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Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English Composition



First Reader/Committee Chair

Luck, Jessica L


Identity is not fixed but rather performed through interactions. The eminent philosopher and gender theorist, Judith Butler famously investigates performativity in her research on gender. Butler asserts that “gender is not a performance that a prior subject elects to do, but gender is performative in the sense that it constitutes as an effect the very subject it appears to express” (314, emphasis original). She believes that gender identity is performative because it constitutes itself though actions, gestures, and speech. This project seeks to investigate the performative nature of roller derby personas, highlighting the identities of the characters in the movie Whip It and the comic series “Slam!” to help students learn to perform an academic identity in writing. Reading roller derby texts through the lens of performativity can be a useful pedagogical tool because it helps students see that a writer’s identity can be carefully crafted into an academic persona. In this project, I examine these texts to discover how roller derby personas are constructed and performed. The texts introduce freshmeat skaters to roller derby and explore how their new derby persona is negotiated and informed by the derby community. By creating a new persona, the characters are able to constitute it through their performance. Students in First Year Composition are undergoing a similar process to the freshmeat skaters: they are learning to craft an academic identity when they enter the university. Ultimately, a performative academic identity can lead to greater agency both in and out of the classroom because it helps students take a stance and control their performance as writers.