John McCain, Barack Obama, and the stars of Desperate Housewives have something in common: their careers are based on performance. Similarly to how an actor plays a fictional character, a political candidate publicly performs a carefully constructed identity to appeal to voters. We, too, are performers. We act differently when we are with our parents, in our dorms, or in the classroom. And as writers, we utilize a persona, a "self" that varies from the persona we use when engaging with our families or friends. In this course, we will analyze the ways the rhetoric of performance works to construct identity from small screen soaps to the political soap box.
How is identity a social, political, and cultural performance? How do different situations call for particular styles of rhetorical performance? How do we evaluate and analyze different types of performances, including artistic and political performances, as well as the performances of everyday life? To answer these questions, we will examine in-depth performative rhetoric in, for example, the classic film All About Eve, television "reality" soaps, and, beyond artistic performances, the performative rhetoric used in political speeches and debates during the 2008 presidential election. The course will culminate in your own rhetorical performance: a research-based-argument that analyzes a form of performance or a particular performance.