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CMST 2G03 Performance&Performativity

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Jocelyn Smith


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 333

Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: TSH 333 Thursdays 2-4p.m.

Course Objectives:

Course Description

This course will introduce students to concepts in and the development of the (inter)discipline of performance studies and to the study of performative modes of communication, such as storytelling, movement, and style. Students will examine a selection of cultural practices with the goal of understanding how cultural knowledge and power are transmitted not only through written texts, but also through actions. We think we know what “performance” is; we use the term broadly to refer to expressions and actions staged for an audience. We often speak of “performance” in relation to creative genres like drama, opera, dance, concerts, or even public speaking and lectures or film and scripted television. Performance studies asks us to rethink and expand our idea of performance as a staged event, considering both “everyday” performativity (how one’s identity is communicated socially and culturally, especially with respect to identities of race, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality) and cultural performance more broadly, considering “traditional” performance (e.g. theatre), but also the “performance” of the audience members, and other performances such as sports and athletics, rituals and ceremonies, and reality television and social media. Drawing from a range of disciplines, such as communication studies, theatre and film studies, English and cultural studies, anthropology and sociology, and feminist and critical race studies, and via readings, activities, lectures, class discussions and written reflections and analysis, this class will address the following questions:

Aims & Objectives

  • How can we identify, analyze and interpret modes of performance, both on and off stage?

  • What roles do experiential knowledge, theoretical knowledge, and analysis play in performance studies? In other words, how do we do performance studies?

  • How do performances affect our sense of time, space, identity, and belonging?

  • What role does the audience play in a performance? How do the body and persona of the performer change during a performance?

  • How do we perform our identities in everyday life? What role does everyday performativity play in interpellating us as raced, gendered, classed, and national subjects? Is there any way that we can subvert the roles assigned to us by society?

  • How are identities and personas performed via mass media and social media? How has the proliferation of social media and reality television altered the performance of—and consumption or reception of—a public or celebrity identity?  

  • How do ritual, theatre, and cultural performance help participants better understand themselves and their society? How do these forms help build a sense of community?

  • What are the risks—and benefits—of trying to understand “the Other” through intercultural performance? How does one engage in cultural exchange with respect?

  • How can a better understanding of performance and performativity improve the lives of the people taking this class—and the lives of those around them?

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Texts

All assigned readings are posted in Avenue to Learn if copyright permits, made available in class or through the Reserve Desk at Mills Library. This class requires attendance at/participation three mandatory out-of-class activities of your choosing. Participating in these activities is mandatory and equal in importance to the readings and may require the purchase of a ticket.


Method of Assessment:

Evaluation (Grading)

Your grade will be based on the following four components:

  1. Attendance and participation                        10%

  2. Journals (5)                                15%

  3. Performance analysis papers (3)                    45%

  4. Final exam (two hours; comprehensive; scheduled by registrar)    30%

Evaluation Components

1. Attendance and participation (10%)

Since discussion is a crucial component of this class, attendance and participation are required. Participation means coming to class ready to contribute to the discussion, having done the assignment and jotted down a few notes about it (what were the main points of the article/most interesting aspects of the event? what were the strengths and weaknesses of the article/how did the event resonate with course readings? what questions do you have about it?). The quality and quantity of contributions to discussions in class also matter. So it is important that you give serious thought to what you say in class and how you say it. Some of the issues we will be discussing are controversial, so an open mind and a willingness to deal with both difficult knowledge(s) and uncomfortable truths are paramount. Components of this mark will include spot check attendance, in-class work, and the quality and quantity of contributions to oral discussion. It may also include reading quizzes (for which you will be permitted to consult your notes—but not your readings), especially if I get the sense that students are not coming to class prepared. Tardiness, poor classroom etiquette, and unexcused, undocumented absences will have a negative effect upon this grade. Please let me know if you must miss a class because of illness or emergency. If you have a learning disability or other issue that makes participation in class discussion a problem for you, please bring this to my attention early in the semester.

N.B. This class is built around both analyzing and experiencing/participating in performance through activities that occur both in-class and outside of class time. Participating in these activities is mandatory and equal in importance to the readings; you will be asked to write on performances viewed in and out of class in your performance analysis papers and your final exam, and you will be required to write three of your five journals on your experiences at activities/events occurring outside of class time. There is considerable flexibility in when, throughout the term, you choose to complete these out-of-class activities, and in the specific activity or event you choose to attend. Some activities may require the purchase of tickets. The activities are:

  • One (1) James North Art Crawl

    There are three (3) opportunities to attend an Art Crawl during our course:

    • Friday, January 13, 2017

    • Friday, February 10, 2017

    • Friday, March 10, 2017

  • One (1) sporting or musical event of your choosing

  • One (1) theatrical event of your choosing

If you are not committed to attending these events, it is recommended that you do not take this course.

2. Journals (15% of final grade; 5 x 3% per journal)

On Mondays, you have the opportunity to submit via the course’s Avenue to Learn page one (1) 2-page (double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, no cover page) journal entry. The goal of these journal entries is to help you synthesize ideas from class discussion, assigned readings, and activities; to provide a place for you to react on a personal level to material and discussions; and to help stimulate class discussion. These entries are informal (you can write in first person and express opinions), but they should still be typed and display good grammar and spelling. Aim to spend about an hour writing them. Be prepared to have your journal read out to the class; indicate at the top if you would prefer that a particular journal be kept private. There are five (5) entries total, worth 3% of your grade each. This means that throughout the semester, you only need to submit a journal entry to class on five Mondays. Three (3) of the five journal entries must reflect on the three activities you are required to participate in; journal entries must connect the activity to class discussion and readings. The remaining two (2) journal entries may respond to readings and course topics of your choosing.  I will not award credit to more than one journal per Monday, journals that are submitted late, journals submitted other than on Avenue (i.e., via email, through the CSMM office, or slipped under my office door). The following rubric will be used to mark journals:

3=displays insightful and creative thinking; solid understanding of course readings; makes interesting connections between course readings, activities, everyday life, and/or personal experience; responsive to recent class discussions and/or discussion questions (posed in class the previous Thursday); well written

2=displays acceptable understanding of course readings; makes connections between course readings, activities, everyday life, and/or personal experience; addresses discussion questions (posed in class the previous Thursday) or reflects on current course content; adequately written; incorrect formatting; length somewhat too short (1-1/2 pages or less) or too long (over 3 pages)

1=displays poor grasp of course readings; little connection between course readings, activities, everyday life, and/or personal experience; off topic; poorly written; length too short (1 page or less)

3. Performance analysis papers (45% of final grade; 3 x 15% per performance analysis)

Throughout the semester, you are required to write three short papers analyzing performances and/or performance texts discussed in class. These papers are opportunities to use the theoretical tools learned throughout the course to produce your own readings and analyses of these texts, and to continue developing your critical writing skills. In each paper, you should analyze the performance—and your/the audience’s response—utilizing relevant course readings and discussion. The papers will be between three (3) to five (5) pages in length (length requirement for each individual paper will be posted on Avenue), demonstrate good grammar and spelling, and provide source citations (in MLA style) when appropriate. Detailed instructions and rubrics will be posted on Avenue to Learn. The due dates for the three (3) papers is as follows:

    Analysis #1 (performing Canadian nationality): Thursday, February 9

    Analysis #2 (class, gender & performativity): Thursday, March 2

    Analysis #3 (stage performance or celebrity & social media): Thursday, March 23

4. Final exam (30%)

The final exam will help you reflect on the semester’s lectures, activities, readings, and discussions. At the end of the semester, there will be a review session and the class will generate a study guide. The exam will be in short answer and essay format.

IMPORTANT: For each of the above assignments please consult the detailed handout available in Avenue to Learn for instructions (Enter our course in Avenue, click on “Content,” then scroll down and look under the header “Assignment Details”).

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Assignments handed in late will be docked one grade-point a day (incl. Saturdays and Sundays). If an assignment is worth a B+, but was handed in a day late, it will be given a B; two days, a B-; three days, a C+; and so on up to seven days. After seven days, the assignment will be given a zero (0). Late Journals (e.g. attempting to submit all five Journals within the last four weeks of class, submitting a Journal at the end of Monday’s class or on a Thursday rather than at the beginning of Monday’s class) will not be accepted without documentation of illness or academic accommodations.


Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


(May be subject to change)

Please note that the readings listed below are available on Avenue to Learn for you to read prior to the class in which they will be discussed. Supplementary texts/performances such as video clips will be read/watched together in class and may not necessarily appear on the schedule below, but will be posted on Avenue following the class if copyright/logistics permit. There are also three mandatory activities, outlined above, that must be completed outside of class time. Assignment and exam questions may ask you to refer to any of these three course components (assigned readings, in-class supplementary texts/performances, and independent activities); all are considered required course content.

Unit 1: What Is “Performance Studies,” Anyway?

Thursday, January 5

Introduction: Locating Performance Studies

  • Schechner, Richard. “What is Performance Studies Anyway?” From The Ends of Performance. Eds. Peggy Phelan and Jill Lane. 1998. 357-362. (5pp)

Monday, January 9 & Thursday, January 12

Introduction: Doing Performance Studies

  • Hebdige, Dick. “Introduction: Subculture and Style.” From Subculture: The Meaning of Style. 1979. 1-4. (4pp)

  • Reinelt, Janelle G. “Performance Analysis.” Introduction from Critical Theory and Performance: Revised and Enlarged Edition. 2007. 7-12. (5pp)

  • Roach, Joseph. “Theatre Studies/Cultural Studies/Performance Studies.” From Teaching Performance Studies. 2002. 33-40. (7pp)

  • Schechner, Richard. “Fundamentals of Performance Studies.” Foreword to Teaching Performance Studies. 2002. ix-xii. (4pp)

Unit 2: Performance, Ritual, and Belonging Part I

Monday, January 16 & Thursday, January 19

Music as Performance: The Body in Concert

  • Cook, Nicholas and Richard Pettengill. “Introduction.” From Taking It to the Bridge: Music as Performance. Eds. Nicholas Cook and Richard Pettengill. 2013. 1-13. (13pp)

  • Fast, Susan. Excerpt from “The Wanton Song: The Riff and the Body.” From In the Houses of the Holy. 2001. 144-157. (13pp)

  • Fast, Susan. Excerpt from “Whole Lotta Love: Performing Gender.” From In the Houses of the Holy. 2001. 159-162. (3pp)

  • In-class viewing: Music videos/filmed live performances TBD

Monday, January 23 & Thursday, January 26

One Nation Under Gord: Performance & Canadian National Identity

Monday, January 30 & Thursday, February 2

Beyond the Binary of First Nations & “Old Stock” Canadians: Performance & Canadian National Identity, cont’d

  • Byers, Michele. “Canadianizing Canadians: Television, Youth, Identity.” From Canadian Television: Text and Context. 2012. 115-134. (19pp)

  • Doyle, John. “One Thing about Television and Ten Things about Canadian TV.” Foreword to Canadian Television: Text and Context. 2012. vii-xv. (8pp)

  • In-class viewing: “Joe Canadian” ad (long version); excerpts from Kim’s Convenience; Canadian hip-hop music videos/performances

Unit 3: “Everyday” Performativity and Cultural/Social Identities

Monday, February 6 & Thursday, February 9

    Gender, Sex & “Performativity”: The Embodiment of Identity

  • Butler, Judith. “Your Behavior Creates Your Gender.” Video on Big Think. (3 mins)

  • Coyote, Ivan. “The Rest of My Chest.” Gender Failure. 67-74. 2014. (7pp)

  • Halberstam, Jack. “Whither Feminism? Gender and the New Normal.” L.A. Review of Books. 2012. (approx. 4pp)

  • Plett, Casey. “Twenty Hot Tips to Shopping Success.” From A Safe Girl to Love. 2014. 33-37. (4pp)

  • In-class viewing: Excerpts from Mean Girls (2004); performances by Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon

  • Additional optional reading on gender performativity:

    • Butler, Judith. “Imitation and Gender Insubordination.” From Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories. 1991. 13-29. (16pp)

PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS #1 DUE FEB 9 (performing Canadian nationality)

Monday, February 13 & Thursday, February 16

    Keepin’ It Classy: Embodying/Performing Social & Cultural Capital

READING BREAK—NO CLASSES!! Monday, February 20 - Sunday, February 26

Unit 4: Identity as Spectacle

Monday, February 27 & Thursday, March 2

    Drag Balls & Big Booties: Embodying/Performing Race

  • hooks, bell. “Is Paris Burning?” From Black Looks: Race and Representation. 1992. 145-156. (11pp)

  • Sastre, Alexandra. “Hottentot in the Age of Reality TV: Sexuality, Race, and Kim Kardashian’s Visible Body.” Celebrity Studies. 2014. 123-137. (14pp)

  • Strings, Sabrina and Long T. Bui. “‘She’s Not Acting, She Is’: The Conflict Between Gender and Racial Realness on RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Feminist Media Studies. 2014. 822-836. (14pp)

  • In-class viewing: Excerpts from RuPaul’s Drag Race (2009— )and Keeping Up with the Kardashians (2007— )

PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS #2 DUE MARCH 2 (class, gender & performativity)

Monday, March 6 & Thursday, March 9

    Performing Public Identity: Celebrity, Social Media and Reality TV

  • Edwards, Leigh. “Choose Your Own Adventure: Transmedia Storytelling, Reality Characters, and Fans” (excerpts). From The Triumph of Reality TV: The Revolution in American Television. 2013.

  • Marwick, Alice and danah boyd. “To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. 2011. 139-158. (19pp)

  • Smith, Jocelyn. “Starring James Van Der Beek as Himself: Celebrity, Camp, and ‘the Meta-Role of a Lifetime’.” Celebrity Studies. 2016. 1-14. (14pp)

  • In-class reading: Excerpts from Keeping Up with the Kontinuity Errors (Jezebel)

  • In-class viewing: TBD (KUWTK, The Bachelor, Don’t Trust the B)

Unit 5: A Return to the Stage

Monday, March 13 & Thursday, March 16

Guest Lecture: Starring Ben Hayward, B.A., actor, playwright & member of Toronto-based theatre company Theatre By Committee

  • Readings TBD

Unit 6: Performance, Ritual and Belonging Part II

Monday, March 20 & Thursday, March 23

Sport as (National) Performance: The NFL, Capitalism, Patriotism, & War

PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS #3 DUE MARCH 23 (choice between Ben and celebrity/social media)

Monday, March 27 & Thursday, March 30

    Sport as (National) Performance: Race, Talent, and Style

Monday, April 3 & Thursday, April 6

    Exam Review Classes


Other Course Information:

Important Notes and Terms of Enrollment:

It is essential that you access and carefully read the document “Important Notes and Terms of Enrollment” in Avenue to Learn as soon as you begin this course. Continuation in this course will be deemed agreement to adhere to the terms of enrollment outlined in this document. If you have any questions or concerns about these terms please speak to your instructor immediately.