Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Of Maus and Memoirs

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 12.

Last week, in my notes on Maus, I asked you to consider how Spiegelman’s  book is not only a memoir, or a narrative of memories, but more precisely a dual memoir, a story of both Vladek and his son, the comic artist Art, and a meta-memoir, a memoir about the memoir-writing process.

I also noted how the panel above, from Chapter 1, illustrates the concept of meta-memoir.

In the panel, Art says to his father, “I still want to draw that book about you . . . .” (12). When we read those words of Spiegelman’s, we know that the book that he’s referring to is the one that we’re holding in our hands. He is writing about the process of writing and drawing his father’s story, and we see that on the page as he draws himself recording his father’s memories.

At the end of Chapter 1, Spiegelman creates another meta-memoir moment when he argues with his father.

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 23.

Vladek doesn’t want his son to write about Lucia Greenberg, the girlfriend he left behind after he met Art’s mother, Anja. In the last panel of the chapter, when Art promises his father that he won’t tell that story in his book, we as readers know that Art has broken his promise because we have just read the story of Vladek and Lucia’s tryst.


As you prepare to begin writing your own memoir (your literacy narrative), examine how Spiegelman develops the chapters of Maus primarily through dialogue. Every page of his book demonstrates the important role that dialogue often plays in narrative, but it doesn’t show how dialogue is presented in an essay. In comics, dialogue appears in speech balloons. Prose narratives (essays, short stories, novels, and book-length  nonfiction) present dialogue with lines of speech enclosed in quotation marks and with dialogue tags. A dialogue tag is a short phrase at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the dialogue that attributes the dialogue to a particular person or character.

“Have you chosen a topic for your literacy narrative?” she asked.

In the sentence above, she asked is the dialogue tag.

When you write dialogue, you begin a new paragraph whenever the speaker changes. That’s why paragraphs of dialogue are generally short, often only one line.

Consider the dialogue below, from Annie Dillard’s memoir, An American Childhood:

Dillard, Annie. An American Childhood. Harper & Row, 1987. p. 112.

In the first paragraph, Annie Dillard summarizes how her mother would tell her to spell words. In the second paragraph, Dillard moves to the scene of one particular evening, the night when her mother says there’s a deer in the hall.  Only the first of the three short paragraphs that follow the summary includes a dialogue tag. The other two don’t need tags because the new paragraph itself, the indentation of five spaces, signals a change in the speaker.

Once you’ve established who the speakers are in a dialogue between two people, you don’t need to include dialogue tags.

Notice that the first and last paragraphs include single quotation marks within the lines of dialogue. In the first paragraph, the words poinsettia and sherbet are enclosed in single quotation marks because words referred to as words are enclosed in quotation marks. Since the two words are contained within a longer quotation, Dillard’s mother’s line of dialogue, the words are enclosed in single quotation marks.

In the last paragraph, the words I know are enclosed in single quotation marks because the mother is quoting her daughter.

Words referred to as words in dialogue and quotations within lines of dialogue are enclosed in single quotation marks.

For more information on quotation marks, see A Writer’s Reference (279-80).

A Writer’s Reference

  • One of your reading assignments for the first week of class was pages GT-3-24. Although additional readings in A Writer’s Reference are not listed on the course calendar, I will ask you to refer to your handbook throughout the semester.
  • My notes on your introductory blog post direct you to pages that cover some of the trouble spots in your writing. If I asked you to consult pages 259-71, that means that there are comma errors in your post.
  • On the days when you will revise your second and third essays in class (see the course calendar for dates), you will be required to have your copy of A Writer’s Reference. I may conduct book checks on those days. If I do, those book checks will serve as grades in the participation and preparedness category. 

Introductory Blog Posts

  • If you haven’t visited your classmates’ blogs and read their introductions, please do so ASAP.
  • Also consider writing replies to their introductions.

WordPress Help

  • If you have encountered issues creating your blog or publishing your first post, visit the support page, If you cannot find a solution there, email ASAP.
  • Also look to the Titan Hub as a resource. Located on the third floor of the Learning Resource Center on campus, the Titan Hub is open 9-4 Monday-Friday. The Hub can help you with all technical matters related to your course work at GTCC. If you need to download and install Microsoft Word (you will need to type many of your GTCC writing assignments in Word), if you need help with MS Teams, or if you have trouble with your password, Titan Hub,, can help. In addition to visiting Titan Hub on the third floor of the LRC, you can contact the hub by phone or email: 336-334-4822, ext. 50318,

Dillard, Annie. An American Childhood. Harper & Row, 1987.

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Panteon, 1986.

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