Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Community Writing, Public Sphere, Performance, Delivery, Community Development

Major Advisor

Tom Deans

Associate Advisor

Sarah Winter

Associate Advisor

Serkan Gorkemli

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


This dissertation considers how the performance of locally-situated writing can contribute to existing community development efforts in towns and cities and how performance-oriented projects in composition courses can build community that, in turn, supports deeper learning and preparation for citizenship. In the community context, this project considers how we make space in place against the forces of colonization that have largely foreclosed the opportunity for what I call ground-motion, the activity of people and groups of people in the places where they live. The ultimate goal of this space-making is the production of locality, a sense of place that is constructed and maintained by the people who live there. I narrate the undertaking of a community writing and performance project that I facilitated in Willimantic, CT, Write Your Roots, that worked toward this goal. My research based on interviews with the project participants and audience members led to the development of the framework concept “spheres of impact,” which I use to organize my discussion of the results of Write Your Roots. I conclude that the most significant impacts were made at the level of the participant group, but also consider how such impacts can ripple out to the community at large.

By contextualizing a first-year writing assignment adapted from Write Your Roots within the long history of oral delivery in college English, I show that there are both social and pedagogical exigencies for bringing oral delivery back into our classrooms today. The social goal for this reorientation of our courses, based on inspiration from elocutionist Thomas Sheridan and late eighteenth-century American English curriculum, is to provide training that will empower more voices to speak in public contexts. The pedagogical goal is to deepen the revision process by mining the inventive potential of rehearsal and the stakes of performance. My project sheds light on the ways that writing in performance connects to place not only as a means of revealing its existing complexity but as a means of collectively reimagining its future toward democratic revitalization and greater inclusivity.

Available for download on Thursday, April 24, 2025