From French medieval history and biology to feminist studies and film, NYU professors know it all. They don’t just teach, though. In addition to lecturing, many professors also write books and conduct their own research in their spare time.
Dr. Michael Peachin, professor of classics and director of undergraduate studies, has written and edited numerous books and articles on Roman history, his subject of interest. Peachin’s first book, which was his dissertation, was inspired by his graduate work studying the different titles of Roman emperors from 235 to 284 A.D.
“When I was an undergraduate at the end of my freshman year, I took a course in ancient history and just became utterly, totally, thoroughly fascinated with the topic,” Peachin said. “What especially fascinated me about this field of research was that the source tradition that we have for Greco-Roman antiquity is terrible.”
The constant detective games within this topic drew Peachin in and appealed to him throughout his career. Collaborations in particular were especially important to Peachin, as he felt that he was contributing a small part to a bigger whole.
While writing his first book, Peachin found information that he would use in writing later works. He was also interested in the administrative structures of the Roman empire, particularly an official named Frontinus, which led to another book. From there, Peachin edited “The Oxford Handbook of Roman Social Relations” and “Aspects of Friendship in the Greco-Roman World,” along with many other smaller projects.
“I just became a total fanatic about trying to figure things out and trying to write up what I had figured out,” Peachin said. “I had this idea that I could actually contribute something.”
Dr. Moya Luckett, a media historian and part-time Gallatin professor, focuses on the connection between gender and fame in mass media and fashion. Her book “Cinema and Community: Progressivism, Exhibition and Film Culture in Chicago, 1907-1917” focuses on the obscure period before Hollywood cinema that influenced film production. Its seven chapters discusses subjects like African-American moviegoers, World War I and exhibitionism.
Before that, Luckett edited “Swinging Single: Representing Sexuality in the 1960s” and is now working on two books about celebrity culture and femininity in media. Luckett has also published and presented numerous articles at academic conferences.
“The celebrity book is a little more time-sensitive,” Luckett said. “Every year that passes there’s always something I could add. As I am working on Kylie Jenner already, I find out that Kylie Jenner has a TV show coming out.”
The issue of new information is also familiar to Peachin. In his opinion, there’s a whole process of reading and rewriting associated with becoming an expert on a topic. With Luckett, however, there’s the challenge of staying current. She also said that there is always too much or too little information on a topic, making it difficult to craft an elegant argument.
“Writing a book in itself somehow teaches you how not to write a book,” Luckett said.
Dr. Stefanie Goyette, a French medievalist and LS professor, is working on her first book with the tentative title “Location/Locution: The Evidence of the Body in the Old French Fabliaux.” The book analyzes the corpus of medieval comic stories called the fabliaux.
“I’m writing the book because I love the fabliaux,” Goyette said. “I did a ton of research for my dissertation, and while I have published some of that research, the vast bulk of it remains unavailable to the public.”
However, as this is her first book, she found that it is very different from writing the articles she prefers. The breadth of her topic of interest has complicated the writing process. Because the fabliaux is so diverse, Goyette said that it is important to not make sweeping generalizations about the subject.
Another problem Goyette ran into while trying to write her book was time.
“I try to write every day, and that helps, but any interruption can derail the process to some extent,” Goyette said. “And there’s been a real lack of stability in my professional life that has held up the project.”
So no matter the subject, writing a book can be a tricky situation, even for experts like NYU professors. The next time you pick up a book written by one of your professors, be sure to consider the years of work and research that went into it.
Email Han Wang at [email protected]