ENGL 300: The Graphic Novel George Mason University (Spring 2011)


Reflexivity in Maus II

From what I've read on this blog and from our class discussion on Tuesday, it seems that everyone is (rightfully) fascinated with the "meta-narration" in Maus II, and I'd like to respond to the commentary we've built so far.

DayneƩ had a great point about Spiegelman's reflexive moments as a filibuster, and I agree that they provide a context for Vladek's story. We discussed in class what happens when Spiegelman breaks the fourth wall on page 41 (the reader is implicated and made hyperaware of the book in their hands,) but I think that moment also aligns the reader with the author. We're put in the same temporal context as Spiegelman in that moment, and we are reminded that we are not experiencing Vladek's suffering alongside him, but are perceiving it retrospectively alongside Art (now a character in his own work.)

Considering this in terms of the layered narrative that Emma brought up, if the core of the story is Vladek's experiences, the secondary layer is Vladek's dictation to Art, and the third and final layer is present-day Art at his desk, then this reflexive moment pulls the reader from where we became comfortable at the core and puts us definitively in the third layer, as a reminder that while we'd like to imagine we can sympathize with Vladek, we can only truly understand it from the perspective of the present-day historian.

Like what Lauren mentioned in her post, Art frequently refers to his trouble with drawing events or places he's never seen. He chooses to research and interview extensively to get his images as close to reality as possible, for fear of speaking for Vladek instead of revealing it through this cataclysmic medium. This dedication to the actuality of the event reinforces that earlier reflexivity, to guide us away from appropriating Vladek's suffering.

Posted by agill7

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