power helped me effect a change in my own teaching and writing.
For these reasons I am sorry I do not share his enthusiasm for A Death
in the Barrens, which tells the story of a fatal canoeing expedition.
Sports Illustrated magazine published a version of the canoe trip
in 1956, and if Grinnell had stuck to that, he'd have had a good book.
But Grinnell goes into his grad school experience, his stormy relations
with his father, his Ryerson teaching career, his marriages. Two of his
sons drowned on a canoeing trip he organized. He divorced his wife
the boys' mother and married a former student. It almost seems as
though Grinnell understands his canoeing adventure better than he understands
Turning this material into a book must have been an editor's nightmare.
My qualms notwithstanding, the book has sold out. A second edition is
projected. Cude's editorial judgement is vindicated.
its possessors may say to the contrary, the North American
doctor of philosophy degree is not so much about scholarly
attainment as it is about power: sheer, naked, inexorable
economic and social power. Originally intended as the certificate
attesting specialized preparation for research in the major
let me stress at the very beginning, is designed to effect positive
change in a central academic institution now painfully and destructively
faltering. While nearly all the standard literature concerning our
contemporary university structure is unrelievedly laudatory,...