Seminar in Composition Studies (CR)

Performance Studies and Teaching Writing
Performances in Hawai‘i

In their 2006
Braddock Award-winning CCCarticle
“Performing Writing, Performing Literacy,” Fishman, Lunsford,
McGregor, and Otuteye say:

Although “performance” often refers to demonstrable
mastery over skills or knowledge, and in writing programs we tend to treat
student performance like something we can measure and assess using rubrics,
grades, or test scores, our students compelled us to pay attention to the live,
scripted, and embodied activities they stage outside the classroom: everything
from spoken-word events and slam-poetry competitions to live radio broadcasts,
public speaking, and theatrical presentations. In addition, our students
prompted us to consider how the act of embodying writing through voice,
gesture, and movement can help early college students learn vital lessons about
literacy. (226)


Their observation
speaks to a tension between what Jon McKenzie has termed “organizational
performance”—the performances of all of us in organizational settings
according to the (overt and covert) codes by which we abide—and “cultural
performance”—the (often liminal) public performances that have given rise
to the field of performance studies as it has taken form in university
curricula from anthropology to zoology. Work in this seminar will probe the
analysis of cultural performances from a performance studies perspective to
help us all problematize organizational performances that figure as part of
Composition and its instruction. We will also probe McKenzie’s third category
of performance—”technological performance”—as we elaborate teaching
and learning practices in Webster 101, our campus’s most technologically
advanced classroom.


Central Questions

How do Composition
curricula focused on “demonstrable mastery” discipline our students
and us to perform for “outcomes” moreso than for the excitement and
promise afforded by discursive performances, both cultural and organizational? (How)
Can we change that, and why? What are some performance alternatives for
instructors and students? How has the standardization of discursive
organizational performances in Composition courses, increasingly undergirded by
the textbook industry and its digital apps, also ushered in writing performance
expectations as overdetermined by Euro-, continental-, and ethno-centric codes?
Can we chart performance
expectations for ourselves and students that bothrespond to standardization
offer engaging and exciting writing assignments? How will the impending
shift at UHM to the factory model for teaching Composition as popularized on
the continent likely change the performances expected of instructors and



Students will post regularly to Laulima in response
to readings, and students working in pairs will take turns leading class
discussions of those postings and the pertinent readings. Students will also
complete a term project that leverages performance theory, singly or in teams,
in forms that we shall decide upon as a class:
traditional individually written twenty-page seminar papers, digital
productions, development of instructional resources for Compositionists, etc.
Students will compose a formal proposal for this research project that includes
a timeline, milestones, and working bibliography; the proposal will be
workshopped early in the semester until formally approved and established as
the criterion for grading. Final class meetings will be devoted to team-taught
performative experiments in Composition instruction that explore “the act
of embodying writing through voice, gesture, and movement” in a
techno-inflected classroom.



  • Bial,
    Henry, ed. The Performance Studies Reader.  New York: Routledge 2004. Selected chapters.
  • Carlson,
    Marvin. Performance: A Critical Introduction. New York: Routledge, 1996.
    Selected chapters.
  • College Composition and Communication
    . 2012 issue
    devoted to performance.
  • Conquergood,
    Dwight. “Performance Studies: Interventions and Radical Research.” TDR:
    The Drama Review
    , 46 (2002): 145-156.
  • —.
    “Performing as a Moral Act: Ethical Dimensions of the Ethnography of
    Performance.” Turning Points in
    Qualitative Research.
    Ed. Yvonne S. Lincoln and Norman K. Denzin. NY:
    Rowman and Littlefield, 2003, 397-414. Print.
  • Fishman,
    Jenn, Andrea Lunsford, Beth McGregor, and Mark Otuteye. “Performing
    Writing, Performing Literacy.” College
    Composition and Communication
    57 (2005): 224-252. Print.
  • Goffman,
    Erving. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. NY: Anchor, 1959.
  • Henry,
    Jim. “(Re)Appraising the Performance of Technical Communicators from a
    Posthumanist Perspective.” Technical Communication Quarterly19
    (2010): 11-30. Print.
  • —.
    “Performing Professionally as a Writer: Research Revival Vlogs.” College Composition and Communication Online
    1(1), 2012. Web.
  • Hymes,
    Dell. “Breakthrough into Performance.” Folklore: Performance and
    Ed. Dan Ben-Amos and Kenneth S. Goldstein. The Hague:Mouton,
    1975. Print.
  • Kirschenblatt-Gimblett,
    Barbara. “Performance Studies.” The Performance Studies Reader.
    Ed. Henry Bial. New York: Routledge, 2004, 43-55. Print.
  • McKenzie,
    Jon. Perform or Else: From Discipline to Performance. New York: Routledge,
    2001. Print.
  • Miller,
    Carolyn R., and Davida Charney. “Persuasion, Audience, and Argument.”
    Handbook of Research on Writing: History, Society, School, Individual, Text.

    Ed. Charles Bazerman. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2008. 583-598. Print.
  • Murphy,
    Kevin R., and Jeanette N. Cleveland. “Introduction.” Understanding Performance Appraisal: Social, Organizational, and
    Goal-Based Perspectives
    . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 1995. Print.
  • Newkirk,
    Thomas. The Performance of Self in
    Student Writing
    . Portsmouth, NH: Boynton-Cook/Heinemann, 1997. Print.
    Selected chapters.
  • Phelan,
    Peggy. “Introduction: The Ends of Performance.” The Ends of
    . Ed. Peggy Phelan and Jill Lane. New York: New York U P, 1998.
  • Schechner,
    Richard. Performance Theory. New York: Routledge, 1988. Print.
  • —.
    “Peformance Studies: A Broad Spectrum Approach.” The Performance Studies Reader. Ed. Henry Bial. New York:
    Routledge, 2004, 7-9. Print
  • —.
    “Performers and Spectators Transported and Transformed.” The Kenyon Review 3.4 (Autumn1981):
    83-113. Print.
  • Turner,
    Victor. The Anthropology of Performance. New York: PAJ Publications,
    1988. Print. Selected chapters.
  • —.
    “Liminality and the Performative Genres.” Studies in Symbolism and Cultural Communication. Ed. Allan F.
    Hanson. Lawrence, KS: U of Kansas P, 1982, 25-41. Print.

Please note: Most
of these readings will be compiled in a course reader. Students will be
responsible for obtaining from their preferred source the following books, in
any edition: Goffman, McKenzie, Schechner.