Monday, December 21, 2009

Final Reflection of the Semester

To say that having been in this course was an enriching experience would be a severe understatement. Before entering Graphic Novels, I had never truly opened a graphic novel before. Sure, I had frolicked with some comics as a child; Batman was my favorite, and Spiderman’s climbing prowess was quite impressive, as well. However, I was blown away by the different works we studied from the start. Beginning with Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, I realized that graphic novels did not necessarily include superheroes or excessive amounts of onomatopoeia (this seemingly na├»ve revelation is justified, as I had no prior experience in this area of study). I found appreciation even in Ghost World, my least favorite comic (for its constant use of profanity and overpowering sense of teenage angst), because it implemented different camera lengths and conveyed powerful messages. I learned not only to analyze works from the perspective of an author, but with the eyes of an artist; not only with the desire to create a page, but with an undying enthusiasm for a single panel. Watchmen was the crown jewel of the course; its intricate illustrations and various moral dilemmas made it very difficult not to fall immediately in love with the novel. My personal favorite was the work studied in my Literature Circle group. Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis captivated my interest because it detailed the path of an intelligent and independent girl who tastes life’s numerous hardships at a tender age and point in Iran’s history. Overall, this course has opened my eyes to the wide variety of media and has caused for me to synthesize my past knowledge with a newfound appreciation for the visual arts.

-Amishi Bajaj

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Last Post of the Semester

One thing that I learned from Graphic Novels that will remain with me for the remainder of my life is the wordless graphic novel. When we first received The Arrival by Shaun Tan, I was hooked. The beautiful illustrations and poignant storyline made a deep first impression on me. In many ways reading wordless graphic novels is not only more challenging but also more enjoyable than traditional comics. Without words, only the right-brain, your artistic and emotional side is engaged, and as a result the grinding burden of rational thought is lifted from your shoulders and the reading experience is one of floating gently through the sublime stream of characters intertwining and interacting, weaving the tapestry of canon in a very different way from traditional prose. That's not to imply that wordless graphic novels are easier to read than normal graphic novels or books though. The fact that they have no words doubles the importance of paying attention to the small details in not only the illustration of the panel itself, but also the arrangement of the panels, the panel in context of its surroundings, transitions and closure between panels, and all the elements which validate the colloquialism "a picture is worth a thousand words."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Review of the Semester

Before this semester, I had never even opened up a graphic novel. Apparently, I had been missing out. This semester has opened my mind to how great comic books can be. I absolutely loved reading Understanding Comics, Arrival, Maus I and II, Blankets, Watchmen, and Ghost World. They were all very different from each other, but of course that allowed each of them to bring something different to my thoughts. I think my favorite graphic novel from the semester has been Watchmen. Blankets is close behind because of how easy it is to relate to the comic as a whole. Craig Thompson has a way with making readers feel for him, and understand what he has gone through, even if the reader has not gone through the same situations. I am so glad that I was able to do my multigenre research project on Craig Thompson's works. There was a different tone to each graphic novel. Carnet De Voyage had many humorous parts. I am definitely going to read Thompson's next work once it is completed. Hopefully libraries near me will have a more extensive graphic novels section than now. It's been a great semester.
- Jackie Tusack

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hour-long interview with Dr. Lederman

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37kBx0WezhY

:)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ideas for a Graphic Novel

Soooo, I am a bit late on tossing these out there, and I do apologize for it. Buuuuuut I had two ideas that we could work with:

1. Isolina mentioned using the IMSA resources and following teachers, but I propose taking it a step further and using our friend Dr Leon Lederman. I'm sure that after reading his wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leon_M._Lederman) you'll get a sense for his story. His father pushed him towards being educated and he wanted to be a chemist but was convinced otherwise, he was in WWII and he came back here to become one of the world's best scientists. It would be interesting and he has a very distinct sense of humor that he would add to the story I'm sure. We could do interviews with him, take apart secontions of his book. For a better sense of him, his autobiography is on the nobel prize page (http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1988/lederman-autobio.html). We could do any of a few spins on his life and I'm sure he'd be more than willing to help us out.

2. Also pretaining to IMSA, after our Intel Award dealie in the past week I was wondering how IMSA really did get started. After the presentation was over people in my Film Studies class questioned why IMSA and not ISMA, and I'm sure there are many other interesting questions about our school. We could use the IMSA archives, Stephanie Pace Marshall, and Dr Lederman as direct sorces for our research. It could be cool to do a dramatic retelling of its creation and just to get the word out about our school in such an easily digested form as a comic.

-Karl O.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Graphic Novel Project Ideas

Here are some ideas for our graphic novel project. I based them on the theme of people unable to tell their own story, which I believe was the original focus of the assignment.

One is of Flight 93, the flight that was hijacked on September 11 and through which the terrorists were targeting Washington, D.C., but which was redirected by its crew and/or passengers. We could use, as primary sources, the black box recordings from the flight and any interviews given by family members. As secondary sources, we could use movies made on the subject (I know there are at least three) and any other media on the subject.

The other is a bit more historical and would take more imagination, but might be more fun. Its' subject is the conquest of the Aztec Empire by Cortes from the eyes of an Aztec. We could choose any Aztec - a citizen, the emperor (who was taken hostage by Cortes), or a nobleman - and depict the story realistically, rather than the distanced viewpoint given in most history books. It would be a tragic novel since in the end, the Aztecs were all killed or conquered by Spain.

~Angad

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Proposed topic for the class graphic novel :)

Have you ever imagined that your story would be told in a graphic novel form? I sure didn't, until I was in the shower on Sunday and had a spark of brilliance.

So, without further ado, my proposed topic is that we pair up randomly with someone else in the class, or preferably pick someone that you genuinely don’t know (I know, I know, we all like being with our friends. But do you not want to learn about something hilarious or intriguing about someone mysterious in our class?)

And with that, you interview them for a story you find interesting about something that happened to them at IMSA (because of, relating to...etc.). It can be something funny, depressing, happy, distressing, mind-boggling, and/or anything else you two can think of.

It would be a nice idea in order to get to know your fellow classmates better, since we all have a story to tell. Additionally, since it's nearing the end of our high school career, even knowing someone a little bit better would make our class more cohesive and friendly as a whole.

Envision our final product as a tapestry of the teenage experience, and a reflection of what happens when we're given a little more freedom and mountains more stress.


We, as a class, could potentially also do a chapter on Dr. Hancock as well, and why we picked his graphic novels class that ties us all together.


-Julia K

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Interperative questions

1.) In one instance of the story, Artie was driving with his wife and Vladek, and they decide to pick up an African American who was hitchhiking on the side of the road. Vladek, out of no where, began bad-talking the hitchhiker about his race in Polish. How do you suppose Vladek can justify to himself this reaction towards the African American. Didn't Vladek face the same kind of discrimination by being sent to the camps? Would that not have had some effect on Vladek's views on discrimination?

2.) Throughout the entire novel, when Vladek is not telling about his story, we see that Vladek is very much attached to material things. He will find wire in a trash and save it. He'll refuse to spend money unless he absolutely has to. But, early on in the story, Vladek throws away Artie's coat, which could be considered a completely wasteful act. Why would Vladek throw away a perfectly good coat, even though he has such an inclination to save things?

-Alek Poniatowski

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Maus Interpretive Questions

1)
On page 57 Vladek dreams with his great Grandfather. In his dream he is told that he will leave the labor camp he is in on Parshas Truma. Many people would believe in their dream and have faith as Vladek did, and many would lose hope after time. Later on Page 59 Vladek explains how important this date is to him. He mentions that Artie was born on a Parsha day. What can you infer about Vladek's comment about Parsha Truma and Artie's birth? On Page 59 Artie closes up on Vladek's facial expressions, but not on his own. What do you think he was feeling at this moment?

2)
On the fourth page of Prisoner of the Hell Planet: A Case Story Artie says that his mother murdered him. At the end of the novel Artie ends with the word murderer. He is referring to Vladek. Why do you feel Artie put this in the novel, and why does he have such feelings towards his parents. It is ironic that these novels are in honor of his parents-the survivors who were persecuted to be murdered, and that he calls them murderers. Do you think Artie means what he says?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Maus II questions

Throughout Maus I and II Vladek and Mala are constantly complaining about each other. Vladek even goes so far as to say that "alone I can manage more easy than with Mala, believe me" (book II page 79). Yet, in the end, they end up back together. When Art asks Mala why she came back she says she doesn't know why (book II page 122). Why do Vladek and Mala stay together despite their apparent mutual dislike?

On page 74 of book II Art and Francois are talking together outside and are bothered by the pesky bugs. At the bottom of the page Art sprays the bugs and the last panel shows the bugs fall dead to the ground. This mini extermination reminds the reader of the extermination of the Jews, but what more is symbolically represented in this panel? How does Spiegelman use this sequence to relate the story to the Holocaust?

Thing I posted in the wrong spot or something

You touched on this already, but why does Art only appear to be wearing the mouse mask at the beginning of chapter two? In all of the flashbacks to when he's speaking with his father, he looks like an anthropomorphic mouse.

What is Art trying to tell the audience by showing his father exterminating an insect with pesticides after speaking about the gas chambers?

So yeahhhhh

Maus Discussion Questions

My first question is from page 59 of Maus II. Felix knew that he was going to be taken away by the German the next day. There was really nothing that anyone could do about it. He had no chance to survive. How do you think it would feel spending the night knowing that the next day you were going to be taken away and you couldn't do anything about it?

My second question is from page 72 from Maus II. The prisoners that worked there had to pour gasoline over dead and alive people and burn them. Then they would shovel the human fat back on so that the people would burn better. Would do you think was going through their minds during this time and do you think you could handle that mental strain?

-Sam Groesch

Maus I/II Questions

My first question comes from Chapter 3, page 98-100, of Maus II. Here we see an African-American hitchhiker who walks up to the car needing a ride. At this same instant Vladek looks out the window and yells: "A hitch hiker? And-oy-it's a colored guy, a shvartser! Push quick on the gas! (98)" Disregarding what Vladek has said Francoise picks up the hitchhiker and anyway. As the drive along Vladek mumbles under his breath in polish speaking not so highly of this hitchhiker. Knowing this and the fact that Vladek and many others have suffered oppression at the hands of the Germans for being Jewish, why would Vladek oppress someone who has gone through an experience much like his?


As we read Maus in class we saw that it had a more realistic view to it, such as the characters, but the narrative style was lacking. When comparing that to Maus I and II it is almost the opposite. Do you think combining the narration of Maus I and II and the artistic style of Maus will offer the story of Maus I a deeper meaning?

Discussion Questions

1. In the part where Art is speaking with his psychiatrist friend, Art says that it is admirable to survive. Then the question is raised if it was admirable to survive was it not admirable not to survive? So the question i give to you is who were the hero's of the holocaust those that survived? those that died? the Americans that saved them? no one? Decide the answer from your perspective then, discuss the answer from the perspective of Art then Vladik.

2. Is the use of animals to distinguish between races fair or politically correct? Is it okay to reinforce racial stereotypes in a book about the horrors associated with them?

My thoughts...

As we have discussed in class, the older Vladek Speigelman seems very different from his younger counterpart in Vladek’s narrative of the Holocaust. The younger Vladek is considerate and resourceful; he does not generally exhibit the obsessiveness or paranoia that the older Vladek shows. However, the older Vladek also looks favorably on his former self. Is Vladek cognizant of his stark personality change post-Holocaust? He does mention a couple times during the story that the Holocaust changed him. Does he realize how different he acts in real life than from the story?


This brings me to my second question. Is it possible that Vladek's story may not be entirely accurate. Could there have been parts that Vladek omitted or added to the story? It would seem natural that he would not want to pass on a story in which he is portrayed negatively, especially to his only surviving son. There are a couple of signs within Maus that signal we may have an unreliable narrator. For example, in page 68 in Maus II, Artie catches his father changing the number of months his father claimed he spent in Auschwitz. There may have been other areas where Vladek may have stretched the story as well.

Maus Discussion Questions

In Maus, I noticed a large amount of culturistic touch. Art Spiegelman involved a few things from several cultures and little specifics that he could not simply know. I wonder how he researched all of those things. Reading and seeing all of these flourishes forces me to ask, do all of these touches help or hurt the reader's ability to relate to the novel?
The atrocities of the holocaust are unspeakable. Many of the crimes were shown and described in Maus I and II. Do you think that the Nazi's genocidal wrongs were brought into a different light because of these books? If so, what difference do you now see?

Evan S.

Maus Discussion Questions

While reading Maus, I found it different than other graphic novels that I read like The Watchmen and such. The style and the narration are just two aspects that Spiegelman modifies in Maus. In some ways, I really like what Spiegelman has done with Maus; however, in some ways I find that what he did didn't really affect me positively. For example, often I pose the question: Why did he choose the color scheme that he did; did he want it to have specific meaning? For me the color scheme made it almost a dull read. And didn't really allow for my mind to really pick something special out about the characters. Also, I ask: what did Spiegelman want us to get out of the father-son relationship that he depicted between himself and Vladek in Maus?

~Ben

Maus Questions

The use of animal symbolism in a work of nonfiction, especially one that deals with subject matter as sensitive as the Holocaust, can be a tricky issue. As an author, you want your message to come across clearly and to be taken seriously, yet you also want the artistic freedom to experiment with your medium in unconventional ways. When used properly, animal symbolism becomes a recurring leitmotif that attracts the reader's attention; when used improperly, it can degrade a book to the level of a child's fable. Does the use of animals in Maus I and II detract from the authenticity of the graphic novel, or does it serve as a device that makes the novel--and, by extension, its characters--more memorable?

Ever since the end of World War II, there has been a wealth of literature written about the Holocaust. First-person narratives, psychoanalytical essays, historical accounts--the writing that covers this subject could fill libraries' worth of bookshelves. In the midst of all this literature, does Maus stick out as unique? Did Art Spiegelman use the graphic novel as a gimmick to help separate his work from the masses, or is the graphic novel as a medium simply his preferred mode of expression?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mause I/II Questions

We see a variety of different animals used throughout both volumes of
Maus, with the intention of representing certain races of people. Polish
people are represented as pigs, with the French as frogs (though we see
him wanting to change Francoise from frog to Maus in part two, once she
converts), American dogs, Germans as cats, and the Jews as mice. What are
specific reasons behind each of these? In addition, why do you think he
doesn't stick to a purely religious/purely racial depiction? Does
portaying all of these characters not just as animals, but as cartoons, an
effective method? I think that it is, partly because it adds to the
symbolism in the novel, and partly because portraying people in
cartoon-animal form is a little less harsh than making them people. It
separates them a little, simply because cartoons are like caricatures by
nature.

My second question regards Art after the publication of Maus. He has
difficulty coping with the amount of success that the book has, we see him
undergo a sort of breakdown in Maus II, amidst a flurry of TV reports and
interviews. Why is this so? Shouldn't he be happy with the success he has?
Part of me thinks it's because of his relationship with his father - in
book form, Vladek's story is being lauded as a literary landmark; however,
Art would say it was less than so. Perhaps he regrets not developing a
better relationship, and displaying what they did have for the world to
see? Any other thoughts?

Maus: Defining Questions

1. How would you define Art's relationship to his family members? Would you say that Maus I and II properly reflect his familial bonds? For the most part, it seems that he and his father have a pretty strained relationship. Through their exchange of words, the audience gets the feeling that Vladek cares about his son and wants to reconcile whatever tension comes between them. He constantly invites his son to come over and shows obvious excitement when he actually does stop by for a visit. However, Art does not seem quite as enthused about establishing a deeper bond with his father. Rather, it seems that Art only cares about getting his story, not because of genuine interest of his father's past hardships and accomplishments, but because of the desire to complete his book. Yet, while Maus I and II show a tense father-son relationship, the short story Maus that appeared in the adult comic, "Funny Aminals," depicted a much warmer one. So, the question arises...which one is true? Also, one must wonder about his relationship with his mother and ghost brother as well. In some parts of the story, Art seems to be at odds with his mother. For example, in Maus I, the audience gets to see a segment of one of Art's other comics (p. 100-103) which highlights this poor relationship. Commentary on p. 103 says, "She [his mother] came into my room...it was late at night...I turned away, resentful of the way she tightened the umbilical cord..." He goes on to scream, "...You murdered me, Mommy, and you left me here to take the rap!!!" From this comic strip, the reader would think that Art holds a grudge against his mom. Yet, at the end of part I, Art screams at his father, "You-You MURDERER! How the hell could you do such a thing!!!" after finding out that Vladek destroyed his mother's journals. Furthermore, note that part I is dedicated to Anja, the very woman he claimed 'murdered' him. So, again, which is true? Does Art hold something against his mother? Or does he actually mourn her death? Or both? Finally, what are Art's feelings towards his ghost of an older brother? On page 15 of Maus II, it seems that he envies Richieu. He expresses to his lover, "I wonder if Richieu and I would get along if he was still alive...I didn't think about him much when I was growing up...he was mainly a large, blurry photograph hanging in my parents' bedroom...The photo never threw tantrums or got in any kind of trouble...It was an ideal kid, and I was a pain in the ass. I couldn't compete...it's spooky, having sibling rivalry with a snapshot!"So, clearly, he never got to know his older brother, yet his ghost still lingers. Does Art resent him for taking his parents' hearts? Or does he wish he had the chance to meet him? How did Art feel at the end of Maus II (p. 136) when his father says, "I'm tired from talking, Richieu, and it's enough stories for now..."? In any case, he cared enough to dedicate part II to Richieu, so that must mean something, but what?

2. On page 90 of Maus II, Francoise and Art have an interesting conversation. F: "Sigh. I'd rather kill myself than live through all that..." A: "What? Returning groceries?" F: "No. Everything Vladek went through. It's a miracle he survived." A: "Uh-huh. But in some ways he didn't survive." What do you think Art means by "he didn't survive"? Is he referring to his father's lack of mental stability? Or Vladek's physical ailments and reliance on medications? Or is it something else? Obviously, Vladek lived to tell his tale, but how would you say he 'survived'? How does one define survival? Dictionaries would say something like, to survive is to remain alive. If this is the case, Vladek did indeed survive, right? What are your thoughts? Would you compartmentalize survival and say he survived physically, but not mentally or emotionally? It's something to think about.

Just some thoughts and questions

1. On page 15 of Maus II, Art discusses his insecurities with Francoise regarding being compared to the photograph of his brother: "The photo never threw tantrums or got into any kind of trouble...it was an ideal kid, and I was a pain in the ass. I couldn't compete." Do you think that this could be a root cause of the strain in Vladek and Art's relationship? As in, Vladek is expecting a "perfect" son, because of course that's what Richiev would have been, and since Art isn't delivering in his mind, it causes strife?

2. Art constantly feels inadequate in relation to Vladek's surviving through the Holocaust. To illustrate this, on page forty-four it Art informs his psychiatrist that "No matter what I accomplish, it doesn't seem like much compared to surviving Auschwitz. Why does he feel this way? Why do people tend to feel less worthy when they haven't been through something damaging? And perhaps more importantly, are these feelings justified?

-Julia

Maus interpretation

I have actually read Maus I and II before Graphic Novels. Maus I was a requirement for class but I was so intrigued by its capability of illustration that I had to read Maus II. I have always admired the novel itself but there has always been one thing that has irritated me. This irritation being the racial comment that Vladek makes (Ch. 3, pg. 93) once the hitchhiker is out of Artie’s car. I would think that a man that has experienced racism and segregation to its highest extent (the Jews and the Holocaust) would understand the struggles that minorities such as the African-American community would go through every day. This brings me to my first question, what type of nerve must someone, who has witnessed and experienced genocide, have to allow them to inflect the same racism and segregation that they have once experienced? Shouldn’t these people learn from what they have seen and not turn their backs from it?

Another situation that has always confused me was the scene in which Arty and his wife, Francoise, speak on the issue of conversion (Ch. 1, pg. 11). Arty debates on whether or not he should draw his wife as a mouse in his novel. She states that she has converted and therefore has the right to be seen as a Jew. So my question is, because one was not raised in a specific matter would this prevent them from being see differently from others even though they have completely changed into a new person? So in this situation, does Francoise truly have the right to be considered a Jew and therefore allowed to be depicted as a mouse in Art’s novel? A little side question. Who do you think pressured Francoise into converting to Judaism? Was it her own choice, was it Arty, or could it have been that Vladek would not give his blessing to the couple unless Francoise converted to Judaism?

Maus Discussion Questions

Throughout the book, Vladek is shown to have a gruff demeanor and the Holocaust seemed to have shaped his personality greatly. His acerbity as a Holocaust survivor is understandable, especially because in Vladek’s case, Mala commits suicide. The entire Holocaust story told by Vladek could mollify anyone’s view towards his aggravating proclivities. Although this may be the case, I found his frugality difficult to be explained by his past. He manifests his resourcefulness by his concerns towards money and his tendency to save things. What could be the explanation of his unwillingness to spend money and his suspicion towards the second wife, Mala? If it stems from his Holocaust experience, what could explain this trait that the author decided to attribute to Vladek?

Seams

At the end of Maus I, I was very surprised to see Art shout out at his father like that. "God damn you! You-you murderer! How the hell could you do such a thing!!" Art seemed so calm and interested in the stories his dad told before that I thought this sudden outburst was uncanny. Do you think there was a deeper reason that Art wanted those memoirs other than more tangible proof of the Holocaust to write about? In addition, why do you think Art Spiegelman as the author chose to end the first installment of Maus with that last word, "murderer"? How do you think the transition from Maus I to Maus II could be made less choppy? Putting Art's dad's death in the beginning was not chronological. What do you think was Art's reasoning behind that?

-CeeCee Chang

Questions

In chapter two of Maus II, the panels begin with Art Spiegelman is sitting at his drawing board listing facts and dates about his life and the comic he was working on. At the end of the page, the panel zooms out to take in all of Art and his drawing board, but littered around him were bodies of mice gruesomely stacked upon one another (Spiegelman 41). Why did Art Spiegelman put that in there? I wasn’t expecting that at all, and it was kind of shocking. He later shows the reporters climbing over the bodies to get to him and ask him a barrage of questions. What do the bodies represent since I don’t think they’re physically there?

Another point of interest is when Art goes to his psychiatrist. He quotes Samuel Beckett saying, “Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.” (Spiegelman 45) It feels as if Art is trying to justify not writing the book. Why does he not want to write the book? He’s been working on this for such a long time. What connection does this have with the relationship between Art’s dad and him?

Art Spiegelman - Unlikeable Narrator

The more of Maus I read, the less I came to like Art Spiegelman. From his unwillingness to help his father fix the leaking drainpipe to his outburst at the end of Maus I, Spiegelman's character came across as unthankful and frustrating. Why did Spiegelman present his character in such a way? Do you think that Spiegelman's character's portrayal adds to the story or detracts from it.

-Jackson Hallauer

Whatcha think about this?

Very often the question has been raised as to weather or not Spiegelman was correct in portraying the Holocaust through cats and mice, and in class we summarized that it was fine, but only because he took it in a rather minimalist direction. The art style in Maus has relatively few flairs and extraneous details, something that no one can debate. Yet, I’d like to look into the text here. The story obviously has a very, very powerful retelling of the Holocaust and some rather complex issues between father and son. So if the power and complexity is not given to the audience directly in artistic detail is it seen in the dialogue and text? Or are many of the meanings and strengths in Maus gleaned from each reader’s individual sense of closure alone because of the range of thought allowed in somewhat simple art and reduced text? 


Within the father, son relationship the reader often sees Art becoming increasingly angry at his father over a variety of things. At the end of Maus I Art shouts rather violently at his father for destroying his mother’s notebooks, calling his father a murderer, and actually ending the story after that single word. Why do you think that Art has such an extreme reaction to his father’s actions here, going out of his way to accuse his father of being a murderer over a set of journals?  

-Karl

Maus Questions: Accuracy and the Origin of Disappointment

My first question concerns the topic of historical accuracy of Maus. We would probably be correct to assume that Art himself has not edited any facts about his father's experience in the Holocaust. But what of Vladek's testimony? As mentioned in an earlier blog post, he often seems very lucky while in sticky situations: for instance, on page 93 of Maus II, he meets a Frenchman who converses with him in English in exchange for food that, as he puts it, saves his life. One part of the story, shown on page 133, is particularly difficult to believe. On this page, while living in Sosnowiec, Anja sees a fortune teller who tells her that her whole family has died except for Vladek. Is this accurate on Vladek's part? Is it possible that Anja convinced herself of this after the fact - that the story is a little stretched? These are probably unanswerable questions. My main question is, should we base our interpretation of Maus on its historical accuracy or on how the details of the story - whether real or not completely - tie in to make a complete narrative?

My second question is related to Vladek's perception of Art. The former often "brags" about his younger self. For instance, on page 33 of Maus II, he recollects, "Always I was handsome..." In addition, he knew how to work with tin and quickly learned how to repair shoes at Auschwitz. He also prizes himself on his frugality. In the books, does he compare himself with his son and does this result in his disappointment of him?

mixed portrayals

Art Spiegelman clearly uses animals to represent different social/ethnic groups throughout his novel Maus. The mice clearly represent the Jewish race, and the Germans are obviously conveyed as cats. A more shadowed relationship however, is the one between the dogs and the Americans in the novels. After the end of the Holocaust, American GI's [dogs] are deployed to aid the remaining Jews [mice] (Maus II, 111). However, if we look at the appearances of the dog during the Holocaust, we see that they are used by the Germans to intimidate and subdue the Jews within the concentration camps (Maus I, 157). If we look at the dogs' appearances in the "modern day", we find that they are all civil servants of some kind--bankers (Maus I, 126), police officers (Maus II, 113), and doctors (Maus II, 127). Is it merely coincidence that dogs were used in such starkly different portrayals? Considering Spiegelman's past and current life, what could this suggest about his perception of Americans before the war, after the war, and currently?

-robertcheung

Maus Discussion Questions

Not to just repeat what Jing said already, but I was also confused as to why Art decides to tell us about his father's death at the beginning of chapter two. It does not really go with the rest of the chapter because he just goes on using the images of him and his father talking as if it was not just a recording of a conversation. Why did he throw in the fact that his father died into the second chapter, couldn't it have been in another chapter? Or, could this section have been a chapter all on its own? It has the potential to be a quick introduction or even made into a conclusion if more information was added.


-Anthony

Questions Regarding Maus II

In Maus II, Art Spiegelman's pen-and-ink form splutters, "I-I never thought of reducing it to a message. I mean, I wasn't trying to CONVINCE anybody of anything" (Spiegelman 42). Upon reading this, I was instantly reminded of a similar phrase present in Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Twain's renowned work begins with a humorous notice that proclaims, "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted, persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished." Clearly, Spiegelman didn't wish to put his soul into a novel that was devoid of a message, so why does he treat this with a degree of ambivalence? Is he, perhaps, trying to shed light upon his main points by obscuring them?

As is true for most, I was initially elated by the prospect of viewing characters as animals. After the novelty wore off, it became clear to me that Spiegelman wished to underscore the role that identity plays in destiny. Later, when Art is speaking with Pavel, his shrink, Pavel explains, "Life always takes the side of life, and somehow the victims are blamed. But it wasn't the BEST people who survived, nor did the best ones die. It was RANDOM!" (Spiegelman 45) It seems as though Spiegelman toys with the meaning of "being good." Anja seems to be "good," but she commits the sin of suicide. On the other hand, Mala does not seem to be "good," but she manages to survive the Holocaust and surpass others in terms of health. What is the intentional role of this idea, and what should the reader take away from it earlier in the novel? In the Holocaust, a character's past could determine a character's fate, as was true for the Kapos. To what extent does identity determine one's actions or outcome, and how does Spiegelman portray this?

Maus discussion questions

In Maus I, and even more so in Maus II, Art is very short-tempered with his father for being so stereotypically Jewish. Whenever Vladek tries to pinch pennies, Art pleads with his father to stop being so stingy, leading to Vladek chiding Art for being wasteful, which only frustrates Art further in a vicious cycle until one snaps at the other. Art makes it abundantly clear several times in Maus II that he considers every sentence not related to his father's Holocaust story a painful, wasteful experience, especially when his father is complaining about Mala or asking Art to help around the house. Why is Art so ungrateful and volatile towards his father the survivor yet so reverent of his father the prisoner of Auschwitz?

As characters, Art and his wife are very relatable. Their speech bubbles can be read without imposing an assumed accent to their words, Art clearly explains his opinions and thoughts when he talks to Francoise, and they both act according to social codes that most people are familiar with. Vladek is different. During his recollections, he is a resourceful, intelligent, iron-willed man who went to hell and back with only his intuition as a guide. However, when he interacts with Mala or Art, he is the epitome of a stereotypical Jewish senior citizen, often serving as comic relief in between gruesome episodes of Holocaust memories. Although Art confronts this issue during the scene with the psychiatrist, it still feels like Vladek as an old man is a comedic element to the story. Does portraying Vladek as a stereotype mar the significance of his Holocaust story?
In both Maus I and Maus II, we see Vladek's struggles through the Holocaust, and his peculiar method of saving things that will help him later, and often these saved things (whether they be material or skills) save his life. In the present, however, Vladek's tendencies are irritating to his family and friends, and make him come across as extremely miserly. Do you think his hoarding tendencies are a result of the Holocaust and his experiences in it, or were they always present?
On a related note, one thing that Vladek does not have left over from his days in the Holocaust are Anja's diaries, which he claims he burned shortly after Anja's death. Although this certainly seems possible, given his trauma over the event, it's also entirely possible that they're simply hidden somewhere in the mess of his house, and he doesn't want to give them to Artie, given his love for Anja and his fondness for holding onto lost things. Which do you think is really the case?

Maus Discussion Questions

In Maus II, we finally get to see a couple of panels of Art, in what is supposedly the "present", drawing Maus. We also accompany him on his trip to the psychologist and to a couple of public events. Like Jing, I am also curious as to why he portrays himself as someone wearing a mouse mask instead of an actual mouse. Is it because he doesn't consider himself of the same caliber as Vladek because he didn't have to undergo the horrors of the Holocaust? Why is the psychologist also wearing a mask?

I also wonder why Vladek is so suspicious of Mala. She is a fellow survivor, so she's been through the same things that he has, but yet he still doesn't trust her with his money. What makes her different from any of the friends that he helped out after the Holocaust?

Finally, why does Art have trouble coming to terms with his success as a cartoonist? We see on pages 41-42 that he slowly turns into a child when he's faced with reporters inquiring about Maus. He's also portrayed as a child when he visits his psychologist. What idea is he trying to get across by showing us that?

- Irene

How Much Is Reality?
















In Maus 2, we see this panel where Art is talking to his wife about Maus. While this very tongue-in-cheek breaking the fourth wall is ironically funny, it opens up a lot of questions. Since Maus is a retelling of Vladek's story through Art, how much of it is reality and how much of it is intepretation and bias from Art? Of course, any story that is told again through some other means is going to have discrepancies from the original, but how is this problem compounded by the fact that Maus is a graphic novel? In normal literature, imagery is left to the imagination of the reader, so the writer does not have to take responsibility for that- he/she only has to write out settings, people, emotions, etc. in words. With graphic novels and, in this case, Maus, images are provided for the reader so inevitably the images that the reader sees becomes more of a reality.

Also, in this panel Art admits that there is so much about this story for his entire family that it is impossible to sort through all of the complexities. How well do you think Art actually represents his family's ordeal through and after the Holocaust, specifically for Vladek? There are many instances in Maus where Art seems extremely intolerant of Vladek... he portrays him racist, thrifty, and even mean sometimes. Considering everything that Vladek has gone through, though, are these representations fair? How much of this is Art's own bias?

Maus Questions

When I began reading the Maus series, I was very curious as to why Art Spiegelman used mice to represent the Jews and cats to represent the Nazis. How does the use of these animals as the characters that they are in the two books affect the story as a whole or how it depicts the story?

While reading the story, you can see how the Holocaust affected Vladek. On page 90, Francoise states that it is a miracle that Vladek survived and in response Artie says, "but in some ways he didn't survive"? What do you think he means by that quote? Use examples from the book to prove some of the ways that Vladek did not survive the Holocaust.

Discussion Questions

As we know in Maus I & Maus II, Art Spiegelmen depicts people as anthropomorphic animals: the mice are Jews, the cats are German, the pigs are Poles, the dogs are American, etc. In class, Dr. Hancock briefly went over this while going through the Maus CD-ROM. So, to clarify, what is the significance of Spiegelman's choice to use a different type of animal for each race and how does it impact the story of Spiegelman and his father? Vladek's personality was significantly affected by the Holocaust and his experiences. Because of the incidents Vladek went through, his personality also changed dramatically. Examples of this are shown throughout the book such as when Art visits Vladek, yet Vladek is very reluctant to talk about his past with anyone. He seems to be quite afraid that he will relive the pain from WWII, and therefore getting close to anyone. Due to the emphasis on Vladek's experiences, Maus greatly focuses on Jewish people, but generally avoids issues of religion. To what extent do the major characters portray their religious views? What role does religion play in their lives?

Maus Discussion Questions

In both Maus I/II, characters often comment on how different Vladek is from other Holocaust survivors, but then struggle to find reasons that explain his eccentricity. What do you think made Vladek so different? Personally, I believe it was the death of Anja that broke him. One of the aspects of the story that especially stood out to me was the sustained love and loyalty between Vladek and Anja. Considering the well-documented "every man for himself" attitude that existed at the time and especially in the camps, I found the couple's unwavering devotion very surprising and touching. Further, Vladek seemed normal in the time period between the end of the war and his immigration to America as Vladek states that he bought many fine presents for Anja in anticipation of their reunion and that he was a very successful businessman in Sweden. Vladek's continued loyalty to Anja after his marriage to Mala also suggests that Anja was a profound influence on him. Thus, despite Vladek being the acknowledged focus of Maus, I find it interesting that there is so little mention of Anja overall. Does Art, who doesn't seem to care particularly much about his mother, recognize Anja's effect on Vladek and if he did, why doesn't he include her in the novel more often? Even though her journals may have been burned, surely Vladek remembered some more stories or details about Anja and told them to Art. How would the inclusion of Anja's side of the story changed the books?

Maus Questions

As I was reading Maus, I found myself thinking a lot about whether or not I would survive were I in Vladek's situation. It seemed as though his resourcefulness got him out of a lot of tight spots. His ability to fix a shoe, managing to get his hands on a spare shirt. I don't know if I would have been able to come up with a lot of the ideas he came up with. My first question is: could he have survived without having been so clever? In other words, does it take a specific kind of person to live through something like the Holocaust? Or is it a matter of luck and being in the right place at the right time?
Additionally, we learn towards the end of volume 2 that even after all he's been through, Vladek has some racial prejudices of his own. During the incident with the hitchhiker, he expresses severe discomfort and a deeply rooted belief in a racial stereotype. After all that Vladek has been through, is it right for him to have these prejudices? Even if it is not, does it make sense? One would think that having been through what he has, Vladek would understand the ridiculousness of racism--and yet he does not even consider African Americans to be of the same species as himself. In a way, he is just like the Nazis who killed his family members. What is it about human nature that makes us so unwilling to let go of our prejudices? Why is it that even after we've been through something like the Holocaust, we do not eliminate racism entirely from our psyches?

Maus II Interpretive Questions

As Dr. Hancock said in class, one of the reasons Art wrote this comic book, was to rebuild his relationship with his father. Throughout the graphic novel, there are many occurrences that portray the tensions between their father and son relationship. For example on page 78, Art and Vladek argue about whether Art should take home Vladek’s leftovers. When Art tells his father to just throw them away, Vladek responds with saying how after the Holocaust, he can’t throw out food. Art then responds with an very rude, and unthoughtful comment, “Then just save the damn Special K in case Hitler ever comes back.” (III, 78) So my question is why does Art treat his father like that even after knowing the horror he had gone through during the Holocaust? Why isn't he more considerate of his father's psychological well being?

Another scenario that struck me was towards the end of Chapter Three, when Art, Vladek, and Francoise are returning from the Catskills. Francoise is driving and along the way, she picks up an African American hitchhiker. Afterwards, Vladek remarks with racist comments “I had the whole time to watch that this shavartser doesn’t steal us the groceries from the back seat!” (III, 93). Art counteracts with anger, asking him why he would be so racist, when he had been the victims of the German’s racism. Thus my second question is why does Vladek react this way? And how does this incident illustrate the different meaning the Holocaust holds for Art and for his father?

Maus I/II - Discussion Questions

First off, I would like to ask whether or not any of you saw or thought there was any differences between the two parts of Maus, both artistically and narratively. In my own personal opinion, the second part of Maus has a much darker feeling to it, in both aspects, as it shows Art's personal struggles with the completion of the book as well as Vladek's struggles through Auschwitz. Why do you think Speigelman decided to change the overall tone of the book, what were his reasons behind it?

My second question has to do with the second part of Maus in particular. In the second chapter of the book, we, as the readers, are introduced to Art's near-psychological breakdown after the highly attributed success of Maus I. The first page of Chapter 2 shows Art having his various flashbacks and remembering the different dates that had been troubling him, such as the deaths of his mother and father, the gassing of the Jews at Auschwitz, and Maus I's publication. Later in the chapter Art shows himself diminished to the stature of a mere child as he goes to speak with his psychologist. Why do you think Speigelman included this episode in his book, showing his difficulties with his life after he finished the first part, what purpose does it give to the story of Vladek and his trials through Auschwitz and his relationship with his son in the later years of his life? Why do you think that the death of his father in 1982 was not revealed to us until now?

Some Questions on Maus

In Maus one immediate aspect that is different from Watchmen is the presentation of the graphic novel, specifically in the type and organization of the panels. While Watchmen sticks more or less to a 3x3 regular grid, Maus' grid layout is considerably more freeform, with panels of all different sizes and positions. Furthermore, there are many times where the illustration of a panel pops out of a panel, or there are illustrations outside the panels, where Watchmen does not use these techniques. According to Alan Moore, author of Watchmen, the use of a regular grid (as opposed to freeform positioning used in Maus) allowed for "...this element of the pacing and visual impact that he could now predict and use to dramatic effect." Do you agree with Moore's statement, or is Maus' style more effective in creating dramatic tension?

Finally, there seems to be an incongruity in the character of Vladek Spiegelman before the Holocaust and after the Holocaust. Is it the Holocaust that has changed Vladek, old age, or his new marriage with Mala? Perhaps it is a combination of all three, although to argue purely one way or another would be interesting.

-- Andrew Lee

Sunday, October 11, 2009

identity crisis!

Building off of Jing's comment about pages 41-47, I also do not understand Art's use of the mouse mask. From what I gathered, he is showing his frustration in trying to convey his father's feelings and experiences. Does the mask show that he is having a hard time understanding what his father went through? Or is it just a symbol of remorse? I got really confused when I saw that the psychiatrist also had a mask on, because by the book's "definition" of a mouse, the psychiatrist should be portrayed as a real mouse. After all, he went through the holocaust and Auschwitz as a Jew. Also, on page 47, Art is shown listening to a tape recording of his father. Art is having an extremely difficult time keeping Vladek on track. He ends up yelling at him to finish the story. As we have all noticed, Art does not seem to appreciate his father the way that most of us appreciate ours. Do you think that most of Art's interviews with his father followed similar patterns? It seems like Art did not take any of his father's problems seriously? I feel like he shrugged them off, picturing his father as a hard-headed survivor who only thought of himself. Do you think that this is true? And if so, does this mean that Art exploited his father, using his stories to create a career?

I have some questions, would you please answer them?

Art Spiegelman wrote Maus I & II using the materials taken from his father, Vladek's, interviews, but after I finished reading Maus I & II, I have a vague feeling that Spiegelman doesn't appreciate his father for his life story. I know that sometimes children doesn't know what their parents had to go through in order to reach where they are now and I feel that Spiegelman is the same way. Does Spiegelman really believe that the story is worthwhile to write even though the only reason the estrangement between Spiegelman and his father ended to the write the story? With Jing's post, she wondered why Spiegelman portrayed his father as a such cold and mean man and I wonder about the same thing. Maus I & II portrayed a man who was resourceful and hopeful until the end, so how did Vladek end up to be so bitter after Anja killed herself? If the way that Spiegelman portrayed his father is true to the last fact, then do you think that Vladek should be this bitter since he survived through the Holocaust a lot easier than many Jews?

analytical questions about Maus

I'm really glad that we got to read "Maus" in this class because I read the first installment in sophomore year and I always wondered what happened to Vladek but I never got the chance to read the second installment. After reading the second installment, I've satisfied my curiosity and I really enjoyed reading the series.
With that said, I felt like there were gaps in the story and I didn't completely understand the relationship between the Artie and Vladek. I understand that Artie dislikes his father because his father is too thrifty and cheap. However, he seems too easily annoyed by his father. I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing to be thrifty at times and I can't understand why Artie is not slightly more understanding towards his father. His attitude towards his wife Francoise seems much more gentle. After almost every conversation with his father, Artie complains about how he cannot tolerate the man. Most times, I feel that even Francoise is more understanding towards Vladek than Artie. However, it seemed like Vladek genuinely cared for Artie and in Maus 2, Vladek told Francoise and Artie that they could all go to the grocery store and Artie and Francoise can pick out anything they want to eat. From that statement, I can tell that Vladek loves his son very much because he's always very thrifty, yet he's willing to let Artie buy anything he wants to eat. Although Vladek is annoy sometimes, he's still Artie's father and although he's thrifty, I wouldn't necessary say that he treats Artie badly yet Artie is angry with him all the time and treats him very badly. In order to understand the reason behind Artie's treatment of his father, I think the author needs to reveal more about Artie's past and his childhood.
Another part of the book that striked me as very interesting is the author's portrayal of Artie as a child during his sessions with the psychiatrist and his interviews in the media. For example, during the part of the book where the Artie faces many reporters and people who want to capitalize upon the success of his book, the author draws Artie shrinking from frame to frame until he's a small child crying "Wahhh!" Furthermore during his sessions with the psychiatrist, once again he portrays himself as a small child. I think the author was trying to reveal the psyche of Artie and his emotional state in regards to issues such as his father and the Holocaust. In a lot of ways, I think maybe Artie always saw himself as a child in front of his father. His father seemed to be constantly chiding and treating him as if he was a small child. Furthermore, Artie always expressed confusion regarding his emotions about the Holocaust. Maybe Artie felt like a child who couldn't really comprehend the depth and breadth of the terror of the Holocuast. After all, it probably was difficult for Artie to imagine what the Holocaust was like when he didn't actually go through the Holocaust.
In the last part of the book, I found it interesting and sad that Vladek called Artie "Richieu." It really showed the depth of the impact of the Holocaust on Vladek's life and his inability to forget his first son. At the same time, it might have been hard for Artie to hear his father call himself Richieu. After all, Artie had mentioned that his parents seemed to always like Richieu better and I don't think that's necessarily true. I think it's because Vladek and Anja always felt guilty about the death of their first son and they felt guilty for not being able to care for their son and give him the love that he deserved.