YOU CAN PICK ONE OF THESE FIVE TOPICS AND WRITE 3-5 PAGES
1. In “Monument and Memory in a Postmodern Age” (The Yale Journal of Criticism 6.2 ), Andreas Huyssen writes of the problem of our “increasing generational distance” from the Holocaust, the “unavoidable process of forgetting at a time when the generation of witnesses and survivors is slowly fading, and new generations are growing up for whom the Holocaust is either mythic memory or cliché” (256). How does Maus, as the testimonial narrative of a survivor and his son, address this problem? You might want to consider any of the following as you plot your response: the treatment of a tragic subject matter in a comic book form with animal characters; the nature of Vladek’s narrative of survival; the manner in which Art juxtaposes and interweaves Vladek’s narrative with his own, or the narrative past with the narrative present; Art’s increasing awareness of the problematic nature of his own project of representation (see Maus II, pp. 14-16, 41-46).
2. Discuss the significance of the animal representations in Mausand how they contribute to our understanding of the story.
3. Analyze the effects of the narrative form of Maus—that is, discuss the significance of the narrative’s continuous movement between past and present, between Vladek’s story of survival and Art’s story of telling Vladek’s story, and the way in which the two are interwoven.
4. Central to Maus is Vladek’s relationship with his loved ones and the effects of his past experience on those relationships and his character in general. Some might argue that Vladek was so traumatized by his past experience that his character changed in fundamental ways and that this has an adverse effect on his present relationships with Art and Mala. Others might argue that his past experience only magnified pre-existing character traits, and that those traits were actually beneficial to his and Anja’s survival during the war, but that they now have a detrimental effect on his relationships with his family members. Analyze Vladek’s character and his relationship to Art (and Mala).
5. Discuss the central theme of guilt in Maus. Who is affected by guilt? How? What are its causes? How do characters attempt to deal with their guilt? You might consider the therapeutic role that storytelling itself plays in this context.
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