Book cover for 'Rhizcomics'


With digitalculturebooks, the University of Michigan Press publishes innovative work in new media studies and digital humanities. We began in 2006 as a partnership between MLibrary and the Press, taking advantage of the skills and expertise of staff throughout Michigan Publishing. Our primary goal is to be an incubator for new publishing models in the humanities and social sciences.


Rhetoric, Technology, and New Media Composition
Jason Helms
An exploration of presymbolic rhetoricity across comics and other media in an innovative, interactive form


Comics, Jason Helms argues, are post-critical, reflexive, and figural, in that they combine image/text and visual/verbal elements in ways that illuminate a third, nonsymbolic rhetoric more appropriate for digital and heterotopic spaces. Blurring the line between form and content, Rhizcomics: Rhetoric, Technology, and New Media Composition offers readers a unique opportunity to engage in a rhizomatic alt-scholarship, in which the medium is the message. Rhizcomics manifests this ambitious concept by bringing together a variety of disciplinary traditions, from familiar continental theorists to ancient, modern, and postmodern rhetoricians, to comics and contemporary composition theorists. Helms calls for a decentering of typical binaries to form a rhizomatic approach to visual and multimedia rhetorics and uses comics as the main exemplar for the type of decentered writing for which he advocates.

"Rhizcomics is a brilliant book, a statement that it immediately complicates. Is it a book, a project, a work, an experience?  Rhizcomics is all of these things, and it breaks new ground in how scholars of rhetoric and composition present theory and research.  Jason Helms’ argument that comics offer a new 'idiom' for understanding the complicated relationship between image and text is compelling enough, but he dazzles his readers by disrupting our expectations.  We are invited to not only follow Helms’ argument but to blaze our own way through on a multimodal journey, taking inviting detours, playing with animations, and even reading out of order.  Rhizcomics is a visual and verbal feast, much as comics are, and is both argument and metaphor.  I’ve never seen anything like it."
—Bruce Ballenger, Professor of English, Boise State University, and author of The Curious Writer (Pearson, 2014) The Curious Researcher (Pearson, 2012), and Crafting Truth: Short Studies in Creative Nonfiction (Pearson, 2010).
“Helms pushes the boundaries of scholarly publishing, bringing together many different disciplinary traditions, from familiar continental theorists to ancient, modern, and postmodern rhetoricians, to comics and contemporary composition theorists . . . I haven’t seen an online project like this that tackles difficult theoretical concepts in an engaging way, and invites audience participation.”
—Sarah Arroyo, Associate Professor of English, California State University, Long Beach, and author of Participatory Composition: Video Culture, Writing, and Electracy (Southern Illinois UP, 2013)
“Ambitious in its scope, this project will have an important impact both on the field of rhetorical studies, and more broadly.”
 —Collin Brooke, Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric, Syracuse University, and author of Lingua Fracta: Toward a Rhetoric of New Media (Hampton, 2009)
“Helms conveys his analysis of comics in a refreshingly lively mode: both in his expert-but-accessible scholarly voice and in the ambitious, rhizomatic composition he’s chosen to pursue. If, as he argues, ‘comics must be approached as rhizomes with middles everywhere and no center to be found,’ then so too modern scholarship has much to gain from the many forms of commentary, asides, marginalia, and inserts that enrich and constitute this text.”
—Helen J. Burgess, Associate Professor of English, North Carolina State University, editor of Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures, co-editor of Electric Press, and co-author of Highways of the Mind (Penn P, 2015)

"With Rhizcomics, Jason Helms provides an accessible theory of how the visual and the verbal elements in comics function rhetorically, and he does so by using the affordances both of comics and in the form of the digital monograph he has produced. Dr. Helms successfully uses design as a key and integral element in making arguments throughout the text; the work thus bridges the theory-practice divide that often troubles more traditional print-locked analyses of visual and digital media. The degree of interactivity that is built in should serve as a model for future digital monographs - from the invitation to engage the features of the text, such as interactive animations and hypertextual reading paths to the extension of the scholarly conversation by including both comment sections and the integration of social annotation."
—Douglas Eyman, Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric, George Mason University, and author of Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice (U of Michigan P, 2015)
Jason Helms is Associate Professor of English at Texas Christian University.

Praise / Awards

  • Winner of the Kairos Best Webtext Award

News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Rhizcomics in Chronicle for Higher Education  Link | 2/27/2017

Product Details

Available worldwide

  • Open Access
  • 2017
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-90069-5

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