Art Spiegelman Introduction

Start Your Free Trial


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Download Art Spiegelman Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Maus: A Survivor's Tale I: My Father Bleeds History and Maus: A Survivor's Tale II: And Here My Troubles Began Art Spiegelman

(Has also written under the pseudonyms Joe Cutrate, Al Flooglebuckle, and Skeeter Grant) Swedish-born American graphic novelist, illustrator, editor, essayist, nonfiction writer, and children's writer.

The following entry presents criticism on Spiegelman's two-volume graphic novel Maus: A Survivor's Tale I: My Father Bleeds History (1986) and Maus: A Survivor's Tale II: And Here My Troubles Began (1991) through 2001.

Spiegelman's two-volume graphic novel Maus: A Survivor's Tale chronicles the struggles of comic book artist Artie Spiegelman as he interviews his father Vladek, a Polish Jew, regarding Vladek's experiences as a survivor of the Holocaust, Nazi Germany's massacre of six million Jews during World War II. The work skillfully utilizes a graphic novel format of illustrated panels accompanied by narration and dialogue in a complex and richly nuanced story. The plot recounts Vladek's experiences in Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp, and the difficult interpersonal dynamics that can manifest between Holocaust survivors and their children. Spiegelman uniquely portrays his father's story as an epic parable of the Holocaust, representing the Jewish characters as mice and the Nazi characters as cats. Through Spiegelman's innovative use of the comic book medium, Maus puts into question traditional notions of history, memory, and narrative, offering a fresh perspective on the legacy of the Holocaust. Spiegelman was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992, acknowledging his achievement with Maus.

Biographical Information

Spiegelman was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1948 to Vladek and Anja Spiegelman, both Holocaust survivors. As a young child, his family emigrated to the United States, where he grew up in Rego Park, New York. At the age of thirteen, Spiegelman was illustrating for his school newspaper, and at age fourteen, he had already sold artwork to the Long Island Post newspaper. He attended the High School for Art and Design in New York and later attended Harpur College (now State University of New York at Binghampton). After leaving Harpur in 1968, Spiegelman began working for Topps, a novelty and trading card company, with whom he remained affiliated for the next twenty-five years. Also in 1968, Spiegelman's mother, Anja, committed suicide. His father later remarried a fellow Holocaust survivor. During the 1970s, Spiegelman became involved in the underground comic book movement, made popular by such artists as Robert Crumb. In 1975, along with artist Bill Griffith, Spiegelman founded Arcade magazine to showcase new work from underground artists and writers. In 1977 Spiegelman married Françoise Mouly, who became one of his most frequent collaborators. The couple has two children, Nadja and Dashiell. In 1980 Spiegelman and Mouly founded Raw magazine, a bi-annual anthology featuring avant-garde comics work from around the world. Spiegelman also contributed to Raw, and many of the chapters of Maus originally appeared in the magazine. The publication of Maus: A Survivor's Tale I: My Father Bleeds History in 1986 attracted a massive amount of popular and critical attention as did the release of Maus: A Survivor's Tale II: And Here My Troubles Began in 1991. Along with the Pulitzer, Maus has been awarded a wide variety of awards and accolades, including the Joel M. Cavior Award for Jewish Writing, a National Book Critics Circle nomination for My Father Bleeds History, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the American Book Award, and the Before Columbus Foundation Award for And Here My Troubles Began. Spiegelman also received a Guggenheim fellowship for his work on Maus. In addition, Spiegelman frequently contributes to such publications as the New York Times, Playboy, and the New Yorker, among others.

Plot and Major Characters

Throughout both Maus volumes, Spiegelman uses different species of animals to represent...

(The entire section is 2,319 words.)