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Winter 2015, 45.5, pages 420-440

Rhetoric’s New Materialism: From Micro-Rhetoric to Microbrew

Abstract:Increasingly, rhetoricians have taken up the task of understanding how rhetoric is applicable to material conditions, yet have found difficulty in approaching the rhetoric that exists between nonhumans. While the debate over the size of rhetoric, big or small, has often dominated discussions, the concern over size is less important than the relationship between rhetoric and materiality. Both “rhetorical materialism” and “rhetoric’s materiality” approaches see nonhuman objects as subsumed in symbolic representations and human-centric worldviews. This essay suggests a micro-rhetorical stance, which avoids discussions over size and builds upon existing formulations of exploratory, nonhuman rhetorics. A micro-rhetoric allows for concepts not previously thought of as rhetorical, such as hyle, which can be used to identify persuasive elements within nonhuman relations. To show how hyle can be used in a micro-rhetorical investigation, this essay offers a brief analysis of the material persuasions involved in the design of a microbrewery malting system.