Faculty Spotlight: Thomas Main

Thomas Main, William S. Boyd Professor of Law

When you are working on an article or a book, what's your favorite part of the process? What do you do during the process that others might find odd?

The process is mostly a struggle. Mastering the scholarly literature—a prerequisite to contributing to it—is daunting. Developing and defending an authentic, original, and compelling thesis is extraordinarily hard work. And then of course there is no such thing as good writing—only good rewriting. Months and months of rewriting! My favorite part of the process is a moment in the early stages of an article when the trajectory of that particular article crystallizes: I can imagine a beginning, middle, and end for that piece that is distinct from other, related ideas that are swarming in my head. This moment usually occurs when I’m on a bike ride.
What have you read, listened to, or watched recently that has influenced you or your work?

I’ll focus on material that is not law-related.

I enjoyed and learned a great deal from these recent books: Geoffrey West, Scale; Max Tegmark, Life 3.0; Stephen Pinker, Enlightenment Now; Anthony Damasio, The Strange Order of Things; Gretchen Bakke, The Grid; David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity. I’m presently reading and thoroughly enjoying Yuval Noah Harari’s books. (I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t read much fiction.)

I also love podcasts. The shows for which I never miss an episode include Conversations with Tyler Cowen, EconTalk with Russ Roberts, Very Bad Wizards, Waking Up with Sam Harris, 99% Invisible, Decoder Ring, and Revisionist History.

I welcome your reading and listening suggestions—especially if they would diversify my intake.

What is it about being a law school professor that inspires or motivates you?

My deep respect for the profession. Our profession provides many of society’s leaders, problem-solvers, advisors, and advocates.  In the classroom, I appreciate the opportunity to contribute what I can to each student’s career. And as an academic, I have the unique privilege of engaging in rigorous scholarly inquiry—a luxury to be sure, but also a solemn responsibility.

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