A Journal of Rhetoric, Writing, and Culture

Rhetorical Powerhouses

 Katie Zabrowski, Saint Louis University 

(Published: December 2, 2014)

Rhetorical Powerhouses is a series of podcasts that explore the rhetoricity of material objects. With each episode the series repeats a similar mode of engagement with objects that performs the rhetorical and ontological work of coming to know objects better by being with them. Each spends time with objects by tracing how they relate and partner with other objects in the making of their worlds.

The series reaffirms recent theories in rhetoric—new materialism in particular—that are working to reorient humans to the efficaciousness of materials. The episodes were produced under the same belief with which Diana Coole and Samantha Frost created their collection, New Materialisms: namely, that “it is now timely to reopen the issue of matter and once again give material factors their due in shaping society and circumscribing human prospects” (3). Framed as a response to the privileging of discourse and culture over the material realm as key makers of our world, Coole and Frost theorize a reorientation not only toward materials but also language, discourse, culture, and values.

The four audio productions that follow suggest engaging even seemingly mundane materials as rhetorical powerhouses replete with the dynamic capacity to affect and be affected by their entanglement with other rhetorical entities. In repeating this engagement across episodes, the series exhibits a habit of recognizing materials that we might cultivate in our striving toward new orientations in rhetoric.

The Podcasts

Guitar Strings listens in on the removal and replacement of old guitar strings and the subsequent tuning of the new set. Listeners are likely to feel uncomfortable with the lack of human narration in this podcast. Even as the sounds of the guitar ring continuously, I imagine listeners perceive the lack of a human voice as an awkward silence. It is important, still, to listen to the entire episode, to persevere in spite of that perceived silence in order to become attuned to hearing differently. Hearing in a way that rests with objects not reliant on the mediation of a human voice embodies the podcast’s second function: attuning listeners to an engagement with objects that they can maintain throughout the three podcasts that follow.


The GarageBand EP takes listeners behind the scenes of podcast production by recording Apple’s software program’s many elements and their interaction with one another and other ambient units of influence. 

Falling for Podcasting widens the lens of the second and tunes listeners into the rhetorical efficaciousness of the podcast medium.

Taste Buds in Your Earbuds introduces listeners to a sensory experience other than sound—taste—in order to amplify the dynamism of objects as they circulate through various environments.



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Coole, Diana and Samantha Frost. New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010. Print.

Farrell, Patrick and Kassie Bracken. “A Tiny Fruit that Tricks the Tongue.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company. 28 May 2008. Web. 14 August 2014.

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Kaufman, Wendy. “Why Does Airline Food Taste So Bad?” National Public Radio (NPR) Morning Edition. NPR. 6 June 2012. Web. 14 August 2014.

Latitudes. “Flavor of Sound.” Latitudes: Local Voices, Global Stories. American University Radio. 28 September 2012. Web. 14 August 2014.

The Fat Duck. “About the Fat Duck, The Sound of the Sea” The Fat Duck. The Fat Duck. 28 September 2012. Web. 14 August 2014.

Winterman, Denise. “Future Foods: What Will We Be Eating in 20 Years’ Time?” BBC News Magazine. The British Broadcasting Company. 29 July 2012. Web. 14 August 2014.