Cecelia Lie-Spahn

First-Year Writing Teaching Statement

One of the most valuable lessons that I learned when I was a student at Barnard (yes I was!) is that writing is difficult for a reason. When writing is hard, it’s because you have a complicated idea brewing that gets tangled up in your other ideas and experiences. You have to write, write, write — for different readers, for yourself — in order to tease it out, to find a thread and begin to untangle that messy web of reactions/experiences/questions/intuitions/words you keep coming back to but don’t know why (yet). To me, this is what teaching writing at a women’s college is all about: it’s about empowering students to embrace complexity, to read the world curiously and attentively, and to respond to that world in meaningful ways that honor its (and our) complexity.

My background is in feminist studies, a field that is dedicated to making invisible structures of power — social, institutional, historical, cultural — visible. I am especially interested in the relationships between race, science, and reproductive justice (this is also the title of the First-Year Seminar I teach in the Spring). While I read a lot of investigative journalism and medical records and pharmaceutical ads and public health scholarship and sometimes even tax documents for my research, I love reading science fiction and magical realism because these genres both captivate and stump me, a combination that forces me to question the (in)visible structures that shape my own thinking and lived experiences.

One of my goals in all of the classes I teach is to do exactly that: to identify how we see and analyze the world, and to push ourselves to see things about our own worlds that we could not see before. In my First-Year Writing and First-Year Writing Workshop classes, that means that we read literary and scholarly texts that prompt us to reflect on what we think we know about the relationships between the body, identity, life and death, power, reality itself. While the readings are not comprehensive of any discipline or topic in the way an “Intro to [fill in the blank]” class might be, I draw from my own background in women, gender, and sexuality studies, critical race and ethnic studies, postcolonial and decolonial studies, and feminist science studies. 

As Associate Director of First-Year Writing and Director of First-Year Writing Workshop, I also specialize in supporting Barnard students from all disciplines and backgrounds who feel that they would benefit from more intensive work on their academic reading and writing skills. If you think this might be you, I encourage you to reach out to me directly (clie@barnard.edu) to set up a time to talk so I can connect you with the best resources Barnard offers.

Courses I teach:

First-Year Writing & First-Year Writing Workshop, Women & Culture: Monsters
First-Year Seminar Workshop: Race, Science, and Reproductive Justice
Academic Writing Intensive
Art of the Essay (restricted to Barnard multilingual, international, and VISP students)