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ENGL 1301: Rhetorical Research

This guide was created for Dr. Gutierrez's English 1301: Composition & Rhetoric I, Fall 2023


You will write a compare and contrast essay about two paintings of your choosing. See the next tab for the paintings and resources.

You will also complete a research project which consists of an interlinked evaluative annotated bibliography and analytical research essay. Choose Option 1 or Option 2  as your research focus for your evaluative annotated bibliography and analytical research essay. 

Write a compare and contrast essay about one of the following pairs of paintings (the videos, articles, etc. are resources to review as part of one's preparation for the in-class essay exam):



The research project introduces students to the primary research method of place-based rhetorical criticism through analysis of how factors such as time, place, and culture influence artists' rhetorical moves to make meaning. Rhetorical moves are the ways in which artists use elements of art (e.g., motif, symbol), genre (e.g., history painting, portraiture), style, and technique (e.g., oil on wood) to illustrate a story with an underlying message that appeals to the logic/emotion of their intended audiences. 

The research project consists of an interlinked research proposal, annotated bibliography, and research essay.

Choose one of the following four options as your research focus for your research project.

Avoid merely summarizing your artist’s style and contributions to art history. Your purpose is to examine your artist’s rhetorical moves as a visual storyteller. For MLA style, use present tense verbs to analyze the composition of artworks.

Artists often attempt to connect with their audiences by using motifs (reoccurring images) and symbols that are important to their communities and time periods. For example, in her painting Saint Catherine of Alexandria (c. 1620), Italian Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi integrates the broken spiked wheel and the palm leaf as symbols of martyrdom in her depiction of the Christian Saint Catherine of Alexandria as a spiritually strong protagonist, drawing on her intended audiences’ knowledge of and appreciation for Christian symbolism.  

Option 1: Analyze the rhetorical moves made by one of the following women artists to engage in visual storytelling. Limit your analysis to two to three of the artist’s paintings on the same or related subject. For instance, one could examine Gentileschi’s use of realism, chiaroscuro, the human form, and the motif of Judith and Holofernes to portray Judith as a physically/emotionally strong protagonist from her perspective in both Judith Beheading Holofernes (c. 1620, Uffizi Galleries) and Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes (c. 1623-1625, Detroit Institute of Arts). Her visual representation of Judith sharply contrasts with the visual representation of Judith as beautiful, fragile, and an object of the male gaze in works such as Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes (c. 1599). In her article for Smart History, the Center for Public Art History, Esperanca Camara elaborates on Gentileschi's use of realism, chiaroscuro, and the biblical motif of Judith and Holofernes: "Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes"

Renaissance/Baroque Periods:   

  • Plautilla Nelli 
  • Sofonisba Anguissola (Mannerist) 
  • Lavinia Fontana (Mannerist) 
  • Fede Galizia 
  • Artemisia Gentileschi  


Option 2: Analyze how one of the following artist’s styles shaped his or her portrayal of mythological and/or biblical motifs in two  to three paintings on the same or related subject. Furthermore, consider how such stylistic elements and rhetorical moves contributed to the Renaissance/Baroque period.

Renaissance Period:

  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Michelangelo Buonarroti
  • Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael)

Late Renaissance to Baroque Period:

  • Michelangelo Merisi (known as Caravaggio)

Baroque Period:

  • Artemisia Gentileschi


Option 3: Research how the Impressionists made an argument for the importance of art to reflect modern life (e.g., domestic scenes, cityscapes, natural landscapes) instead of looking back to antiquity (e.g., Roman mythology/philosophy) or to religious motifs for inspiration as demonstrated by the Italian Renaissance/Baroque artists, for example. The Impressionist movement originated in France during the 19th century. 


  • Claude Monet
  • Berthe Morisot
  • Mary Cassatt


Option 4: Examine the use of murals, sculptures, paintings, and/or digital art pieces in one of your communities (e.g., local community, cultural community, online community) to commemorate a public figure/event. Limit your analysis to two to three artworks for the same public figure/event. Consider how factors such as local history and culture have influenced an artist’s rhetorical moves and use of modes (linguistic, visual, spatial, aural, and/or gestural) to commemorate the public figure/event.

Example of a Multimodal Artifact Commemorating a Public Figure:

San Siguenza's mural (fig. 1) celebrates Selena Quintanilla-Perez’s life and her legacy as the "Queen of Tejano." The mural is located on the exterior wall of the Time’s Market in her neighborhood of Molina in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Question to Consider: How effectively does Siguenza use the following modes to commemorate Selena’s life and her legacy as the “Queen of Tejano”?

  • Linguistic (words)
  • Visual (e.g., images, color scheme)
  • Spatial (alignment, proximity)


Fig. 1. San Siguenza's mural of Selena at the Time’s Market. Photo by Kristina Gutierrez

Timeline for Research Project:

Research Proposal

Instructions for drafting your research proposal:

  1. Define your topic in your own words.
  2. Compose your main research question.
  3. Describe your research methods (primary, secondary)

Annotated Bibliography (15% of course grade)

Assignment Instructions for Annotated Bibliography:


Your purpose for completing the evaluative annotated bibliography is to locate, summarize, and evaluate sources from multiple perspectives that you plan to use to draft your research essay. 

The assignment requires the use of the following skills: 
•    Write an introductory paragraph to introduce how your sources inform your understanding of your topic from different perspectives.
•    Draft annotations that summarize and evaluate sources.
•    Use MLA 9th edition style to format bibliographic citations for sources.
•    Use MLA 9th edition style to format the elements of a page (e.g., header, heading, and line spacing)
•    Write clearly and concisely.
•    Use academic voice (formal tone and diction).
•    Follow edited American English conventions for spelling, grammar, and mechanics.


•    Annotate five sources for your research topic; four of the sources must by journal articles/eBooks from the LSC Library's Art Research Databases. The library has the following Art Research Databases:

  • Gale One File: Fine Arts
  • Humanities Full Text
  • Project Muse
  • Academic Search Complete

•    Instructions for Formatting and Structuring Your Annotated Bibliography: 

  • Draft your annotated bibliography in MLA 9th edition style.
  • Compose a title based on your research topic.
  • Write a 150-200-word introduction that explains how your five sources have informed your understanding of your research topic from different perspectives. 
  • Compose the following for each source: 
    • MLA 9th edition bibliographic citation 
    • 150-200-word evaluative annotation
MLA Style Resources:

•    MLA Style Guide
•    MLA Citation Guide (9th Edition): Annotated Bibliography (Columbia College)


Research Essay (20% of course grade)

Assignment Instructions for Research Essay:


  • Your purpose is to draft a research essay about your topic using an analytical framework. 

The assignment requires the use of the following skills: 

  • Use MLA 9th edition format.
  • Compose an interesting title that expresses the main idea of your research essay.
  • Draft a debatable thesis. 
  • Develop coherent, unified, and fully developed paragraphs.
  • Use academic voice (formal tone and diction).
  • Analyze an artist’s use of elements of art, style, genre, and technique as evidence to support your thesis.
  • Synthesize ideas from sources.
  • Write signal phrases to introduce quotations. Analyze the meaning of quotations.
  • Draft corresponding in-text citations and works-cited entries.
  • Address multiple perspectives on your topic.
  • Follow edited American English conventions for spelling, grammar, and mechanics.


  • Compose a five-page research essay for your topic. The Works Cited page does not count toward the page-length requirement.
  • Develop a debatable thesis.
  • Integrate five or more sources into your research essay; four of the sources must be journal articles/eBooks from the LSC library art research databases.
    • Integrate multiple sources from your annotated bibliography into your research essay. You can search for additional sources as needed to support your thesis.
  • Address multiple perspectives on your topic.
  • Do not use more than one tertiary source (e.g., encyclopedia article, dictionary entry) in your research essay.
  • Do not use Wikipedia (or a similar website) as a source.

Background Information

Reference Books

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