The Center for Writing Studies

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Colloquium Archive

Melissa Tombro

Name: Melissa Tombro, English Department

Presentation Title: "Performance Studies and the Reinvention of 'I' in Rhetoric and Composition: Moving Myself Beyond a Textual Model"

Date: April 10, 2008


On a daily basis we take in the life experiences and stories of others while giving our own back. The nature of advertising, literature and the technological world around us supports this kind of life-sharing. We rely on personal images and information to convey messages and relate to one another. This type of communication moves beyond the everyday into our classrooms and scholarship where we deal with a student population engaging in personal rhetoric on popular sites such as Facebook and MySpace and where we engage the personal to teach both rhetorical strategy and social content. My research investigates how Performance Studies helps us understand the positionality of personal writing in Composition and Rhetoric and how it can be legitimized. Current movements in Performance Studies draw on the creation of the self and larger social change concurrently, in which students create critical personal narratives in the classroom that can allow them to understand their cultural standing, political investments, and academic position in new and interactive ways. Concepts of performance allow us rhetorically to critique writings about the self by implying the inclusion of the reader (other), to draw on the performance involved in our students' daily writing outside of the classroom, and even to return to a moment when performance and writing were considered part of the same discipline. Using Performance Studies we can understand the critical investment implied in the use of personal rhetoric both in everyday usage and in our pedagogy and scholarship.