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Writing Guide with Handbook

17.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Hints of the Homoerotic” by Leo Davis

Writing Guide with Handbook17.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Hints of the Homoerotic” by Leo Davis
  1. Preface
  2. The Things We Carry: Experience, Culture, and Language
    1. Unit Introduction
    2. 1 The Digital World: Building on What You Already Know to Respond Critically
      1. Introduction
      2. 1.1 "Reading" to Understand and Respond
      3. 1.2 Social Media Trailblazer: Selena Gomez
      4. 1.3 Glance at Critical Response: Rhetoric and Critical Thinking
      5. 1.4 Annotated Student Sample: Social Media Post and Responses on Voter Suppression
      6. 1.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About a “Text”
      7. 1.6 Evaluation: Intention vs. Execution
      8. 1.7 Spotlight on … Academia
      9. 1.8 Portfolio: Tracing Writing Development
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
    3. 2 Language, Identity, and Culture: Exploring, Employing, Embracing
      1. Introduction
      2. 2.1 Seeds of Self
      3. 2.2 Identity Trailblazer: Cathy Park Hong
      4. 2.3 Glance at the Issues: Oppression and Reclamation
      5. 2.4 Annotated Sample Reading from The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
      6. 2.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about How Identity Is Constructed Through Writing
      7. 2.6 Evaluation: Antiracism and Inclusivity
      8. 2.7 Spotlight on … Variations of English
      9. 2.8 Portfolio: Decolonizing Self
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
    4. 3 Literacy Narrative: Building Bridges, Bridging Gaps
      1. Introduction
      2. 3.1 Identity and Expression
      3. 3.2 Literacy Narrative Trailblazer: Tara Westover
      4. 3.3 Glance at Genre: The Literacy Narrative
      5. 3.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
      6. 3.5 Writing Process: Tracing the Beginnings of Literacy
      7. 3.6 Editing Focus: Sentence Structure
      8. 3.7 Evaluation: Self-Evaluating
      9. 3.8 Spotlight on … The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN)
      10. 3.9 Portfolio: A Literacy Artifact
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
      13. Works Consulted
  3. Bridging the Divide Between Personal Identity and Academia
    1. Unit Introduction
    2. 4 Memoir or Personal Narrative: Learning Lessons from the Personal
      1. Introduction
      2. 4.1 Exploring the Past to Understand the Present
      3. 4.2 Memoir Trailblazer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
      4. 4.3 Glance at Genre: Conflict, Detail, and Revelation
      5. 4.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
      6. 4.5 Writing Process: Making the Personal Public
      7. 4.6 Editing Focus: More on Characterization and Point of View
      8. 4.7 Evaluation: Structure and Organization
      9. 4.8 Spotlight on … Multilingual Writers
      10. 4.9 Portfolio: Filtered Memories
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    3. 5 Profile: Telling a Rich and Compelling Story
      1. Introduction
      2. 5.1 Profiles as Inspiration
      3. 5.2 Profile Trailblazer: Veronica Chambers
      4. 5.3 Glance at Genre: Subject, Angle, Background, and Description
      5. 5.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Remembering John Lewis” by Carla D. Hayden
      6. 5.5 Writing Process: Focusing on the Angle of Your Subject
      7. 5.6 Editing Focus: Verb Tense Consistency
      8. 5.7 Evaluation: Text as Personal Introduction
      9. 5.8 Spotlight on … Profiling a Cultural Artifact
      10. 5.9 Portfolio: Subject as a Reflection of Self
      11. Works Cited
    4. 6 Proposal: Writing About Problems and Solutions
      1. Introduction
      2. 6.1 Proposing Change: Thinking Critically About Problems and Solutions
      3. 6.2 Proposal Trailblazer: Atul Gawande
      4. 6.3 Glance at Genre: Features of Proposals
      5. 6.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Slowing Climate Change” by Shawn Krukowski
      6. 6.5 Writing Process: Creating a Proposal
      7. 6.6 Editing Focus: Subject-Verb Agreement
      8. 6.7 Evaluation: Conventions, Clarity, and Coherence
      9. 6.8 Spotlight on … Technical Writing as a Career
      10. 6.9 Portfolio: Reflecting on Problems and Solutions
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    5. 7 Evaluation or Review: Would You Recommend It?
      1. Introduction
      2. 7.1 Thumbs Up or Down?
      3. 7.2 Review Trailblazer: Michiko Kakutani
      4. 7.3 Glance at Genre: Criteria, Evidence, Evaluation
      5. 7.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Black Representation in Film" by Caelia Marshall
      6. 7.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Entertainment
      7. 7.6 Editing Focus: Quotations
      8. 7.7 Evaluation: Effect on Audience
      9. 7.8 Spotlight on … Language and Culture
      10. 7.9 Portfolio: What the Arts Say About You
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    6. 8 Analytical Report: Writing from Facts
      1. Introduction
      2. 8.1 Information and Critical Thinking
      3. 8.2 Analytical Report Trailblazer: Barbara Ehrenreich
      4. 8.3 Glance at Genre: Informal and Formal Analytical Reports
      5. 8.4 Annotated Student Sample: "U.S. Response to COVID-19" by Trevor Garcia
      6. 8.5 Writing Process: Creating an Analytical Report
      7. 8.6 Editing Focus: Commas with Nonessential and Essential Information
      8. 8.7 Evaluation: Reviewing the Final Draft
      9. 8.8 Spotlight on … Discipline-Specific and Technical Language
      10. 8.9 Portfolio: Evidence and Objectivity
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    7. 9 Rhetorical Analysis: Interpreting the Art of Rhetoric
      1. Introduction
      2. 9.1 Breaking the Whole into Its Parts
      3. 9.2 Rhetorical Analysis Trailblazer: Jamil Smith
      4. 9.3 Glance at Genre: Rhetorical Strategies
      5. 9.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Rhetorical Analysis: Evicted by Matthew Desmond” by Eliana Evans
      6. 9.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about Rhetoric
      7. 9.6 Editing Focus: Mixed Sentence Constructions
      8. 9.7 Evaluation: Rhetorical Analysis
      9. 9.8 Spotlight on … Business and Law
      10. 9.9 Portfolio: How Thinking Critically about Rhetoric Affects Intellectual Growth
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    8. 10 Position Argument: Practicing the Art of Rhetoric
      1. Introduction
      2. 10.1 Making a Case: Defining a Position Argument
      3. 10.2 Position Argument Trailblazer: Charles Blow
      4. 10.3 Glance at Genre: Thesis, Reasoning, and Evidence
      5. 10.4 Annotated Sample Reading: "Remarks at the University of Michigan" by Lyndon B. Johnson
      6. 10.5 Writing Process: Creating a Position Argument
      7. 10.6 Editing Focus: Paragraphs and Transitions
      8. 10.7 Evaluation: Varied Appeals
      9. 10.8 Spotlight on … Citation
      10. 10.9 Portfolio: Growth in the Development of Argument
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    9. 11 Reasoning Strategies: Improving Critical Thinking
      1. Introduction
      2. 11.1 Developing Your Sense of Logic
      3. 11.2 Reasoning Trailblazer: Paul D. N. Hebert
      4. 11.3 Glance at Genre: Reasoning Strategies and Signal Words
      5. 11.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Book VII of The Republic by Plato
      6. 11.5 Writing Process: Reasoning Supported by Evidence
      7. Further Reading
      8. Works Cited
    10. 12 Argumentative Research: Enhancing the Art of Rhetoric with Evidence
      1. Introduction
      2. 12.1 Introducing Research and Research Evidence
      3. 12.2 Argumentative Research Trailblazer: Samin Nosrat
      4. 12.3 Glance at Genre: Introducing Research as Evidence
      5. 12.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth" by Lily Tran
      6. 12.5 Writing Process: Integrating Research
      7. 12.6 Editing Focus: Integrating Sources and Quotations
      8. 12.7 Evaluation: Effectiveness of Research Paper
      9. 12.8 Spotlight on … Bias in Language and Research
      10. 12.9 Portfolio: Why Facts Matter in Research Argumentation
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    11. 13 Research Process: Accessing and Recording Information
      1. Introduction
      2. 13.1 The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources
      3. 13.2 The Research Process: How to Create Sources
      4. 13.3 Glance at the Research Process: Key Skills
      5. 13.4 Annotated Student Sample: Research Log
      6. 13.5 Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing Information, and Keeping a Research Log
      7. 13.6 Spotlight on … Ethical Research
      8. Further Reading
      9. Works Cited
    12. 14 Annotated Bibliography: Gathering, Evaluating, and Documenting Sources
      1. Introduction
      2. 14.1 Compiling Sources for an Annotated Bibliography
      3. 14.2 Glance at Form: Citation Style, Purpose, and Formatting
      4. 14.3 Annotated Student Sample: “Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth” by Lily Tran
      5. 14.4 Writing Process: Informing and Analyzing
      6. Further Reading
      7. Works Cited
    13. 15 Case Study Profile: What One Person Says About All
      1. Introduction
      2. 15.1 Tracing a Broad Issue in the Individual
      3. 15.2 Case Study Trailblazer: Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
      4. 15.3 Glance at Genre: Observation, Description, and Analysis
      5. 15.4 Annotated Sample Reading: Case Study on Louis Victor "Tan" Leborgne
      6. 15.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About How People and Language Interact
      7. 15.6 Editing Focus: Words Often Confused
      8. 15.7 Evaluation: Presentation and Analysis of Case Study
      9. 15.8 Spotlight on … Applied Linguistics
      10. 15.9 Portfolio: Your Own Uses of Language
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
  4. Navigating Rhetoric in Real Life
    1. Unit Introduction
    2. 16 Print or Textual Analysis: What You Read
      1. Introduction
      2. 16.1 An Author’s Choices: What Text Says and How It Says It
      3. 16.2 Textual Analysis Trailblazer: bell hooks
      4. 16.3 Glance at Genre: Print or Textual Analysis
      5. 16.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Artists at Work" by Gwyn Garrison
      6. 16.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Text
      7. 16.6 Editing Focus: Literary Works Live in the Present
      8. 16.7 Evaluation: Self-Directed Assessment
      9. 16.8 Spotlight on … Humanities
      10. 16.9 Portfolio: The Academic and the Personal
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    3. 17 Image Analysis: What You See
      1. Introduction
      2. 17.1 “Reading” Images
      3. 17.2 Image Trailblazer: Sara Ludy
      4. 17.3 Glance at Genre: Relationship Between Image and Rhetoric
      5. 17.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Hints of the Homoerotic” by Leo Davis
      6. 17.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically and Writing Persuasively About Images
      7. 17.6 Editing Focus: Descriptive Diction
      8. 17.7 Evaluation: Relationship Between Analysis and Image
      9. 17.8 Spotlight on … Video and Film
      10. 17.9 Portfolio: Interplay Between Text and Image
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    4. 18 Multimodal and Online Writing: Creative Interaction between Text and Image
      1. Introduction
      2. 18.1 Mixing Genres and Modes
      3. 18.2 Multimodal Trailblazer: Torika Bolatagici
      4. 18.3 Glance at Genre: Genre, Audience, Purpose, Organization
      5. 18.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Celebrating a Win-Win” by Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
      6. 18.5 Writing Process: Create a Multimodal Advocacy Project
      7. 18.6 Evaluation: Transitions
      8. 18.7 Spotlight on . . . Technology
      9. 18.8 Portfolio: Multimodalism
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
    5. 19 Scripting for the Public Forum: Writing to Speak
      1. Introduction
      2. 19.1 Writing, Speaking, and Activism
      3. 19.2 Podcast Trailblazer: Alice Wong
      4. 19.3 Glance at Genre: Language Performance and Visuals
      5. 19.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Are New DOT Regulations Discriminatory?” by Zain A. Kumar
      6. 19.5 Writing Process: Writing to Speak
      7. 19.6 Evaluation: Bridging Writing and Speaking
      8. 19.7 Spotlight on … Delivery/Public Speaking
      9. 19.8 Portfolio: Everyday Rhetoric, Rhetoric Every Day
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
    6. 20 Portfolio Reflection: Your Growth as a Writer
      1. Introduction
      2. 20.1 Thinking Critically about Your Semester
      3. 20.2 Reflection Trailblazer: Sandra Cisneros
      4. 20.3 Glance at Genre: Purpose and Structure
      5. 20.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Don’t Expect Congrats” by Dale Trumbore
      6. 20.5 Writing Process: Looking Back, Looking Forward
      7. 20.6 Editing Focus: Pronouns
      8. 20.7 Evaluation: Evaluating Self-Reflection
      9. 20.8 Spotlight on … Pronouns in Context
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
  5. Handbook
  6. Index

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Determine the context of an image.
  • Analyze the rhetorical techniques common to images.
  • Analyze a variety of texts according to organizational patterns and rhetorical techniques.

Introduction

Below you will find a student analysis of a painting by Charles Demuth. As you read it, pay careful attention to the way in which the student author, Leo Davis, describes technical details of the painting, such as color, line, and technique. Also notice the way he analyzes those details, moving beyond mere description into the realms of context, analysis, and reflection.

Meet American Modernist and Precisionist Charles Demuth (1883–1935)

Charles Demuth, shown here in a self-portrait from 1907, was an American painter.
Figure 17.14 Self-Portrait, 1907 (credit: “Self portrait of Charles Demuth” by Charles Demuth/Wikimedia Commons, CC0)

Charles Demuth was an American painter of the modernist and precisionist movements. Trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, he traveled to Europe and worked as an illustrator before striking out on his own, first as a watercolorist and then as an oil painter. His watercolors follow languid lines of vegetation, reproducing plants and flowers in stronger geometric patterns than those of his friend and fellow artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986). His work in the precisionist movement, like that of other similar artists, often focuses on industrial subjects enhanced by exaggerated geometric techniques. Few human characters appear in Demuth’s paintings, which tend to erase any suggestion of his own personality or brushstroke on the artwork.

Demuth was a keen wit with a vibrant social presence in New York, Paris, and London. He cultivated his friendships as avidly as he did his art, and his company was much prized. His homosexuality was likely well known among his circle of friends, although his works depicting gay subculture in major metropolitan areas were only privately circulated. These works, including Dancing Sailors seen in black and white in Figure 17.15, are today shedding light on the ways in which LGBTQ people engaged with one another and society more than 100 years ago.

This black and white rendition of Dancing Sailors, 1918, by Charles Demuth shows three couples dancing while some look away from their partners at other dancers.
Figure 17.15 Dancing Sailors, c. 1918, by Charles Demuth (credit: “Dancing sailors” by Charles Demuth/Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Living by Their Own Words

Analysis of Dancing Sailors by Charles Demuth

Four male sailors dance on a checked floor with arched lines in the background. Two of the men dance with women, while two of them dance with each other. This painting is done in watercolor and graphite and focuses on the sailor on the far left. The other figures face him, and his posture draws the viewer’s eye to his face. The man and woman on the far right seem completely involved with each other. The two couples in the middle are drawn sensually, with passion, but none of them focus on their own partners. Instead, the two sailors with their backs to the viewer stare at one another. The sailor on the left appears quite aggressive, with an arched back and bent knees suggesting a pelvic thrust. Although his dance partner is a woman, he holds her right hand at arm’s length, away from his body, and stares past her toward the sailor next to him. Strong pencil strokes emphasize his eyes and eyebrows, pointing the viewer to the object of his stare. The central sailor is dancing with a man in a mutual embrace, but his attention is fixed on the sailor at left, his head tilted slightly and his expression receptive. The painting is signed and dated: “C Demuth - 1918 -.”

Description. The initial paragraph focuses extensively on the visual elements of the painting, with a few analytical passages. Leo Davis uses descriptive, artistic terminology such as “arched,” “watercolor and graphite,” and “[s]trong pencil strokes” to help readers visualize the painting.

Line and Arrangement. Davis provides some details about the artistic techniques used, such as the strong pencil strokes and the way the image “emphasize[s] his eyes and eyebrows.”

Analysis. The author explains the effect of these elements and techniques to interpret the poses and intentions of the characters in the painting.

A Vibrant Subculture and a World in Crisis

Dancing Sailors was painted by Charles Demuth (1883–1935), a key figure in early-20th-century modernism. Best known as a watercolorist, Demuth also painted the gay subculture in jazz clubs and underground bars in New York City in works that he kept secret. As a gay man, he frequently visited Manhattan during the Harlem Renaissance and participated in this culture, savoring the artistic and erotic intensity of the Jazz Age.

Although the art movement in the early 20th century was vibrant, its context was depressing. The United States entered World War I (1914–1918) in April 1917. A month later, the Selective Service Act was passed, and thousands of American men were drafted into military service. In March 1918, the United States was hit with the influenza pandemic. Twenty million people died in the war, and another 50 million died from the flu.

Meanwhile, in 1916, the U.S. military began using so-called blue discharges to force gay people out of the armed forces. By 1919, sailors were arrested and court-martialed for homosexual activity. It seems seriously unfair that someone who fought in the war could come back home and be convicted as a criminal just for his sexual orientation.

In this context, with death seemingly everywhere and gay men hated, Demuth created striking watercolors that say a lot about his times. Because he did not share these paintings publicly, he was probably afraid of revealing his own homosexuality. But that did not stop him from making art that reflected his own desires. Dancing Sailors, now in possession of the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio, was not intended for public exhibition.

Context. In these four well-organized paragraphs, Davis outlines the painting’s context: key details about the artist’s personal life, the military and domestic situations in America, and Demuth’s place in this world. Davis focuses on the aspects most relevant to the artwork, keeping the context short and pointed.

Tension within a Painting

The perspective, or point of view, of the painting is high, as shown by the angle of the black-and-white checkerboard floor and where it hits the wall. The figures are shown in a practical close-up, so that their feet and the tops of their heads are not included in the frame. This perspective is very intimate, but with the audience intruding on the scene. All of the couples hold each other closely and tightly, and the audience is almost uncomfortably close.

Point of View. Davis returns to technical description, indicating the artist’s perspective and how it affects the viewer.

Demuth uses watercolor to outline the dancers’ bodies, making the clothing almost transparent. The silhouette of the pants emphasizes the bulge of thigh and calf muscles, and the arches in the background suggest erections. For both men, the buttocks are outlined and emphasized. The male dancers are clearly wearing uniforms, but Demuth chooses not to include insignias, medals, or other identifying marks. Perhaps he was simply not interested in military rank and regulation. Or maybe he wanted to direct the viewer’s attention elsewhere. The two women in the painting are incidental, their bodies largely obscured by the men. Although the figures are outlined in graphite, the textured watercolor unites the dancers with the background, making them seem very much like they belong in this scene of intimacy.

Artistic Medium and Line. Davis discusses the medium—watercolor—and how Demuth’s use of it creates the impression of tight clothing. Importantly, the author does not assume intent on Demuth’s part, although he speculates. Instead, he limits his analysis to the details and artistic techniques of the painting.

Technical Description. Again, the author keeps this paragraph focused on an element of artistic design: the watercolor. He backs his assertion with evidence from the painting. Instead of simply saying that the men are wearing tight clothing, he describes the artist’s use of watercolor to create the impression of tight clothing.

The painting appears to tell a story, but only in part. The viewer is invited to fill in the blanks. The sailors in the foreground are blatantly flirting with one another. And the central sailor’s direct stare at the viewer may be considered an invitation. His wide-eyed expression, slight smile, and hands curled to embrace his dance partner’s torso indicate pleasure. The viewer knows something this sailor does not: his part of this story is unlikely to have a happy ending. The female dance partners, while largely obscured, are still individuals with strong personalities. The woman on the left has a vacant stare from half-closed eyes, and her indifferent posture suggests that she may be bored, but the curve of her hip is still sexual. Is she offended by her partner’s distraction?

Arrangement. Davis invites viewers to “read” the painting, to see the story being told by the arrangement, which also invites them to notice the two women.

Rhetorical Question. This technique allows the student author to pose provocative questions that have no clear answers. In combination with the accompanying analysis, the rhetorical question helps establish the tone and theme of the painting that Leo Davis wishes to explore.

Lasting Significance

Demuth was a gay man during a difficult time in American history. This painting, one of many he kept private, is sympathetic and nonjudgmental. These private paintings may have been his attempt to find and show his acceptance of his own identity. During World War I, many military men came to port cities such as New York. Also during that time, Demuth enjoyed the Manhattan nightlife, and he painted a number of scenes of this changing environment. His personal involvement is interesting in and of itself. But even more so, these private paintings document the emergence of a sexual subculture and mark an important moment in American gay history.

Context and Analysis. The author uses context and analysis to reach a conclusion about Demuth’s intention in creating the painting and its significance in the history of American homoerotic art.

Although Demuth died at the relatively early age of 52, his work remains influential in American art. The geometric background of Dancing Sailors shows his increased interest in architectural watercolors. Later in his career, these paintings were hailed as key to the development of the precisionist movement. His unique expressions of modernism are a precursor to the abstract expressionism that developed in the 1940s and later influenced pop art innovators such as Andy Warhol (1928–1987). Aside from its historical significance, the vibrant sensuousness of Dancing Sailors continues to have relevance and appeal for art lovers today.

Context. Leo Davis concludes by extending his argument for Demuth’s influence, tracing the effect of his work through later artists and movements and stating the reason Dancing Sailors continues to have value as a work of art.

Discussion Questions

1 .
In which of the three types of writing about art—reflecting, analyzing, persuading— is the student author engaging? How do you know?
2 .
Identify some of the descriptive language specific to visuals that Leo Davis uses when talking about the painting. How does this language enhance the paper and contribute to the discussion?
3 .
From the essay, can you determine Davis’s opinion regarding homosexuality? Why might this tone be or not be a significant part of the rhetorical situation?
4 .
What details does the student author include about the painter? Is any information about the painter excluded that you think would be relevant?
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