II. Using the Comic Book as Historical Narrative (back to top)
- Doherty, Thomas. “Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’: Graphic Art and the Holocaust,” American Literature 68, no. 1 (1996): 69-84. (jstor)
This article describes the use of a comic book to describe the Holocaust as an appropriate response to the censorship of Nazism, as it would have been described as an example of entartete Kunst (degenerate art) by the Nazis. It mentions how Spiegelman describes his usage of mice to portray Jews as a response to the Nazi view of Jews as vermin, having been also portrayed as mice in Nazi cartoons. Spiegelman’s use of a “lowbrow” medium depicts the horrors of the Holocaust in a completely different style from the actual black and white images of the camps and films like “Schindler’s List.” It challenges the usually sparse, somber tone of Holocaust narratives without being in bad taste.
- Gordon, Ian. “’But Seriously, Folks...’: Comic Art and History.” Review of History of the Comic Strip: Vol. 2, The Nineteenth Century by David Kunzle, and Comic Books as History: The Narrative Art of Jack Jackson, Art Spiegelman, and Harvey Pekar by Joseph Witek. American Quarterly 43, no. 2. (1991): 341-346. (jstor)
This is a review of two books about comic books as a source of historical narrative. The review points out that the two books disagree on a term to describe comics, the first book using the term “graphic narrative” and the other using “sequential art.” The article talks about Wizek’s attempt to include comic books as legitimate way of recounting history. Spiegelman’s work is mentioned, and Wizek argues that it is an authentic historical narrative, while the use of a comic keeps it from being sentimental. This review serves to demonstrate the growing use of alternative forms of telling history, and how Maus has played an integral role in this.
- Mikics, David. “Underground Comics and Survival Tales,” Considering Maus: Approaches to Art Spiegelman’s “Survival Tale” of the Holocaust. Edited by Deborah R. Geis. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003.
This article evaluates Maus as a satirical work, as well as a new definition of the comic book genre. It compares Vladek’s role as a survivor to other comic book heroes, saying he is more along the lines of the tortured superheroes in underground comics, as opposed to the likes of Batman and Spiderman. It also analyzes the use of animals, mentioning that the Nazis not only also portrayed the Jews as vermin, but that Poles were often described as pigs. The article notes that by portraying human characters as animals, it makes it easier to tell his father’s story, without being totally weighed down with the tragedy of the Holocaust.
- Oliver, Antonio S. “Art Spiegelman’s MAUS,” http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/bassr/218/projects/oliver/MausbyAO.htm.
This brief web essay, written for a Georgetown university class, examines how Maus demonstrates the effects of the Holocaust on the children of survivors, and how the comic book form provides a different means of telling the story (the two main themes that come up when analyzing Spiegelman). The essay says that the two part narrative of the comic provides a way not only for Vladek Spiegelman to recount his experiences, but also to demonstrate Art’s inability to fully comprehend the Holocaust in its entirety, demonstrating a certain gap between survivors and the next generation. The essay also argues that Spiegelman’s inability to comprehend the horrors of the Holocaust is demonstrated in his use of animals instead of people. By using animals, the author argues, the reader has to abandon preconceived notions of human nature e.g. reason, and so Maus can “speak the unspeakable.”
- Rothberg, Michael. “‘We Were Talking Jewish’: Art Spiegelman's ‘Maus’ as ‘Holocaust’ Production,” Contemporary Literature 35, no. 4. (1994): 661-687. (jstor)
This article describes how books like Maus have served to challenge and retell the Holocaust as well as redefine Jewish-American identity. Rothberg says that Maus has retold the Holocaust in a new format and thus is way to avoid it being “wrapped up.” This article takes a more postmodernist approach to analyzing Maus, by going over various aspects of the book, including Vladek’s speech, the general absence of Anja throughout the books, and how the Holocaust has affected Jews today. It also mentions how Art’s guilt regarding the suicide of his mother and his difficulties communicating with his father are prevalent throughout the books. This article uses Maus as a symbol of the ways the Holocaust has been portrayed, e.g. the survivor and his/her relationship with his/her children, commercialized (mentioning Vladek’s souvenir photo , for example), and how it has created a new Jewish-American identity.
- Versaci, Rocco. “How Comic Books Can Change the Way Our Students See Literature: One Teacher's Perspective,” The English Journal 91, no. 2. (2001): 61-67. (jstor)
This article describes how using comic books can act as an aid in teaching students about literature, and cites Maus as an example. It describes how the intermingling of text and art make a new way of telling a story, where not only the use of language, but also the style of art create a new medium that tells a more complex story, as well as puts a visible face on the characters. Versaci addresses the themes and the complex use of storytelling in Maus, saying it is the perfect example of a comic book being used in history curriculum. Comic books are argued to be more engaging for students, and a better aid in learning analytical and critical thinking skills.