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Dramatic Consequences: Integrating Rhetorical Performance across the Disciplines and Curriculum

Abstract: Just as WAC pedagogy and writing studies both stress the ways that writing and communication practices can act as both heuristics and products of genre-based, discipline- specific knowledge, in much the same way, performance, too, can be used as a heuristic and as a product and should be more fully explored in WAC theory and pedagogy. This article argues for a theory of performance across the disciplines based on performance theory, specifically, how Richard Schechner's concept of the rehearsal or "twice behaved behavior" can be used as a heuristic to promote communication and thinking about writing assignments because of performance's direct relationship to audience, and similarly, how Ric Allsopp and Carol Bergval's concept of "performance writing" reconceives notions of rhetorical delivery that can be used in discipline-specific courses. Two case studies are examined for the ways in which they demonstrate performances which focus identification and division with the audiences across the disciplines.

As a composition teacher, I wonder just how much we are missing when we ask that all knowing be translated into writing
—Elizabeth Cheseri-Strater

The performance of writing … seeks to locate … the context and means for writing, both internal and external to language, whether these be activated for and through a stage, for and through a site, a time-frame, a performer's body, the body of a voice or the body of a page.
—Carol Bergvall

Performance studies, an interdisciplinary study of performance as social behavior, self-awareness and audience is informed by scholars from an array of disciplines: Kenneth Burke, J.L. Austin, Erving Goffman, Victor Turner, and Richard Schechner. Theories of persuasion and audience, language, sociology, anthropology, and theatre, respectively create rich and vast theoretical relationships that investigate performance as an act of constructing identity, the ways people interact around them, and the constant negotiation between the sender and receiver. Called the "anti-discipline," (Carlson, 1999, p. 189), performance studies simultaneously permeates and redefines disciplinary boundaries of art, philosophy, linguistics, the fine arts, and anthropology, to name a few. For the last decade, performance has been embraced to some extent in Composition Studies theoretically and pedagogically. The performance of the self (Goffman, 1959) and the body's relationship to self are important in the construction of student identity both in personal writing (Newkirk, 1997) and as key components in students' (and educators') constructions of their identities (Gere, 2001; Gibson, Marinara, & Meem, 2000; Alexander, 2005; Fleckenstein, 1999; Kopelson, 2002 ). Linking performance to delivery in our digitized age, Meredith Love's "Composing through a Performative Screen: Translating Performance into Student Writing Pedagogy," looks at theories of Braudrillard to claim that simulation and identity "are particularly applicable to students' and educator's lives that are shaped by on-screen simulation" (2007, p. 13). Uses of performance in relationship to students' written and embodied identities reach across the disciplines, drawing from the fields of literature, cultural studies, theatre, sociology, and the digital humanities. Yet, Jenn Fishman and Andrea Lunsford's "Performing Writing, Performing Literacy" (2005), reminiscent of Elizabeth Cheseri-Strater's Academic Literacies (1991), turns the field of Composition Studies more acutely toward performance as a literacy. The authors argue that students' performative practices outside the classroom (a poetry slam and live radio broadcast) inform their writing practices inside the classroom. Thus, Fishman and Lunsford call for more direct attention to performance-based practices and research that informs writing instruction.

Though relationships between theories of identity in writing studies and performance studies have been forged, the ways in which performance as a rhetorical act that focuses on audience and delivery can inform WAC/CAD[1] objectives have not yet been explored. Given the relationships between writing studies and WAC, and writing studies and performance, performance can be used to achieve WAC objectives of writing to learn and writing to communicate. These goals include focusing on writing as a heuristic for thinking (as in writing to learn), and focusing on writing for an audience outside the self and for knowledgeable peers (as in writing to communicate) (McLeod, 2001, p. 150). Just as WAC pedagogy and writing studies both stress the ways that writing and communication practices can act as both heuristics and products of genre-based, discipline- specific knowledge, in much the same way, performance, too, can be used as a heuristic and as a product and should be more fully explored in WAC theory and pedagogy. Using two case studies to exemplify the intersections between the rhetorical and performative dimensions of delivery and audience, this article will argue for the use of performance-based assignments across the disciplines.

Relationships: Performance, Writing, and WAC

Performance studies' emergence as an interdisciplinary subject can be credited to Richard Schechner, who, at New York University in the 1980s, sought first to cultivate performance within liberal arts education and then outside of the academy into society. Performance Studies expanded text-based notions of literature to texts/performances broadly conceived: cultural texts, adaptation, dance and theatre, as well as anthropology, gender studies, and postmodern theory (Phelan & Lane, 1998, p. 1; Gimblett-Kirshenblatt, 2004, p. 45). Much like composition studies' "social turn" which broadened notions of the text in cultural studies and placed emphasis on the social power of the writer and contexts of writing in critical pedagogy, performance studies, too, is "attuned to issues of place, person-hood, cultural citizenship, and equity" and "deals with these issues by bringing diverse performance cultures into conversation and collaboration with one another" (Gimblett-Kirshenblatt, p. 51).

In "Performance Studies: The Broad Spectrum Approach," Schechner extends typical associative definitions of performance from disciplines like theater, dance, music and performance art" to "a broad spectrum" of activities including "the performing arts, rituals, healing, sports, popular entertainments, and performance in everyday life" (2004, p. 7). Moving performance as discipline-specific to activity-based, Schechner advocated for performance as a "cultural analysis … as part of core curricula" (p.8). Although Schechner does not use the term performance across the disciplines, he is the first to articulate performance as both a method of analysis and a product of that analysis.

Just as both writing and performance studies grapple with educational questions of diversity and disciplinarity, writing and performance are also connected through two key rhetorical concepts: the importance of audience and the canon of delivery. In performance studies, the concept of audience is central to any performance activity: an actor and audience must be present to have a performance (Carlson, 2003). Performance theorist Marvin Carlson explicates the necessity of audience within the performance situation: "All theorists of performance recognize … the essential quality of performance is …the relationship between the performer and the audience" (Carlson, p. 35). Likewise, stressing the importance of analysis, rhetorical theorist Kenneth Burke emphasizes the conscious production of behaviors for persuasive matters in terms of a dramatistic relationship of act, actor, scene, agent, and agency. The audience's role is to discern motives (Carlson, p. 35). Both Carlson and Burke draw from rhetorical and performative principles to centralize the role of audience.

In writing studies, researchers in both the rhetorical and cognitive traditions have theorized about the writer-speaker's need to establish a relationship and/or awareness with the audience (Ong, 1975; Sperling, 1996, p. 64). Some rhetoric and communication scholars focus on the writer/speaker's fictionalization of the audience (Ong, 1975; Black, 1992) Other theorists emphasize the reality/literality of an audience in pedagogical situations (Pfister & Petrick, 1980). Ede and Lunsford (1984) argue that a writer's knowledge of his or her audience improves his or her writing; audiences are situationally determined and adapt to the changing rhetorical situation (p. 89). Melanie Sperling (1996) points out that much research done on manipulating writing assignments and changing teaching strategies was done to better understand how the concept of audience improves writing (Hays, Brandt, & Chantry, 1988; Redd-Boyd & Slater, 1989; Rafoth, 1989; Charney, Newman, & Palmquist, 1995.) These studies have reached compatible conclusions: "Assignments specifying real audiences affect writer's composing more than assignments specifying imaginary audiences or no audience at all" (Sperling, 1996, p. 65). Pedagogically, teaching audience as addressed in real contexts within the disciplines or evoked via understanding actor and audience motivations across the disciplines, are strategies for helping students and teachers think about the performative and rhetorical aspects of audience.

Not only is audience central to both performance and writing studies, but the rhetorical canon of delivery, the mode and medium of the content and its reception by an audience, can be applied to writing and communication assignments across the disciplines. Recently in writing studies, delivery has been re-imagined and mediated by multiple modes of delivery, especially as technology becomes more prevalent in the lives of our students, the general public, and in the academy. Multi-modal approaches to using visual and digital rhetorics consider voice as aural, the literal presence of the speaker or writer (as in real time, i.e. screen casting), and other visuals that aid the argument. Although WAC has questioned the "multimedia swamp," --how broadening the definition of writing to include the communicative power of the visual could include meanings, tasks, and skills that apply across more than one mode and genre (i.e. style could mean "the way the writer organizes sound, video, static visuals…." (Thaiss, Theory, 2001, p. 91) — using multimodality to produce and analyze arguments has reinvigorated interest in the power of the rhetorical canon of delivery.

Both writing and performance studies' foci on delivery and audience achieve WAC's objectives for writing to learn and writing to communicate. Writing to learn usually denotes that writing is a heuristic that promotes thinking (McLeod and Maimon, 2000; McLeod, 2001, p.150). Writing to learn is writer-based and invention-based, focusing on discovery of knowledge what arguments exist, the writer's knowledge, and how the writer discovers knowledge. Writing to communicate is discourse, or text-based. It focuses on delivery (genre) and the conventions and style and ethos of the audience (Maimon, 1990; Fulwiler, 1990) and is the finished writing meant for "an audience outside the self and of knowledgeable peers, the writing graded by the instructor (McLeod, p. 153).

Similarly, performance studies' use of the rehearsal processes promotes growth and learning for the actor and speaker. Richard Schechner's concept of performance as "twice behaved" or "restored behavior," (1985, p. 35) can be used to enact Writing to Learn's focus heuristics to learn content and strategies for reaching an audience. Similarly, "performance writing," the relationship between text-based works developed in conjunction with other media, a concept developed by Caroll Bergvall (1996) and augmented by Ric Allsopp (1999), can be applied to writing and communicating within the disciplines. For example, a finished product such as the presentation, the proposal, the ad pitch, or the lab report is performed in a genre other than the textual (remediated) for specific audiences. Alsopp describes performance writing as "a frame through which a range of writing and performance practices are brought into view -- the texualities of sonic, visual, graphic and movement performances; the performance of sonic, visual, graphic and movement texts (p. 1). Performance writing can be used to examine how performance can help students grasp the concept of audience-specific knowledge and genre conventions through problem-solving and remediation of the text.

Theoretical Frame: Writing Performances and Performing Writing

In the case studies that follow, the oral/visual presentation (typically associated with the canon of delivery in rhetoric and communication) is treated as a performance because it relies on multiple modes for delivery: oral, visual, and proceeds from a written text that has been re-mediated (Skinner-Linnenberg, 1997, p. 105). Further, the oral-visual presentation is treated as a performance activity using Schechner's (2004) concept of the rehearsal or "twice behaved behavior" because they perform their writing before turning the written product in for a final grade. Schechner describes the process of rehearsal as "fold[ing] each work back on itself, comparing its completed state to the process of inventing it, to its own internal procedures during that time when it was not ready for showing. Although all arts have this phase, only performance requires it to be public, for an audience, and that is acted out among performers as rehearsal" (2004, p. 204). Schechner sees the rehearsal as a process of "selecting from possible actions to be performed, of simplifying the actions already there, making them as clear as possible in regard both to the matrix from which they have been taken and the audience with which they are meant to communicate" (p. 207).

This rehearsal is akin to writing studies' focus on the multiple drafting and the revisions students make during the writing process. The acts of revision, like rehearsal, focus on the transaction between speaker and audience and helps students to "see again" (Murray, 1978, p. 87). In order to achieve the goals of writing to learn, the presentation acted as part of the writer/speaker's process of writing, wherein the student used the presentation as a performance of the learning experience in order to revise the final written assignment.

The oral-visual presentation also uses Bergvall (1996) and Alsopp's (1999) concept of "performance writing" as students are remediating textual arguments in an oral and visual mode in order to understand the genre of argumentation and the audience of peers within their discipline. Bergvall defines performance writing in relationship to text, audience, and form, much like the presentation the students performed for this case study. The "Performance of writing … seeks to locate … the context and means for writing, both internal and external to language, whether these be activated for and through a stage, for and through a site, a time-frame, a performer's body, the body of a voice or the body of a page" (1996, p. 2). Expanding on Bergvall's work, Alsopp defines performance writing as an exploration of "relationships between textual and text-based work when developed in conjunction with other media and discourses" (1999, p. 1). The students must problem-solve to transform the written ideas into the oral-visual form.

The case studies below are drawn from a sophomore-level argument course which focused on rhetorical delivery and performance. The particular assignment showcased here was a four-part assignment. First, students wrote a short 4 -6 page rhetorical analysis of a short opinion/editorial piece from a popular magazine or newspaper on a topic of their choice that included: a summary of the opinion piece, a thesis on the most prominent rhetorical techniques the authors used, and a conclusion on what the rhetorical analysis revealed. The piece was then submitted as a draft to the instructor and used as a script for the second part of the assignment, the oral-visual presentation. Second, students created a complementary presentation wherein they re-mediated (translated) their written drafts of their rhetorical analyses into a 5-7 minute oral/visual presentation before their final written assignment was due. These presentations were treated as performances of their texts (Schechner, 2004; Skinner-Linnenburg, 1997). Third, students revised their written rhetorical analyses based on both the feedback of the audience of peers and instructor.

The final component of this assignment was the reflection component. On the day students turned in their final written assignments (after having performed their writing), students also wrote a short, in-class, 2-3 page reflection based on the following prompt:

In what ways was presenting your argument helpful or unhelpful to your process of composing your draft/final paper or vice versa? While writing and presenting on your topic, did you take-on any role(s) which gave you a different perspective on your topic, writing, or speaking? (i.e. expert, audience, novice, other). Provide examples from your experiences to answer the questions.

Students' presentations were evaluated by their instructor and peers in terms of their performances: speaker's individual nuances, both aesthetic and social, within the presentation which, taken together, convey meaning (Carlson, 1996, p. 70). These evaluations were compared to how students reflected on their presentations in written responses to the prompt (Yancey, 1998, p. 6). The changes between the drafts were not charted in this particular case study: students' performances and reflections on their awareness of the uses of performance to connect with the audience and to remediate their arguments and problem solve were the considerations of this project.

Case Studies: Audience, Rehearsal and Performing Writing

In the following case studies, two students, Michael and Andrew[2] demonstrated how the performer-audience relationship affected their writing and the ways in which rehearsing and performing writing are activities that can be applied across the disciplines. The two case studies are not meant to offer a comparison, but to offer ways in which teachers can think about the seamless integration of performance-based assignments to promote audience awareness, reflection, and revision within writing assignments.

Michael: Identification with Audience

Michael's presentation on the article, "Whatever It Takes," (2005) from The Economist asks if wealthy nations are doing all they can to help end world poverty and offers some possible solutions. He has an outline of his presentation projected as a Microsoft word document for the class and begins the presentation by introducing the article and then his thesis: "The argument of the article depends entirely on the emotional appeal which is intended to inspire action within its readers toward reducing poverty." Unlike some of the students who formulated broad theses to include all types of Aristotelian appeals, Michael focuses on a specific type of appeal used throughout the article and its purpose.

Not only does Michael have a focused thesis, which gives his audience a manageable amount of information to process, but his outline is projected and used effectively. When discussing the initiative to provide mosquito nets to children in Africa to prevent outbreaks of malaria, Michael introduces the point and walks over to the computer to cue his outline without missing a beat; he continues talking to the audience. "Something as simple as providing a mosquito net to countries with problems like this is not a lot to suggest, according to the author." Unlike some of the students who projected their outlines for their audience but did not make sure their classmates could follow them, (some did not even follow their outlines when speaking) Michael guides his audience by using the outline. He also uses words like, "first," "second," "in the third paragraph" and points to the outline as he makes the corresponding argument. His presentation style is clear, organized, straight-forward and has clearly been rehearsed.

Michael's effective use of visual and oral markers is another indication of his generally good speaking ability and his ability as a student. He takes into consideration the points of effective speaking and presenting that we discussed before the oral presentation assignment. Michael speaks slowly enough for the class to understand what he is saying, varies his speech inflection, and is clear.

To illustrate the author's use of the emotional appeal, Michael directs the audience to the conclusion of the article. "If you look at the conclusion of the piece, the author's word choice really affects the reader." He pauses as students locate the last paragraph in the article. "The author uses the words ‘children dying' and ‘dehumanizing condition' to describe the living situation of these people." Michael also points to the author's choice to leave the reader with the image of a child dying because "we have done nothing, not even given small donations, which would save the lives of children." Michael states, "These are not just logical claims; the author relies on emotion. He has included this in the conclusion because the conclusion is what people remember." He looks directly at the audience as he supports his thesis. Ironically, after telling his audience that the conclusion of the piece he analyzed is important because that is what the audience remembers, he simply concludes his presentation by shrugging and saying, "That's what I did."

Michael's Reflection on Performance and Writing:

In his written reflection on writing and performing his writing, Michael describes the concept of engaging the literal audience and using the presentation as a rehearsal for the final written assignment. He engages his audience through considering their interest level, his own ethos as a speaker and expert, their educational background and through considering the source of his op/ed piece.

Michael self-describes: "I am not an expert on world hunger." He writes that he would "rather rely on the information" in the article than his own expertise: "The audience can be influenced more by information provided by an expert than by me." The presentation allows Michael to think about the audience as a literal concept. He writes of how to persuade and engage his audience.

While it is important to consider the education and comprehension levels of the audience, I concern myself more with the interest level of my audience. Since the audience for both my paper and my presentation is a college English class, there is no need to worry about the subject being beyond the audience. Maintaining the interest of the audience, though, is a tough task. When I put together my presentation, I tried to find pieces of information that thought might be interesting to my audience. For example, I knew that simply presenting a great deal of data and figures would not hold the attention of my audience. Thus, I decided to connect as much of my analysis to American society as possible. Since my audience is composed of young, active members in American society, I felt that I could connect to my audience by making generalizations about the society.

The presentation also allows him a test run of his paper. Thus, the presentation functions literally as "a second draft."

I feel that the presentation served largely as a second draft of my paper … The presentation … aided me in the composition of my final paper by forcing me to critically examine my first draft … There were many other parts of my paper that were a bit subpar … My article came from The Economist, but aside from mentioning the magazine in the introduction, I never referred to the significance of that fact. In the final draft, I will spend some time exploring the significance of the … The Economist.

Both Michael's performance and his written reflection reveal how audience serves as a guide for selecting interesting content and for understanding the audience as knowledgeable peers.

Michael's performance is a twice-behaved behavior because he takes his key points from his original written performance and displays them visually, enacts or performs the most "interesting" elements for his audience, and looks at the presentation as a "second draft of [his] paper." Michael states that this rehearsal allows him to think about the next (written) performance, a revision of his argument, wherein he will consider giving his textual audience more information on the source of his op/ed piece. This parallels Schechner's definition of the process of the rehearsal: The process of rehearsal is "fold[ing] each work back on itself, comparing its completed state to the process of inventing it, to its own internal procedures during that time when it was not ready for showing (2003, p. 204). With regard to his audience, Michael is using the presentation as a rehearsal comparing it to his previous written work and how he can revise his future work.

Andrew: Division from Audience

As an economics major and conservative Republican, Andrew is personally invested in his topic and article, "The Economist's President" (Boskin, 2005) from The Wall Street Journal which discusses (then) President Bush's economic policies. For his presentation, Andrew stands stage left of his projected Word document which displays the headings: "Summary," "Thesis," "Analysis," "Conclusion;" each heading has information after it from which Andrew reads. Following his outline, Andrew tells the audience the title, author and source of his piece and then summarizes the article, reading from the screen behind him. After summarizing, Andrew reads from his cards, "Um, my thesis on the article is that it relies on logos and ethos to connect with the audience to provide answers to economic problems that affect every American." Andrew adds, "I found that Boskin's style is sometimes difficult to understand because he is addressing an audience that has more than basic knowledge of economics and politics." Andrew discusses Boskin's style and his "quick flow" of words before he discusses the rhetorical analysis components.

When Andrew gives examples to support his thesis during the presentation, he speaks in economic, not rhetorical, terms and in a hurried, low volume. In Andrew's introduction, he tells the audience, "One of Bush's big ticket items" is to reform social security. He also quickly adds, "The article is not very long because it is in a newspaper and the more lines you take up the more money it costs." In an effort to connect with his audience, Andrew tells them that Boskin's article "appeals to everyone's pocket books" because they affect everyone's "future." Economic issues do concern a broader audience than economists; however, Andrew's terministic screens and conceptions of readership and audience prevent him from illuminating the rhetorical features of the argument that could be more broadly underscored and applied.

Andrew reiterates the difficulty of Boskin's logical style on three separate occasions during the presentation. For example, when discussing Boskin's use of logos, Andrew tells the audience in a low murmur, "I think most people reading this need a higher education to understand terms of economics." When he presents an example of Boskin's use of logos, he reads from his note cards as the audience follows from the projected screen behind him. "In paragraph five of the article Boskin states, ‘It is not widely appreciated that, under current law, the federal tax share of GDP is scheduled to bloat over the next 20 years to almost 25%, due to real bracket creep, the alternative minimum tax cut, and other factors.'" After reading this sentence Andrew shakes his head, "This is definitely not pleasure reading." He then adds as an aside, "The whole article sounds like this." At another point after giving the audience an example of logos and style, Andrew again states, "Most people would have to know about economic policies to fully understand the article though." Andrew concludes his presentation re-emphasizing the points, but his last words to the audience are in earnest: "I believe readers of this article would likely be persuaded to support President Bush […] if they had a background in business and economics.

Written Reflection on Audience:

When Andrew writes about his oral-visual presentation, he shares his personal interest in economics and why he selected this particular article from The Economist.

My background … was important to the composition of my paper. Since I am very interested in economics, I study it every day and my major is economics, I was able to understand my article better than an average person who lacks any knowledge of the topic. This helped with my analysis and the basic understanding of the article.

In contrast to his audience comprised of majors across the disciplines, he finds it difficult to explain the material to non-experts.

For the presentation it was difficult to argue my analysis well because not all of the people in the room might have known economics well. I learned from that experience that my paper must also be clear and understandable. … While I was organizing my presentation I decided that I needed more quotes from the texts to help the audience understand what I was saying about the article. The presentation assisted me in deciding what information was the most useful to the reader.

Andrew has indeed thought about proving his points through supporting evidence for both the oral-visual performance and the final written assignment. In this case, the performance acts as a "rehearsal" for his final paper and allows him to revise for evidence and for clarity.

In terms of speaking and writing for non-specialists, however, Andrew struggles to find ways to connect with the audience beyond his economic terministic screens. His low volume and quick pace and many asides are performances of his view of the audience. Andrew admits that his presentation was not "the greatest," demonstrating that he did understand that there was a disconnect between performer and audience, but his verbal admission that one needs a "degree in higher education" to understand the article puts up a barrier between him and his audience.

Performances and students' reflections demonstrate how student presenters identify with the audience. Michael's presentation relates to his audience in ways that seek to understand, engage, and communicate with the audience of his peers. Andrew, in contrast, looks at the performance of his writing as dividing him from his audience because they are not in the same discourse community. Michael relied on engaging his audience by bringing in interesting material and not inundating his "audience with facts and figures." Being aware of his audience, Andrew realizes that his material probably will not engage the audience, but he chooses not to identify with the audience. (Or, perhaps he is identifying with them by sparing them economic jargon and sensing that they would not be interested in President Bush's economic policies.). Rehearsing writing or performing writing functions as a heuristic to promote knowledge making. In each of these cases the speakers perform their own authority in relationship to the audience either to unify them with the audience or in ways which separate their knowledge base from their audience. Performing writing makes students pay attention to audience, how to reach them, who they are, what kinds of information resonates with them, how to sustain arguments with good reasons and evidence, on genre conventions, and on the immediacy of the performance situation. Re-mediating their writing, taking it from the textual to the oral/visual and the aural in the literal space of the classroom imbues the communication activity with a performative dimension that can be used in writing and communication intensive courses.

In terms of using the presentation or any performance as a rehearsal, that is, to rehearse the final assignment: this concept could be extended in the classroom to help students (and their classmates) self-critique and help teachers to give feedback to students about how to connect with their audiences. Andrew was aware that there was a specialist/non-specialist discourse barrier with his audience. Building in reflective components and then feedback from classmates can provide opportunities for students to improve their approaches and techniques regarding audience, just as a director would give notes after a rehearsal. Interactions with the audience affect the success of the delivery. Likewise, to improve the writing assignments, students can revise their texts based on this feedback.

Performance Across the Disciplines

A heightened sensitivity toward performances of writing and speaking and visual assignments can be applied to assignment genres across the disciplines to teach students about audience and purpose, and selection of material to make strong arguments. In assignments like the traditional research paper as well as genres such as proposals, sales pitches, research posters, and lab reports, performance of these genres can be used as both a heuristic for making knowledge about content and connecting with audiences as well as the product of that knowledge making in discipline-specific genres. In the case of Michael, his perception of the audience as knowledgeable dictated his performances and selection of material to build his argument. In courses where students are acclimating to the discourse and genre conventions, from general education to upper-division courses, having students give presentations on a reading, or research with special attention to the discourse (terms, kinds of research, writing conventions) would be helpful in teaching processes for selecting relevant material to connect with one's audience. This approach holds implications for WAC and CAC. Schechner's theory of twice behaved behavior helps us to see writing as a performance of the process and how to connect with our audiences. When students start to understand their audience's needs by rehearsing their works for an audience, they have begun to achieve the goals of writing-to-learn. The immediacy of a direct audience does put the performer in the expert position, and could present enough "performance anxiety" to carefully consider the communication situation. Or, as Michael wrote in his reflection, "I'm more concerned about embarrassing myself in front of my classmates than I am in my writing." I include Michael's honest response here to get at the power of an audience to provide accountability for the presentation as a representation of the learning and the product of that learning. Such honesty resonates with Erving Goffman's (1959) concept "presentation of self in everyday life": social behavior changes based on audience. Audience awareness constructs performance.

In discipline-specific courses where writing must communicate to specialists, the very act of performing writing, is a heuristic. Students must remediate their texts and problem-solve how to deliver content-specific messages to audiences of their peers in a different genre. For example, in science courses like Biology or Chemistry students can present or remediate assignments based on (commonly) written genres such as the lab report to their peers. Students often have trouble negotiating the academic genre of a lab report with the discourse conventions of the field (Craig et al., 2001, p. 318). Through developing assignments that have students perform the genre conventions: (i.e. having them compose a how-to guide for reading journal articles in the field, modeling the process for composing lab reports), students perform the genre conventions for their audience of peers as well as receive training and feedback from the instructor who is their expert audience member. For someone like Andrew, talking to people who spoke the same economic language and understood the jargon and genres of economics was important in his identification with the audience. Yet, he could not present material to non-specialists in an effective way. The act of performing writing helped him to reflect on the changes he would have to make to make his presentation and writing more palatable to his peers, but he was self-aware of the problems of his presentation and how they affected his written text.

Performance and Transfer Across the Curriculum

Communicating Across the Curriculum indicates that communication exists in a variety of modes: writing, speaking, the visual, aural, and the digital, yet, the issue of how and if students transfer these approaches and knowledge across the disciplines is of central concern to WAC and CAC researchers and teachers. As Dana Lynn Driscoll (2011) explains in "Connected, Disconnected, or Uncertain: Student Attitudes about Future Writing Contexts and Perceptions of Transfer from First Year Writing to the Disciplines," although students often "have been taught writing processes and skills that would assist them throughout their educational careers […] they are often unable to draw upon that knowledge and instead perceive each situation as entirely new and foreign." Often, faculty and students are at an impasse, whereby faculty assume knowledge-transfer of writing skills across the disciplines or from high school or college writing course, and students focus on differences in writing tasks. For example, "Teaching and Learning a Multimodal Genre in a Psychology Course" (Anson, et al., 2005) investigates oral and written genres that have informed communication situations across the disciplines (c.f. Bazerman, 1994). Anson et al. look at the metagenre, combined forms of familiar genres, of the "micropresentation" as a blending of the presentation and handout which, like (the oral-visual presentation and) the case studies of Michael and Andrew, draws from several communication characteristics (p. 402). Anson et al. showcase students' interpretations of psychology assignments in hybrid forms and demonstrate the ways in which students represent knowledge in these forms. In their conclusion, the authors note that despite their attempts at feedback and instruction in multimodal assignments that students will increasingly be asked to write, that students look at these multi-modal texts as separate genres and separate educational experiences.

Performance aspects of delivery and audience create fluidity, rather than duality, between the text and other forms of communication. In the turn from textual age to informational and digital age, performance within multiple genres and spaces becomes even more important. Though much of the work in multi-modal pedagogy and digital rhetoric has relied on social semiotics (Anson et al. 2005) and how the linguistic, pictorial, gestural choreographical, and graphical all are a part of knowledge-making (Kress and van Leeuwen, 1996; Kress and Threadgold, 1988), viewing multi-modal approaches to communication as performative considers how the communication event is constructed for and by an audience, how performance implementation is both heuristic and product of that learning. The performance of writing across the disciplines encompasses these notions of communication as a multi-modal, multi/metagenre phenomena and focuses on delivery and audience, embodying and enacting the available means of persuasion. Echoing Fishman and Lunsford's call for more research on performance as literacy, we should continue to explore the dramatic consequences of how writing, communication, and performance, broadly conceived, expand disciplinary boundaries and meaning-making and provide opportunities for students to learn and communicate across the disciplines.


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[1] Though performance can be applied in WAC or CAD approaches, (its malleability suggests there could be Performance Across the Disciplines in and of itself) I will be referring to only WAC as the acronym of choice throughout this essay.

[2] Students in this course gave written permission to use their works for research and publication purposes.

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Complete APA Citation

Marquez, Loren. (2015, December 28). Dramatic consequences: Integrating rhetorical performance across the disciplines and curriculum [Special issue on the WAC, WID, and the performing and visual arts]. Across the Disciplines, 12(4). Retrieved from https://wac.colostate.edu/atd/performing_arts/marquez2015.cfm