Applause and Evanescence: An Arts-based Story of Creating and Performing a Choreopoem with Students in an Urban High School





A/r/tography, Literature Education, Empathy, Poetry, Drama


I combine memoir and essay, affect and argument, in theorizing and narrating the creation and performance of a choreopoem with four Latino and African American students and their drama teacher (Luis) in an urban high school. Drawing on the work of literary and arts-based educational theorists, the verses of African American poets, and a performance project with four adolescents, I first consider the role of feeling as necessary to revealing the sense of connectedness across lives that the literary arts make possible. As a writer, researcher, and teacher committed to embracing artful and emotionally evocative affective discourse, I draw on inquiry and writing-based practices adapted from “narrative ethnography” and “A/r/tography.” As an aesthetic “practice of living enquiry that combines life-writing with life-creating,” A/r/tography conceives arts-based inquiry as entailing aesthetic sensibility, one that is open to curiosity while trusting uncertainty. In this paper, I invite readers to wonder about the literary arts, and the possibility they might offer imaginative routes and visceral itineraries into the emotional worlds of others (e.g. Weinstein, 2003). In doing so, my intent was to embrace artful and affective discourse that might reveal intimate aspects of my writing life, offer occasions for readers to explore the possibilities associated with a literary arts’ experience, invite interpretation of the nature of my engagement with four high school drama students and their teacher, and provoke some essence of immersion, friendship, and solidarity with others in the aesthetic act of creating and engaging in a literary, drama-based project with young people.

Author Biography


    William McGinley is a professor of Literacy Studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He received a Ph.D. in Literacy Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Professor McGinley’s research addresses various issues related to learning and teaching literacy and literature. He has examined how theories of emotion and sentimentality in democratic politics can inform literary understanding. He has investigated how teachers-in-preparation draw upon improvisational narrative models to organize and understand their initial teaching experiences. And he has conducted research on how middle school students deploy the creative power of writing and visual art to envision a sense of shared community designed to inspire others to act on challenges their communities face.


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