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Maus: A Survivor's Tale

selection from Art Spiegelman's work for "Value of Life" Unit
by

Caitlin Skinner

on 25 July 2014

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Transcript of Maus: A Survivor's Tale

Value of Life Text 3:
Art Spiegelman's
Graphic Novel

Maus
-first published 1986
-Pulitzer Prize winner in 1992
-It is all entirely nonfiction
Activity 14 Surveying the Text
"The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human." -- Adolph Hitler
1. What experience do you have reading graphic novels? Comics?
WRITE DOWN your individual answers though under the heading Activity 14 in your activities template.
3. What do you already know about the Holocaust? In
what other classes have you read or learned about
its details?
2. When you hear the word "comic" what do you usually think of?
is a narrative form in which the story is told through sequential (time-ordered) art. It is usually longer than a typical comic book, and is published in bounded book format.
Graphic Novel
Why Study it?
Activity 15: Making Predictions
1. Do you think this selection will have an optimistic or a pessimistic message about the value of life? Why?

2. How do you think this text might connect to the other two texts we have read?

3. Unlike the other two texts, this piece has several characters. How might this complicate our quest to determine the value of life being presented?

4. How else might this text be different than the other two we have read so far?
Synopsis (you don't have to write this down)
Part I of Maus is Art Spiegelman's graphic rendition of his father Vladek's experiences in Poland from 1941, when Germany began to occupy Poland, until the point in 1944 when he and his wife were taken to the gates of Auschwitz--one of the most infamous concentration camps.
"Maus is the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe, and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father, his father's terrifying story, and History itself."
(from book jacket)
"Moving back and forth from Poland to Rego Park, New York, Maus tells two powerful stories: The first is Spiegelman's father's account of how he and his wife survived Hitler's Europe. . . . The second is the author's tortured relationship with his aging father as they try to lead a normal life of minor arguments. . . . At all levels, this is the ultimate survivor's tale--and that, too, of the children who somehow survive even the survivors."
(from book jacket)
Inscription:
"Moving back and forth from Poland to Rego Park, New York, Maus tells two powerful stories: The first is Spiegelman's father's account of how he and his wife survived Hitler's Europe. . . . The second is the author's tortured relationship with his aging father as they try to lead a normal life of minor arguments. . . . At all levels, this is the ultimate survivor's tale--and that, too, of the children who somehow survive even the survivors." (from book jacket)
Characters To Know
Fela
Vladek and Anja
"Father-in-law" and Matka
Lolek
Tosha
Miloch
Haskel
Pesach
Richieu
Art
Art's parents. Vladek is the main character and narrator of the story.
first son. toddler during occupation. killed by aunt to prevent his fate in the concentration camps
second son, born after WWII; artist/author of this text
Vladek's Father
Vladek's sister; has 5 kids
Anja's parents. Very wealthy before the occupation.
Anja's sister
Tosha's teenage son
A Spiegelman cousin; worked as an official for the Gestapo
Haskel's other brother
Haskel's brother. Able to run a shoe factory in the ghetto.
Activity 16: Key Vocabulary
1. Sosnowiec (p. 1):
(Sos-NO-vee-et) Polish town where Vladek and Anja lived
2. kilo (p. 1):
a kilogram; a unit of weight = 2.2 pounds
3. Auschwitz (p. 2):
(OSH-vitz) the most infamous Polish concentration camp
about 1.3 million people were murdered--90% of them Jews
4. Gestapo (p. 4):
(Ge-STAH-poh) the Nazis' official secret police force
5. Srodula (p. 6):
(SHRO-doo-la) the ghetto where Vladek and his family were first forced to move
6. "Meshuga" (p. 7):
Yiddish word for crazy/insane
Activity 17: First Reading
How to read a graphic novel:
(husband Wolfe)
As we read, consider the following question:
Whose perspectives on the value of life are we reading/hearing/seeing?
Activity 17: First Read-through
Activity 18: Second Reading
As you look back over the text, come up with your own way to separate the different perspectives on life presented:
How you mark these opposing views for yourself is up to you, but do not forget to look at the pictures! They are worth 1,000 words.
A sample table has been provided under Activity 18 in your activities template.
Why does Spiegelman use mice instead of people to represent characters in the story? What do the mice represent? How did you respond to this choice (i.e., what did you think? Like/dislike etc.)
Quickwrite:
Activity 17: First Response
in your notes
Activity 19: Critical Thinking
1. Do you now consider this to be a positive view of life? A negative? Both? Neither? Explain your answer.

2. How does what Maus tells us about the "value of life" differ from the two texts we read earlier?

3. Does Maus rely on more pathos (emotion) or logos (logic) to convey a meaning of life? Explain your answer with examples from the text.

4. Consider the Nazis' perspective of life's value. It's complicated, to be sure. But why do you think they believed (believe) what they do about it?

5. Put this book in context of current events. What current local/global issues come to mind as reflecting similar values of life? By whom?
Preachy Afterthought:
An estimated 11 million people were murdered--6 million of them Jews--under the Nazi regime.

30 to 50 million people were killed in the war that followed Hitler's rise to power.

"Those who do not learn from the past," it has been said, "are doomed to repeat it." What value of life, then, or life philosophy, would best help us avoid this tragedy in the future?
Each box is called a "frame." They are read left to right, and top to bottom.
#1
#2
#3
Book Recommendations
Full transcript