Our cover story describes the work of alumni who ply their scholarly trade outside the ivory tower, writing books that are published by academic presses, submitting articles to journals, and lining up stints as guest lecturers at universities. They call themselves independent scholars.
W. Barksdale Maynard ’88 doesn’t define himself that way — he says he’s “just another writer trying to get by” — but over the years, he has built an admirable scholarly résumé without the benefits or limitations of a tenure-track job.
Maynard, a frequent PAW contributor whose story about legendary dean Christian Gauss starts on page 18, has published and lectured on a wide range of topics. His recent biography of Woodrow Wilson 1879 was published last year by Yale University Press; his history of Walden Pond, in 2004 by Oxford. But like some other scholars profiled in our pages, Maynard chose an independent career, in part because “universities are geared toward specialists,” he says. “Over 10 years of writing, I’ve learned that I really am a generalist. I like to know a little bit about everything.”
Princeton students have benefited from Maynard’s varied interests. This spring, he gave a freshman seminar about Wilson; before that, he taught on historical American gardens and on Princeton architecture.
These courses and others, Maynard says, were prepared from scratch — and it seems they won’t soon be taught again. Maynard’s position, like those held by some other visiting lecturers, has been eliminated in budget cuts prompted by the economic crisis and Princeton’s downsized endowment.
Readers, however, still will be able to enjoy Maynard’s work: Another book, on Princeton architecture, is making the rounds of publishers.
Marilyn H. Marks *86