Alexandra Watson

First-Year Writing Teaching Statement

Maya Angelou wrote, “Words are things… Someday we’ll be able to measure the power of words.” I like to think of First Year Writing as our collaborative attempt to “measure the power of words”--by dissecting other writers’ work and crafting our own arguments. As an editor and fiction and poetry writer, I’m especially interested in discussing issues of voice, perspective, narrative, silence. The roles of sound and form in creating meaning. The role of the writer’s audience--imagined, ideal, and real.

Questions of voice, perspective, and audience resonate through the texts in the Americas curriculum. Who gets to speak, who gets to record, who gets to document (literary) history? Who’s listening? What does it look/sound like when marginal voices participate in the literary conversation? What happens when oral and literary traditions collide / intersect / grapple? How does the subject describe its other--colonized or colonizer? Our texts--from Sor Juana’s Loa to the Divine Narcissus to Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno to Toni Morrison’s Jazz--show the complexity of these questions. 

Through writing, we attempt to answer these complex questions. The deepest insights come when we maintain our sense of curiosity, our belief that the act of writing  leads to discovery, helps answer our burning questions. Writing helps us not only to transcribe existing ideas but also to generate new ideas, to allow encounters with new evidence to challenge our assumptions.

I joined Barnard’s faculty as a Lecturer in First Year Writing in 2017, and I share my students’ enthusiasm about participating in such a dynamic, engaging intellectual environment. I previously taught University Writing at Columbia, and college writing at the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America. I have an MFA in fiction writing from Columbia. While in grad school I helped found a literary magazine, Apogee Journal, which I still edit today.