Week In Maus

This week we covered the use of animals as “masks”, and as division between nationality vs race.  What the aesthetic, cultural, and narrative affects that are the result of the anthropomorphic nature of the text.  We observed some of Art Spiegelman’s earlier work and how that shaped Maus, even becoming incoporated into Maus via Prisoner on the Hell Planet.  We covered the various times we all came into contact with the work (I myself had been familiar with its existance since ever, but regretfully never got around to reading it until this class) and what that means of our readings today.  We even got Inglorius Bastards, Daft Punk, and An American Tail into the discusion.

So what did I most take away from this week?  The utter humanity of the piece, the dynamic artistry applied in its construction, and the surprisingly large amount of metanarrative.

From what I had heard about before of Maus it was a Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel/comic book about mice as jews during the holocaust.  Not much else.  I kept hearing about how it legitimized the medium (often from non-comic afficianados).  How it was innovative in its use of the mechanics of the comic strip (often from comic afficianados).  And how it, along with Schindler’s List, was essential literature to understand the blight on human history that was the Holocaust.  I didn’t appreciate how sorrowful and humanizing it actually was.  When I picked it up to read Maus Book 1 I read the entire thing in one sitting.  And then the next day I re-read it all again, in one sitting.  I would agree with the sentiments about its mechanical complexity as well.  Through the use of limited details and cramped illustrations we get the simultanous sense of isolation of humanity, and the crowding of people.  We also have several visual motifs to guide us, the white circle as covered in class, the use of swastika like images throughout, the juxtaposition of modern and past scenes.

But again, what no one mentioned was how meta it was, I nearly always heard it described as a story of the holocaust, not of the story of the child of a survivor of the holocaust.  That immedialty took my by surprise.  And the story amongst Vladeck, Mala, and Art himself was a real driving force to keep reading for myself.  It was also amusing how he mentioned maus essentially within it’s own pages.

And that’s the week in review, and my reactions to the work covered.

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I am human.