Teaching Maus; Critical Comics

In one of the earlier posts (I was searching for it but couldn’t find it) Prof. Sample posits that one of the reasons why Maus may not be more widely taught in the academic world, in particular in high schools, is because of a built in prejudice against the graphic narrative as a medium.  This is a sentiment I agree with.  It also got me thinking about what it would take to establish the legitimacy of the art form as well as what adjustments would need to be made in order to make Maus a “proper” history text.

In the introduction to the Los Bros Hernandez’s Love and Rockets Vol. 1 the author/critic Carter Scholz argues that the main reason that comics haven’t been treated as a serious art form is because they lack a history of criticism necessary to establish an academic tradition.  Initially only Europeans like Umberto Eco treated comics as works of art deserving of critical thought and analysis wrote deeply about the subject.  In Scholz view having a critical body to work from allowed the artists/writers to hone their craft and develop the art form but also said to the world at large that comics are worth of critique, therefore they are worthy of being considered art.  I would argue that in todays comic world that body of criticism does exist, but that sadly outside of Europe and East Asia it is still widely ignored.  How do we change this?  We teach the art form so that the youth going forward will know how to approach and even respect it.

So with that in mind I found these links about how to teach Maus in the classroom.  The first is about using the work as a way to engage less literate students as well as a means of introducing controversial topics, such as guilt and the erasure of atrocities from history.  The second introduces the concept of a Readers’ Circle where the students all read a piece of the work and then convene for a Q&A session asking questions as; “Why does Art shrink when he goes to see his shrink?”

Finally we have Art Spiegelman himself, now 61, talking about a seminar he is to deliver about his work on chronicling the history of the medium.  Perhaps comics most celebrated creator talking the issue of a critical body will be good, no?

I also find it amusing that when I typed Spiegelman into the post, Firefox said it was spelled wrong and suggested Spielberg instead.  Perhaps proving the point Scholz, Sample, and myself are all trying to make.

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4 thoughts on “Teaching Maus; Critical Comics”

  1. Okay so this totally was supposed to be in before midnight, but for whatever reason firefox stopped responding. But when I restarted it it saved where I left off. Which was awesome. Meh, my fault for finishing so close to the cutting line anyway.

  2. I really like the interview with Spiegelman in The Washington Post, particularly when he talks about the prospect of turning Maus into a film. “Everything about Maus,” Spiegelman says, “is fabricated in a way to exist in the form that it’s in.” Only comics could capture everything he’s trying to do in the story.

  3. I’ve noticed a lot of comic book creators feel that way about their work. Quick question did anyone pick up on how the all of the letter s’s were drawn like runic sigs(the s’s on an ss mans collar)?

    1. What I thought amusing is that Spiegelman would insist on a claymation film, should it be done at all. Also, I don’t think all comic book creators necessarily insist that their medium is the best for the story their telling. One example is Grant Morrison feeling that the potentially upcoming We3 movie would handle the topic better, and the other example is the trend of semi-indie comics coming out almost entirely to serve as an example of an “established” IP for Hollywood agents to snap up (i.e. Cowboys and Aliens). And yes, I know this is a two week late response.

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