Teaching maus in high school
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Youth and Teachers Respond Collectively to Art Spiegelman’s Maus Through Art and Inquiry: An Interview with Professor Rob Simon and Delta Senior Alternative School Teacher Sarah Evis > Home > Our Posts > Facing Canada > Youth and Teachers Respond Collectively to Art Spiegelman’s Maus Through Art and Inquiry: An Interview with Professor Rob Simon and Delta Senior Alternative School Teacher Sarah Evis
In 2015, Dr. Rob Simon, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), and students from his teacher education course partnered with Sarah Evis, a teacher from the Toronto District School Board’s Delta Senior Alternative School, and her grade 8 students to study Art Spiegelman’s influential intergenerational Holocaust survivor memoir. As a classroom teacher, Rob has dealt extensively with Facing History, and he has included Leora and me in some of his teacher education courses. Rob was awarded an Early Researcher Award by the Ontario Ministry of Science and Innovation in 2015 for his work on Resolving Injustices: Youth and Teachers Coauthoring Social Justice Education, a five-year project. As part of this larger initiative, he and Sarah invited students to connect with the first of five novels, Maus.
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Art Spiegelman said of his award-winning graphic novel Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, “I wanted to find a story worth telling.” And oh, boy, did he ever. The first of Spiegelman’s two-part installments, Maus I, provides students with an unorthodox format for researching the Holocaust’s rise, barbarity, and aftermath, with an emphasis on Jewish families. Maus I portrays Jews as rats, Germans as cats, and Poles as goats, putting a sinister spin on anthropomorphic cartoon animals. Students may use the lens of Spiegelman’s father, a Holocaust survivor, to view the relationships among these creatures—a long-form, haunting allegory.
Maus I is a genuinely unique work that defies genre conventions by incorporating elements of both fiction and nonfiction. Though it is a true story, it is told by allegory and other fiction-like devices. Spiegelman’s account of his relationship with his father resembles that of an autobiography, although his account of his father’s experiences resembles that of a biography. Spiegelman switches back and forth between these two storylines, adding a metafictional aspect. Finally, the depth of Holocaust analysis undertaken by Spiegelman for this project brings the history genre into play. Use the book’s amorphous existence as an opportunity to examine a variety of literary formats and how they interact.
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Maus, which won a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992, is a cartoon book that depicts an oral history of the Holocaust. Maus captures the difficult relationship between author Art Spiegelman and his father, Vladek, as they set out to reclaim the past, shifting between 1970s Rego Park, Queens and World War II Poland. Readers will gain insight into the circumstances in which people lived during the Holocaust, as well as how survivors and their families coped afterward, thanks to this graphic memoir.
Maus is an excellent teaching tool that can be used in a number of college courses. However, before you begin, you should consider a few pedagogical issues posed by this book.
It’s possible that this is the first time you’ve used a graphic book in one of your classes. Although graphic novels do not appear to be academic on the surface, they do necessitate a considerable amount of cognitive processing as readers decode text and images at the same time. At the same time, research indicates that students not only benefit from graphic books in terms of content and vocabulary, but also enjoy reading them. As a result, there’s a possibility that students will be more interested in reading such graphic novels and memoirs, as well as more conventional forms of books.
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Data ON THE AUTHOR
Comics in the classroom
In 1948, Art Spiegelman was born in Stockholm, Sweden. He and his family immigrated to the United States when he was a child. Spiegelman studied art and philosophy in college, despite his parents’ wishes for him to become a dentist. Spiegelman has a long list of cartoons to his credit, but Maus was the catalyst for his success. Maus is based on his parents’ experiences fleeing Hitler’s Nazi Party’s concentration camps. The project began as a small comic strip, but Spiegelman expanded it into a full-fledged graphic novel. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale (1986) received critical acclaim, and the sequel, Maus II: From Mauschwitz to the Catskills, was published in 1991. In 1992, Art Spiegelman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his work.