Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: More on Maus–a Sampling of Student Studies

Spiegelman, Art. Maus 1. Pantheon, 1986. p. 15.

On March 3, I led you through my close reading of three tiers of panels in Maus. From that examination of Spiegelman’s work, I developed four paragraphs of commentary, a total of 450 words, that could serve as a rough draft for a textual analysis of Maus

Today we will examine additional samples of analysis, beginning with one written in 2016 by Sadie Dossett for an English class at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Dossett’s essay, “Lucia Greenberg: In-Depth Analysis” was chosen for publication in Hohonu,  the university’s undergraduate journal of academic writing.

Notes on “Lucia Greenberg: In-Depth Analysis”

Dossett’s analysis is admirable for its reassessment of Lucia Greenberg. She effectively argues that Spiegelman’s depiction of Lucia, based on what Valdek tells him, reduces her to a one-dimensional temptress. Though admirable, Dossett’s analysis would benefit from additional revisions and edits including these:

  • The first two paragraphs of the essay should be condensed and combined.
  • The thesis, which Dossett presents at the end of the second paragraph, should offer something more specific about Lucia. In other words, the thesis should show how she was “so much more” than what readers see on the page. For more on drafting an analytical thesis statement, see A Writer’s Reference, page 66.
  • In MLA style, numbers one-hundred and below are spelled out, so 15 should appear as fifteen, but that number should not appear in the third paragraph. Whenever possible, limit the appearance of page numbers by including them only in parenthetical citations. For more on writing numbers as words and figures, see A Writer’s Reference, page 299.
  • The first sentence of the third paragraph is written in passive voice. Rather than writing that “Lucia is introduced,” Dossett should write, “Art Spiegelman introduces Lucia,” or “Lucia enters the narrative in Chapter 2.” Note that chapter numbers are an exception to the words-versus-figures rule in MLA style. For more on active verbs, A Writer’s Reference, pages 153-55.
  • The parenthetical citation in the third paragraph should not include Spiegelman; it should simply include the number 17 because Dossett has established that Art Spiegelman’s Maus is the subject of her analysis. For more on repeated citations from the same source, see A Writer’s Reference, page 388.
  • The first sentence of the conclusion is written in passive voice. Rather than writing that “different interpretations could be made,” Dossett should write that “readers interpret Lucia in different ways. Some perceive her as a heroine; others see her as a villainess.” 
  • The quotation from Parker should be introduced with a signal phrase. In academic writing, a quotation presented at the beginning of a sentence is considered a dropped quotation. Dossett should include a signal phrase that includes the scholar’s full name and his credentials. For example: Literary scholar Robert Dale Parker or Robert Dale Parker, Professor of English at Illinois, observes that “[t]he problem comes with reducing women to little or nothing except their status as an object” (171). Note that I bracketed the letter t because I altered it from capital to lowercase. For more on signal phrases and dropped quotations, see A Writer’s Reference, page 37778.
  • The works cited entries comply with seventh edition MLA style guidelines, which differ from those for eighth edition. For more on MLA works cited entries, A Writer’s Reference, pages 384419. MLA 7th Edition: Parker, Robert Dale. “Feminism.” How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. 148-84. Print. MLA 8th Edition: Parker, Robert Dale. “Feminism.” How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies. 3rd ed. Oxford UP, 2008. pp. 148-84.

Dossett’s analysis is much longer than yours will be. Hers is more than 2,700 words long; yours will be a minimum of 500. I presented Dossett’s essay to you for two reasons: (1) It demonstrates how to develop an in-depth analysis of a minor character, and (2) It illustrates that a writing assignment you complete for a class can become a publication. Publishing your writing is one way to build your résumé. 

Now we will turn to three shorter analyses written by students of mine last fall.

ENG 111 Maus Analyses

  • At War with Others and One’s Self,” by Emi Ceca, explores the behavioral changes of Vladek’s that underlie the scene in which he throws Art’s coat in the garbage (68).
  • My Analysis of Maus” by Josh Graeber, examines Art Spiegelman’s depiction of the presence of the past in his father Valdek’s life as he recounts his experiences as a prisoner of war (62).
  • The Holocaust Horror,” by Joe York, focuses on Spiegelman’s portrayal of the Nazi’s seizure of Mr. Zylberberg as an example of why the artist may have chosen to depict the characters with the heads of animals (115).

These essays, though strong ones, would benefit from additional revisions and edits, including the ones in the notes that follow.

Notes on “At War with Others and One’s Self”

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 68.
  • Ceca should not refer to Maus as a novel. Some book-length comics are labeled graphic novels, but a novel is by definition a work of fiction. “Novel” should be replaced with “graphic memoir” or “book-length comic.”
  • The image that Ceca includes does not feature part of her writing away from the screen. Rather than including a photo of her laptop, she should include an image of her journal notes or a snippet of her handwritten draft.
  • The conclusion should be followed by a works cited list. Ceca documents the sources in her essay with parenthetical citations but omits the list that she included in her file posted to Moodle. For more on MLA works cited entries, A Writer’s Reference, pages 384419.

Notes on “My Analysis of Maus”

Spiegelman. Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 62.
  • Graeber’s title should refer to something specific about his analysis. Since he focuses on the presence of the past in Vladek’s life and his experience as a POW, he might title it “Prisoner of the Past.”
  • The title Maus should be italicized, not enclosed in quotation marks. For more on italics for titles, see A Writer’s Reference, pages 301.
  • Near the end of the first paragraph, Graeber should delete the word “past” before “memories.” For more on redundancies, see  A Writer’s Reference, page 150.

Notes on “The Holocaust Horror”

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 115.
  • In his sentences, York should refer to the scene rather than the page number. As I mentioned in my notes on Dossett’s analysis, whenever possible, limit the appearance of page numbers by including them only in parenthetical citations. 
  • In the fourth paragraph, York offers an insightful observation from a secondary source but he presents it in an awkward way. The important words are Gopnik’s, not Wilner’s. Here’s one way he might revise the passage: New Yorker writer and art critic Adam Gopnik contends that the animal heads in Maus express “our sense that this story is too horrible to be presented unmasked” (qtd. In Wilner 109). For more on indirect sources, see A Writer’s Reference, page 391.
  • In the works cited entry for Wilner’s book, the title should be italicized. For more on italics for titles, see A Writer’s Reference, pages 301.

And a Note on You’ve Got to . . .

In February, we examined five of the You’ve Got to . . . assignments. When in-person classes resume, we will examine the remaining twenty assignments.

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