A New Materialist Rhetorical Approach In Practice

This is a Book Review

by Joseph W. Robertshaw

Section Two


"At its core, Still Life with Rhetoric is interested in cultivating a new materialist habitus of method for rhetorical study; particularly visual rhetorics"(Gries 2015, p.85).


As time and space function in nontraditional ways concerning the digital images, the new materialist approach begins with an idea of sitting with and exploring the facets of the object under study. This sitting with might be referred to as "dwelling" in other areas of rhetorical study. This time spent exploring and considering must be accomplished before formal questions are posed to allow the full range of possibility to be measured and for those questions to become as inclusive as possible. Gries names several foundational guiding principles before adding to the list of considerations that are warranted in the new methods she presents. The principles include: Becoming, Transformation, Consequentiality, Vitality, Agency and Virility. Gries leaves room for disagreement with the guiding principles here, such that, a reader's divergence with one or two of them does not immediately destroy the value of new methods that were produced by their use.


Using these themes Gries examines data in a method she names iconographic tracking to consider the life that these objects enter, engage, collect and create to grow a corpus of consequence. To apprehend the full scope of the rhetorical image it is imperative that we follow Gries waypoints to our methodological steps as researchers and do not end our discussion of the rhetorical impact at composition, production and delivery but rather continue onward through distribution, circulation, collectivity, transformation and consequentiality. Using the Shepard Fairey poster Obama Hope, and to a lesser extent DaVinci's Mona Lisa, Gries offers a rubric of sorts to illustrate the steps and concepts of this new Materialist approach. In doing so Gries builds an interesting and compelling case for adoption of this new methodological model.