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Genre Transgression in Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's T

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Berg Al

on 23 June 2015

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Transcript of Genre Transgression in Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's T

Genre Transgression in Art Spiegelman's
Maus: A Survivor's Tale

Maus- the graphic novel
Why does
transgress genres?
“Genre is not only a way of writing, it is also a way of reading. It is where reading and writing meet, as it forms a horizon of expectations which illuminates texts”
(Robert Eaglestone)
Change in Attitude
graphic representations that can be called comics go back a long way (pre- Colombian manuscript from 1519)
Hogarth's "A Harlot's Progress" (1731) - pictures tell a story
Rudolphe Töpffer combined drawings and text in C18 - "father" of the modern comics
comics criticized, seen as a threat for literacy, and as a "seduction of the innocent"
"I have seen many children who were seduced by this vicious crime- comic- book morality."
Frederic Wortham (1954)
- requires a substantial degree of reader participation for narrative
interpretation, and therefore places a great demand on our cognitive skills
- a form that demands a rethinking of narrative, genre, and representation

- Definition: Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/ or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer (McCloud, 1993)

Comics offers tremendous resources to all writers and artists: faithfulness, control, a chance to be heard far and wide without fear of compromise. It offers range and versatility with all the potential imagery of film and painting plus the intimacy of the written word. And all that’s needed is the desire to be heard- the will to learn- and the ability to see.
published 1986
published 1991
- demonstrated that the medium of comics could successfully deal with serious issues
- sparked a rejuvenation of the comic book in the 1980s
- taught at colleges
- numerous academic articles and essay collections on
- established to be one of the most important works on the Holocaust

--> achieved academical and critical recognition and was a commercial success
Fiction or Non- Fiction?
I'm all too aware that ultimately what I'm creating is a realistic fiction. The experiences my father actually went through [are not exactly the same as] what he's able to remember and what he's able to articulate of these experiences. Then there's what I'm able to understand of what he articulated, and what I'm able to put down on paper. And then of course there's what the reader can make of that. (Oral History Journal, Spring 1987)
Maus tells in comic book format two parallel stories: Spiegelman’s own troubled relationship with his father Vladek, a Holocaust survivor; and Vladek’s life in both prewar Poland and later at Auschwitz.
Specific Features
Use of animals to represent ethnic groups and nationalities
Jews - mice
Germans - cats
Poles - pigs
US- Americans - dogs
use of pictures amidst hand- drawn text
as postmodernist work:
reflects on itself and on the impossibility of accurate representation; highly metafictional; foregrounds the act and process of creating the graphic novel
- complicated father- son relationship
- survivor's guilt
- issue of representing his father accurately
- issue of reliability- what is Vladek repressing, what has his brain made up to fill gaps?
- emphasises his role as eyewitness and draws maps to prove accuracy

sometimes the 'narrators' are even in conflict
"The book- length graphic memoir catapulted Spiegelman to fame and at the same time revitalized the medium of the comics- Spiegelman was credited with single- handedly justifying the comic strip as a serious creative medium”

(The Encyclopedia of American Comics)
Graphic Novel
following Vladek Spiegelman's experiences in the Holocaust (from pre- war Poland to Auschwitz and eventually back home) as well as his relationship with his son Art 30 years later
the second primary narrative of the story is Art's relationship with his father Vladek; two levels:
- between 1978 and 1982; series of interviews that lead to the creation of
- in 1987, one year after
Maus I
was published and 5 years after Vladek's death
Holocaust Memoir
- writers' desire to establish the documentary nature of what they witnessed
- strong need to make the truth known
- fear of not being heard
- need to bear witness
- central paradox: contradiction between the impossibility and the necessity of writing
extensive research into the Holocaust so that the graphic representations of his father's story could be as accurate as possible
Fictional elements
metaphors, allegories, symbolism
In addition to these elements, Vladek's story is passed through many filters, revisions, and interpretations before it is conveyed to the reader
Love Story
Maus as a 'genre- breaking' work

“Art Spiegelman’s two- volume ‘comic book’ Maus: A Survivor’s Tale is not exactly a comic book, nor is it exactly a novel, a biography (or autobiography), or a work of oral history- and yet it is all of these things. [...] Ultimately, perhaps, it is the inability to fit Maus into a clearly specified genre that makes the work so compelling and unforgettable.”
(Deborah R. Geis)

Thank you!
- Spiegelman, Art. (1986 and 1991). Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. Pantheon.
- Eaglestone, Robert (2008). The Holocaust and the Postmodern. Oxford University Press.
- Chute, Hillary (2006). The Changing Profession: Comics as Literature? Reading Graphic Narrative.
- Geis, Deborah R., ed. (2003). Considering Maus. Approaches to Art Spiegelman’s ‘Survivor’s Tale’ of the Holocaust. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press.
- McCloud, Scott (1993). Understanding Comics. The Invisible Art. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
- Goulart, Ron, ed. (1990). The Encyclopedia of American Comics. From 1897 to the Present. New York: Promised Land Productions.
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