Session H.22: Laughter, Play, and Song: Integrating Orality, Aurality, and Multimodality of Performance-Rhetorics in the Composition Classroom


Speakers: Daniel Frank (Clemson University), Eric Hamilton (Clemson University), and David Measel (Clemson University)

Chair/Performer: Steven Katz (Clemson University)

In “Laughter, Play, and Song” Daniel Frank, Eric Hamilton, and David Measel from Clemson University offer explorations of multimodality as strategies for composition pedagogy. This panel asks how do we conceptualize performance in rhetoric and composition, and how do we consider performance in light of the technology and digital competence today?

Daniel Frank

Daniel Frank opens the panel with the potential of performance in a digital, professional world. Frank proposes that performance holds particular possibilities for embodied knowledge that can push for a new kind of pedagogy through participation. In line with Jody Shipka’s idea of play in activities based in multimodality and Shirley Rose’s performance and rhetoric, Frank argues for performance where experience can critique and affect change, not to mention invite change and discovery. As such, Frank proposes a multimodal composition classroom. Here, major assignments are comprised of tiers of multimodal texts and activities that ask students to not only analyze various multimodal texts for their rhetoricity but also to engage in that rhetoricity by creating their own. Frank’s multimodal texts, or MMT’s as his students affectionately named them, are invitations for students to perform multimodal projects. Frank’s assignments include an about me website, poster/ad, video, game, and social media campaign. Not only do his students create their own projects but another important component of the class is engaging with each other. They always show each other their works and workshop their ideas with each other, establishing an audience as Peter Elbow describes. Additionally, through MMT’s Frank normalizes failure as the purpose of play. The point of these projects invites students to create as well as to fail and revel in those various potentials. Through performance and play, Frank offers is an approach to multimodality in the classroom.

Eric Hamilton, “Stand Up for Writing! Incorporating Humor in the FYC Classroom for Rhetorical Performance and Engagement”

Along the same potentials of performance, Eric Hamilton in “Stand Up for Writing! Incorporating Humor in the FYC Classroom for Rhetorical Performance and Engagement,” proposes incorporating the performances of stand-up comedy in the composition curriculum. Using Kirk Boyle’s recent The Rhetoric of Humor: A Bedford Spotlight Reader, Hamilton outlines the various advantages of stand-up comedy to pedagogy and writing, drawing our attention to the ways that comedians use persuasion and tap into cultural power in our society. Hamilton points out that Boyle’s reader demonstrates the ways in which stand-up comedians offer a kind of rhetoric and writing that is not separated from performance but bound within it. Not to mention, the lens of stand-up comedy provides another approach to thinking about rhetoric and writing in the classroom. For instance, Hamilton discusses the ways that what is said in a comedy act depends on the audience, how essay conclusions could be conceptualized as punchlines and rebuttals as hecklers. By tapping into the performance of stand-up comedy as rhetoric and examining (an)other kind of rhetorical performance, we can practice alternative pedagogical approaches that question what is academically appropriate and standard as well as lend themselves to mental flexibility and multiple mediums.

David Measel, “Music, Rhythm, and Rhetoric: A Theme of Effective Communication”

And, finally, David Measel’s “Music, Rhythm, and Rhetoric: A Theme of Effective Communication” examines the role of music, tone, and rhythm in rhetoric and composition. Considering Cicero’s De Oratore, Measel considers voice, tone, and rhythm in the composition classroom as ways sound changes and enhances rhetoric. By tapping into the audience and speaker’s emotions through tone and rhythm, Measel experiments with both the violation and fulfillment in speaking. He claims that in practicing speaking as much as writing, and experimenting with voice and tone, students can play with performance, gaining new insights into style and audience. By incorporating speaking and musical listening into our first-year composition courses, Measel argues that we can enhance our understandings and practices of performance-rhetoric.


Through play and performance, all three panelists question the standard assignments and modes of teaching rhetoric and composition, and in doing so, all three orientations present an invitation to play, and as such, to consider digital platforms as the next stage for composition classrooms’ performances.

About Author

Heather Buzbee

Heather Buzbee is a 3rd year PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Composition at University of South Carolina. Her research interests include feminism, women and gender studies, historiography, classical rhetoric, and humor studies.

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