Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Risk-taking Researcher - Rotation 1 - Leo Mutius

Repost, because the first post doesn't seem to be visible.

Leo Mutius
Art Spiegelman
Rotation 1, pages 1-71

Why allegory?

A frame from Maus, depicting a Nazi as
a cat and a Jew as a mouse. From Wikipedia.
      A prominent literary device I came across in Maus was is its characterization of different ethnicities and nationalities as animals. For example, the Jews are represented as mice and the Nazis as cats to play off the cat-chases-the-mouth clich√© in reference to Nazi antisemitism; the Poles are pigs in reference to German soldiers frequently referring to them as swines throughout the war; and different characters even make appearances wearing masks of other animals in order to embody their traits. It is an allegory very much unique to Maus that is present throughout the novel.
But, I soon caught myself wondering something I feel is quite fundamental to the ideas Spiegelman is trying to get across: ultimately, what's the purpose of this characterization? At first glance, the stereotypes hardly offer any deeper insight of the storyline—the basic reference behind most animal depictions should be obvious to most readers, and aside from making the racial distinctions more obvious, the main allegory in the book is hardly useful for a deeper comprehension of the plot. In addition, Maus makes no explicit attempt to explain the allegory.
Antisemitic Nazi propaganda. The text
translates to, "They are to blame for
the war!", in reference to the
Jewish man depicted.  From the United States

Holocaust Memorial Museum.
For this week's blog post, I decided to delve into some deeper research in an attempt to explain my doubts. The sole report from Spiegelman himself on the subject was, however, quite uninspiring: "it all led me to my Eureka moment: the notion that I could to a strip about the black experience in America, using an animated cartoon style. I could Ku Klux Kats and an underground railroad and some story about racism in America." Essentially, his idea of an animal allegory was a by-product of attempting to represent black racial stereotypes for a comic book project, which leads to a saddening conclusion that perhaps Maus' art style had little in the sense of an intentional and underlying philosophical significance.
Nevertheless, in spite of a lack

Works Cited
Cressley, Jacob. "Anti-Jewish Nazi Propaganda." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 19 Mar. 2009. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.

Simone, Alexander. "Why Mice? by Art Spiegelman." Why Mice? by Art Spiegelman. NYBooks, 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 27 Feb. 

"Maus." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.

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