Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Once More, You’ve Got to . . . Part II

You’ve Got to Read This, edited by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard, the book that inspired the You’ve Got to . . . Assignment

We will continue our study of Maus and examine more of the You’ve Got to . . . assignments today, but class will be devoted primarily to the questions and comments that you wrote on notecards last week. Monday’s blog post addresses the specific questions you asked about English 111 as well as your questions and comments about writing in general. 

You’ve Got to . . . Assignments

Since we may have little time to examine the You’ve Got to . . . assignments today, keep the handout in your pocket portfolio and be sure to bring it to our final class meeting. Between now and then, read the assignments with a pen or pencil in hand and make notes on the text and in the margins.

The last week of class, we will turn back to these ten assignments, and I will distribute a handout with the remaining eleven.

The handout that I will distribute in class today is single-spaced to save paper. I have posted a double-spaced copy below and in Moodle.

A Student’s Companion Bonus Assignment

I have created a bonus assignment for you that focuses on exercises in A Student’s Companion to Hacker Handbooks, the workbook bundled with A Writer’s Reference. Directions for the assignment are posted below and in Moodle.

Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Once More, You’ve Got to . . .

You’ve Got to Read This, edited by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard, the book that inspired the You’ve Got to . . . Assignment

This week, as we continue our study of Maus, we will also examine more of your You’ve Got to . . . assignments. A file of the assignments is posted below and in Moodle, and I will distribute paper copies of the assignments in class.

Before we turn to the You’ve Got to … assignments, we will examine the questions and comments that you wrote on notecards last week. First, we’ll consider the specific questions about English 111, then we will address writing in general.

Q & A: English 111

Q: Will we use A Writer’s Reference throughout the semester?

A: Yes, your copy of A Writer’s Reference will be at your side in class as you revise your final essay the week of April 26. (Remember that my notes on each of your assignments have directed you to specific pages of AWR that address trouble spots.) A Writer’s Reference should also be close at hand when you are working outside of class on writing assignments for your other courses at GTCC. In the introductory section of the handbook, the editors emphasize the vital role that A Writer’s Reference will play in your coursework:

“[A Writer’s Reference is] a required text for ENG 110, ENG 111, ENG 112, and ENG 114, as well as many other courses at GTCC. The information in this handbook will help you with writing, research, and presentation assignments you encounter in all college courses.

“The materials in this section are designed specifically for GTCC students. Review the pages carefully, as understanding the information here will be integral to your success in your ENG courses–and beyond.

“Do not plan to sell your handbook back to the bookstore, or give it away, until all of your GTCC course work is completed.” (GT-3)

Q: Will I be required to maintain a WordPress blog for other courses?

A: You may be required to do so. Former students of mine have maintained blogs for courses in other disciplines, including psychology and Spanish. One semester, a student of mine maintained one WordPress blog site that he used both for my class and a class in communications. That student sought permission from both faculty members, his communications professor and me, to use one blog for both of our classes. If you need to maintain a blog for two classes, consult both professors before you begin. Some professors may require you to set up a site devoted solely to a single course.

Students in my English 111, 112, 126, and upper-level literature courses all maintain WordPress blogs. If you think you may enroll in another course taught by me, plan to keep your WordPress blog. You will be able to use it again.

Q: Can you see a comment that I have posted to another student’s blog if that student has not approved it?

A: No, I cannot. No comment appears on a blog without the blogger’s approval. Please approve your classmates’ comments, so that I can credit the students with posting them. If a classmate has not approved a comment of yours, email a copy to me to ensure that you receive proper credit. 

Q: For this assignment, will we be posting it on our blog?

A: “This” assignment simply asked you to write questions on a notecard (so no, you will not post it to your blog). At the end of the semester you should have four assignments posted to your blog: your introductory blog post and the revisions of your three essays (the literacy narrative, the textual analysis of Maus, and the final reflective essay). 

Q: How many paragraphs do we have to write for this assignment?

A: Again, “this” assignment simply asked you to write questions on a notecard (so the question of the number of paragraphs isn’t pertinent). The revisions of each of your three essays has a minimum requirement of five-hundred words, but there is no set requirement for the number of paragraphs. How many paragraphs a piece of writing needs varies, depending on its content and structure. For more on developing paragraphs and adjusting paragraph length, see A Writer’s Reference (42-53).

Q: How can you tell whether a source is scholarly/academic (e.g. The New York Times, Smithsonian website)?

A: Scholarly sources are ones written by professors or independent scholars and published in academic journals and books published by university presses. Most of the secondary sources that I provided for your analysis of Maus first appeared in quarterly journals and were later collected in the book Considering Maus: Approaches to Art Spiegelman’s “Survivor’s Tale” of the Holocaust, edited by Deborah R. Geis and published by the University of Alabama Press.

As students at GTCC, you have access to the full texts of scholarly sources through the library’s databases. To limit the sources you find to ones that are scholarly, under the heading “Refine This Search” (on the left), check the box beside “Peer Reviewed.”

The New York Times and  the Smithsonian website aren’t scholarly sources, but they are authoritative mainstream sources; both are appropriate to cite in many academic assignments, including your analysis of Maus, but always review your assignment guidelines and check with your professor if you have any questions regarding what constitutes an appropriate secondary source. For more on evaluating sources, see A Writer’s Reference (354).

Q: What does the perfectly formatted paper look like?

A: Style guidelines determine the correct format for a paper. The sample essays that I have posted for you on my blog and in Moodle comply with MLA (Modern Language Association) guidelines, which are the style guidelines that you will follow in many of your courses. In some courses in the social sciences and the sciences, you will follow APA (American Psychological Association) guidelines. A Writer’s Reference includes detailed information for MLA and APA and also includes sample essays (see the MLA and APA tabs). The MLA Style Center, which is another valuable resource for MLA, is linked to my blog; OWL (the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University) is an excellent resource for both MLA and APA and is also linked to my blog.

Q: What is the main thing that I am supposed to take from English 111?

A: Developing your writing skills through the processes of drafting and revising and preparing to apply those skills to writing situations beyond English 111 are the primary aims of the course.

What I Want to Learn about Writing

I just want to understand grammar better and word choice. I feel like I can never find the right word to fit what I am trying to say.

A: Study well-written models. The more you read, the more you will internalize about well-wrought prose. Also refer to the Grammatical Sentence and Punctuation and Mechanics sections of A Writer’s Reference (171-218) and (259-302). Finding the right word is always a struggle. No matter how much you’ve written, beginning a new piece of writing always means starting with a blank page or a blank screen. The right words are vital, but try not to dwell on finding them until you begin the revision process; trying to find them earlier, when you’re drafting, can be crippling.

I would like to learn about ways that I can improve my essays, being able to write a good summary.

A: For ways to improve your essays overall, see my response to the previous statement. For summaries, the most important elements to keep in mind are these: (1) a summary is  concise; it addresses the text’s key points only, and (2) it is objective; neither your opinion nor the pronoun “I” appears in it.

[I want to learn] how to make a proper thesis and organize my writing accordingly.

A: Your thesis is the answer to the question, what’s my main point? It isn’t a statement of fact; it’s an informed opinion, one that can be a source of disagreement between two intelligent people. Although a thesis usually appears in the first paragraph of an essay, it’s often developed and refined late in the process. (Sometimes you have to write about a subject at length before you know where you stand.) Once you’ve determined your thesis, present each piece of evidence, one by one, to support it. Here’s a basic organization for an essay: (1) introduction and thesis, (2) body paragraphs of evidence to support your thesis and additional claims, and (3) conclusion.

I want to learn how to make my writing more impactful.  

A: Many wordsmiths don’t consider “impactful” a very impactful word. They consider it a weak substitute for “powerful” and “effective.” Precise and concise word choices will strengthen your prose. Aim to be as specific as possible, and express your ideas clearly and concisely. That said, it’s important to assign those aims to the revision process; otherwise, you may not be able to move beyond your first sentence.

I want to learn how to make my writing sound more professional.

A: One way to make your writing sound more professional is to limit your use of first person. That doesn’t mean that “I” shouldn’t appear in your prose, but be mindful that if you repeatedly refer to yourself, your writing may come across as the product of someone who is young and self-absorbed. Moving away from “I” shows readers that you understand that your ideas have broader implications.

[I want to learn how]  to elaborate and explain what I am writing about to the reader.

A: One simple way to develop your writing is through appositives, which are nouns or noun phrases in “apposition” to (or beside) other nouns or noun phrases. One way to include an appositive in your writing is to (1) present an idea, (2) follow it with a colon, and (3) present specific details that bring the idea into sharper focus.

Here are two appositives that I wrote in the opening paragraph of my analysis of Maus:

  • [T]he horror that Zylberberg anticipates: the murder of his friend Nahum Cohn, Cohn’s son, and two other Jewish merchants. 
  • His [Spiegelman’s] rendering of the panels of the living in conjunction with the fragmented panels of the hanged merchants simultaneously conveys connection and separation: both the grieving survivors’ ties to the dead and the hanged men’s objectification at the hands of the Nazis.

[I want to learn] how to write a good story.

A: Study well-written narratives. Note how the writers render scenes and develop conflict. On every page of Art Spiegelman’s Maus, at least one conflict–and often more than one–is in play. Conflict propels a narrative forward; scenes enliven it.

I want to learn how to write longhand.

A: Ask a GTCC librarian or a librarian at your local public library for help locating handbooks for writing cursive, or buy one with model letters that you can trace. Also look for how-to videos online.

[I want to learn] how to write a good college essay/everything I can to help me with my writing skills.

A: Practice, ask questions, and take notes.

I would love to learn about different writing styles that would help me find writing more interesting and captivating.

A: In recent years, several of my students have told me that the words of poet and illustrator Rupi Kaur have spoken to them in a way that no other writing has. Kaur, whose work first gained prominence on Instagram, has published three volumes of poetry: Milk and Honey (2014), The Sun and Her Flowers (2017), and Home Body (2020). For more ideas and inspiration, I recommend browsing the reading lists on Lit Hub.

I want to learn how to write better and not have to read how to write pages and just be able to write off the top of my head.

A: Unless you’re writing solely for yourself, you will need to move beyond writing off the top of your head.


Hacker, Diana, and Nancy Sommers. A Writer’s Reference. GTCC Custom 9th Edition. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2018.

Posted in Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Editing Your Textual Analysis

Edditing Editing

Earlier this week, I asked you to focus on the big picture of your textual analysis of Maus. Continue to focus on presenting your ideas clearly and effectively, and determine which secondary source you will integrate into your analysis. Later this week, as the assignment deadline nears, shift your focus to finding and correcting errors. 

Proofreading

A Writer’s Reference presents excellent advice on proofreading, which I am including verbatim below.

“Proofreading is a special kind of reading: a slow methodical search for misspellings, typographical mistakes, and missing words or word endings. Such errors can be difficult to spot in your own work because you may read what you intended to write, not what is actually on the page. To fight this tendency, try one or more of the following tips.

Proofreading Tips

  • Remove distractions and allow yourself ten to fifteen minutes of pure concentration–without your cell phone.
  • Proofread out loud, articulating each word as it is actually written.
  • Proofread your sentences in reverse order.
  • Proofread hard copy pages; mistakes can be difficult to catch on-screen.
  • Don’t rely too heavily on spell checkers and grammar checkers. Before automatically accepting their changes, consider accuracy and appropriateness.
  • Ask a volunteer (a friend, roommate, or co-worker) to proofread after you. A second reader may catch something that you didn’t.” (31)

Grammar, Punctuation and Mechanics, and Word Choice

The items listed below are the ones that I noted most often in your drafts. Review the ones that are trouble spots for you. 

  • active verbs/voice, 153
  • apostrophes, 275-78
  • capitalization, 293-96
  • colons and semicolons, 271-73
  • commas, 259-71
  • end punctuation, 283-84
  • hyphens, 291-92
  • italics for titles, 301
  • lay, lie, 182-83
  • like, as, 146
  • numbers expressed as words, 299
  • paragraph focus
  • paragraph length, 53-54
  • pronoun case, 196-97
  • reason why, 148
  • reflexive pronouns, 306
  • sentence fragments, 207-13
  • standard idioms, 166
  • subjective-verb agreement, 171-79
  • than, then, 149
  • that, which, 149
  • there, their, they’re, 149
  • to, too, two, 149
  • verb agreement with subjects, 171-79
  • who’s, whose, 150
  • who, which, that, 150

Concluding Your Analysis

In addition to returning to your thesis, consider developing your final paragraph in one of these ways:

  • Include a quotation from or reference to your primary source (Maus) or your secondary source, one that emphasizes the essay’s main point or puts it in a different perspective.
  • Place the analysis in a different, perhaps larger, context. For example, you might end your analysis by linking it to the pandemic or the current social or political climate.
  • Consider the implications of the analysis. What does it imply, or involve, or suggest about parent-child relationships, about storytelling, about memory, or about totalitarian regimes?

In conclusion, To conclude,

Avoid the phrases “in conclusion,” “to conclude,” “in summary,” and “to sum up.” These can be useful, even welcome, in oral presentations. But readers can see, on the page or the screen, when a short essay is about to end.

Writing Help

If you would like for someone to review your analysis of Maus before you submit it, look to the Center for Academic Engagement, which offers a variety of options:


Hacker, Diana, and Nancy Sommers. A Writer’s Reference. GTCC Custom 9th Edition. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2018.

Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Revising (or Reenvisioning) Your Textual Analysis

The authors of A Writer’s Reference note that “[r]evising is rarely a one-step process” (Hacker and Somers 19). Editing for surface-level correctness is essential, but it isn’t the only step, and it shouldn’t be the first. Begin instead by re-seeing (or re-visioning) your analysis and considering its focus and organization. Ask these questions:

  • Is it a focused analysis rather than an overview of a scene in Maus?
  • Does it present a clear thesis?
  • Would the analysis benefit from a different organization? If the strongest piece of textual evidence appears in the first body paragraph, try moving it to the last one.

After you have addressed those questions, examine each paragraph one by one, from first to last.

Introduction

  • Does the first sentence name the author, Art Spiegelman, and the title, Maus?
  • Does the description that follows create a picture of the panel or panels for the reader? For more on descriptive paragraphs, see pages 45-46.
  • Does the description include pertinent terms, such as dialogue, narration, panel, speech balloon, and tier?
  • Is the description followed by a clear thesis? Can the thesis be a point of disagreement among reasonable people? (If the answer to both questions isn’t yes, revise accordingly.) For more on writing a thesis for an analytical essay, see page 69.

Body Paragraphs

  • Does each body paragraph present textual evidence (words and images from the panel or panels) that supports the thesis? For more on supporting a thesis, see page 69.
  • Do the paragraphs include pertinent terms, such as dialogue, narration, panel, speech balloon, and tier?
  • Do the paragraphs include at least one relevant quotation or paraphrase from an authoritative secondary source and one paraphrase or quotation from Maus? Note: You may quote or paraphrase your secondary source in the conclusion rather than in the body paragraph.

Conclusion

  • Is the conclusion a well-developed paragraph?
  • Does it reiterate the thesis without repeating it verbatim? For more on writing conclusions, see page 18.

After you have revised the paragraphs one by one, review the MLA section of A Writer’s Reference to ensure your document complies with style guidelines.

MLA Style

The MS Word file or PDF that you will submit to Moodle should comply with the format guidelines for MLA (Modern Language Association) manuscripts, including in-text citations with signal phrases (384), and works cited entries (392-423). 

Remember that in addition to submitting your revision to Moodle, you will publish it as a post on your WordPress blog. Your blog post will omit the first-page information included in your file submitted to Moodle (your name, my name, course, section, and date). You will include in your blog post an image that documents some part of your writing process away from the screen, such as a photo of your reading notes or a page of your handwritten draft.

Works Cited Entries

The following list includes sample works cited entries for secondary sources. Note that in your MS Word file, your works cited entries will have a hanging indent; in other words, each line except the first one will be indented five spaces or one-half inch.

Bosmajian, Hamida. “The Orphaned Voice in Art Spiegelman’s Maus.Considering Maus: Approaches to Art Spiegelman’s “Survivor’s Tale” of the Holocaust, edited by Deborah R. Geis, U of Alabama P, 2003, pp. 26-43.

Brock, Michael and Zachary Goldstein. “The Lasting Effects of World War II and the Holocaust.” Guilford Technical Community College Globalization, Education, and Literacy Committee Presentation, Microsoft Teams Live Stream, 16 Mar., 2021. Lecture.

Cavna, Michael. “Why Maus Remains the Greatest Graphic Novel Ever Written, 30 Years Later.” The Washington Post, 11 Aug. 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2016/08/11/why-maus-remains-the-greatest-graphic-novel-ever-written-30-years-later/.

Chute, Hillary. “History and Graphic Representation in Maus.A Comics Studies Reader, edited by Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester, UP of Mississippi, 2009, pp. 340-62.

Miller, Nancy K. “Cartoons of the Self: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Murderer—Art Spiegelman’s Maus.” Considering Maus: Approaches to Art Spiegelman’s “Survivor’s Tale” of the Holocaust, edited by Deborah R. Geis, U of Alabama P, 2003, pp. 44-59.

Spiegelman, Art. “Why Mice?” Interview by Hillary Chute. New York Review of Books, 20 Oct. 2011, https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2011/10/20/why-mice/.

Wilner, Arlene Fish. “‘Happy, Happy Ever After’: Story and History in Art Spiegelman’s Maus.” Considering Maus: Approaches to Art Spiegelman’s “Survivor’s Tale” of the Holocaust, edited by Deborah R. Geis, U of Alabama P, 2003, pp. 105-21.

Works Cited Entry for a Blog Post

Lucas, Jane. “ENG 111: Maus under the Microscope, Part II.” Jane Lucas, 3 Mar. 2021. https://janelucas.com/2021/03/03/eng-111-maus-under-the-microscope-part-ii/.

Works Cited Entry for an Online Lecture

Lucas, Jane. “Maus under the Microscope.” English 111, Guilford Technical Community College, Microsoft Teams Live Stream, 1 Mar., 2021. Lecture.

Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Citing Secondary Sources

In the revision of your analysis of Maus, you will cite a relevant authoritative secondary source: a critical essay, book review, or interview published in an academic journal or a well-regarded news publication. Next week in class, I will distribute a handout that includes passages from some studies of Maus that you may cite in your essay. Excerpts from those sources appear in a later section of this post.

Why Cite an Authoritative Secondary Source?

Quoting or paraphrasing an authoritative secondary source gives your writing credibility. It indicates to readers that your ideas are trustworthy and valid because your analysis is informed by the work of an expert.

Citing an authoritative secondary source also links your analysis to a study of Maus that preceded yours. Academic writing is knowledge-building. With your analysis, you are adding to the critical conversation about Spiegelman’s memoir.

Ask yourself, what has a scholar or journalist written about Maus, and how do my own ideas about Spiegelman’s memoir fit into the conversation? Your answers to those questions can serve as a starting point for integrating your own take on Maus with the ideas presented in a secondary source.

Locating Authoritative Secondary Sources

The GTCC Libraries website includes a research guide for Maus, which features links to articles, essays, reviews, lectures, and interviews.

You can also locate scholarly, or peer-reviewed, articles on Maus by following these steps on the libraries’ home page:

  1. Click on advanced search.
  2. In the first search index box, select subject. In the search term box to the right, type Spiegelman, Art.
  3. In the second search index box, select subject. In the search term box to the right, type Maus.
  4. Click search.
  5. On the next screen, you will see a list of more than two-hundred sources. You can refine your search by choosing one of the limiters in the menu bar on the left. Selecting articles will narrow the list of sources to fewer than ninety; selecting peer-reviewed articles will limit the list to fewer than twenty.

Another Authoritative Secondary Source

If you watched the live stream of GTCC Professors Michael Brock and Zachary Goldstein’s lecture “The Lasting Effects of World War II and the Holocaust,”you are welcome to use that presentation as a secondary source for your analysis of Maus. Here’s how you would integrate one of their points into your analysis:

Zachary Goldstein, Associate Professor of English at Guilford Technical Community College, observes that one of the misconceptions of the Holocaust is the notion that all of the deaths occurred in the gas chambers. Art Spiegelman’s depiction of the public hangings of Jewish merchants in Modrzejowska Street illustrates Goldstein’s point.

Notice that the signal phrase includes the writer’s first and last name as well as his credentials. The paraphrase does not include a page number because the source is a presentation. The works cited entry, which would appear at the end of the analysis, lists the details of the event:

Works Cited

Brock, Michael and Zachary Goldstein. “The Lasting Effects of World War II and the Holocaust.” Guilford Technical Community College Globalization, Education, and Literacy Committee Presentation, Microsoft Teams Live Stream, 16 Mar., 2021. Lecture.

For more on introducing sources with signal phrases and citing online lectures, see A Writer’s Reference, pages 376-79 and 419.

Passages from Authoritative Secondary Sources

From Hamida Bosmajian, Professor of English at Seattle University:

“[t]he Nazi flag. . . is never shown unobstructedly unfurled in Maus” (42).

From Nancy K. Miller, Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the City University of New York:

“The Success of Maus is due to a double audacity. The first is the choice to represent the Holocaust as a cartoon, the second to cast its star witness as a victimizer in his own world, a petty tyrant at home” (48-49).

From Arlene Fish Wilner, Professor of English and American Studies at Rider University:

Adam Gopnik has noted that the animal heads given to the humans in Maus reflect “our sense that this story is too horrible to be presented unmasked” (qtd. in Wilner 109).

From Hamida Bosmajian, Professor of English at Seattle University:

The telling of stories is, of course, a primary means of ordering the disorder of experience; it provides a surface sensibleness that may be perceived as meaningful. Artie, however, will never make any sense or meaning of it all, no matter how many times he articulates the horror verbally and graphically; he can only shape an imitation, an illusion of meaning through the telling of the tale. (30-31)

In an MLA-style manuscript, the quotation above is indented one-half inch because it is one of more than four lines. The quotation marks are omitted because the indentation signals to the reader that the lines are taken word-for-word from the source. For more on presenting long quotations in MLA papers, see A Writer’s Reference (376).

From Hillary Chute, Distinguished Professor of English and Art + Design at Northeastern University:

“The most striking instance of representing past and present together in Maus is the inclusion of the autobiographical comic strip ‘Prisoner on the Hell Planet: A Case History’” (346).

Works Cited

Bosmajian, Hamida. “The Orphaned Voice in Art Spiegelman’s Maus.Considering Maus: Approaches to Art Spiegelman’s “Survivor’s Tale” of the Holocaust, edited by Deborah R. Geis, U of Alabama P, 2003, pp. 26-43.

Chute, Hillary. “History and Graphic Representation in Maus.A Comics Studies Reader, edited by Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester, UP of Mississippi, 2009, pp. 340-62.

Miller, Nancy K. “Cartoons of the Self: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Murderer—Art Spiegelman’s Maus.” Considering Maus: Approaches to Art Spiegelman’s “Survivor’s Tale” of the Holocaust, edited by Deborah R. Geis, U of Alabama P, 2003, pp. 44-59.

Wilner, Arlene Fish. “‘Happy, Happy Ever After’: Story and History in Art Spiegelman’s Maus.” Considering Maus: Approaches to Art Spiegelman’s “Survivor’s Tale” of the Holocaust, edited by Deborah R. Geis, U of Alabama P, 2003, pp. 105-21.

Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Welcome Back! Part II

Students drafting longhand on Monday, March 22

Those of you who meet with me on Wednesdays will begin planning and drafting your textual analysis of Maus today. You will receive a paper copy of the complete assignment in class. The assignment is also posted in Moodle, and I have included an additional copy below.

Anatomy of an Analysis

Here are the elements that you are required to include in your revised analysis of Maus:

  • an introduction that includes a description of the panel, tier, or page
  • a thesis statement that presents your particular reading or interpretation
  • textual evidence, both words and images, that support your interpretation
  • a relevant quotation or paraphrase from an authoritative secondary source
  • parenthetical citations for both Maus and your secondary source
  • a conclusion that revisits the thesis without restating it verbatim
  • a title that offers a window into your analysis
  • a works cited list with entries for Maus and your secondary source

Note that the requirements above are for your revision. You do not need to integrate an authoritative secondary source into your draft. Later this week, on Thursday or Friday, I will post information on secondary sources, including article excerpts that you may quote or paraphrase in your analysis.

And Keep in Mind as You Plan and Draft . . .

  • You are welcome to focus on a single panel or a series of panels in Maus I, but you should not focus on more than one page.
  • If your initial plan doesn’t seem to be taking shape, turn away from your draft for a while. Try brainstorming or freewriting in your journal. Don’t concern yourself with spelling and structure; attend to those matters later. The aim of brainstorming and freewriting is to get your ideas on paper as quickly as you can. For more on brainstorming and freewriting, see A Writer’s Reference (6).
  • If you write on one panel or series of panels and that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere, turn back to the pages of Maus and try writing on another panel or series of panels.
  • I am drafting an analysis along with you and will post my revision for you next week.
  • The textual analysis of Maus that I wrote for my students last fall and four students models are available to you now on my blog. My analysis is included in the March 17 blog post; the four student analyses are included in the March 15 post.
Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Welcome Back!

What you will need in class this week: (1) your journal, (2) Maus, (3) loose-leaf notebook paper, (4) a pen with dark ink, preferably black, and (5) a mask.

Welcome back to in-person classes at Guildford Technical Community College! I can’t tell you how happy I am that we are finally meeting face to face. Remember that the 9 a.m. class is divided for social distancing purposes. Half of you in the 9 a.m. class will meet with me today and every Monday; the other half will meet with me on Wednesdays. Schedules for the 9 a.m. class–as well as ones for the 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. classes–are posted below, in the March 17 blog post, and on Moodle.

For those of you who are new to the campus–and as a reminder to those who are returning–I am including some details here about pandemic protocol for the classroom.

Near the door, you’ll see a white bucket of disinfectant cloths. When you enter the classroom, pull a cloth from the bucket and wipe down the table where you will sit. This can be a messy process. Often the cloths are so saturated with rubbing alcohol that they fall apart in your hands.

To maximize your distance from your classmates, do not move the chairs. Keep your chair on the side of the table opposite the round “TABLE UNAVAILABLE” decal.

As I mentioned in our last online meeting in Microsoft Teams, except for days devoted to revision work, class time is time away from our screens. Using your phone or any other digital device without permission will lower your grade. 

This week will be devoted to planning and drafting your textual analysis of Maus, the second of your three essays for English 111. You will receive a paper copy of the assignment in class. Later this week, the assignment file will be posted to Moodle and on my blog. 

Although I have emphasized the importance of revising and editing, I am asking you to resist the urge to revise and edit this week. Your primary goal for now is getting your ideas down on paper. In Bird by Bird, author Ann Lamott’s guide to writing, she offers these reassuring observations about beginning the process:

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something–anything–down on paper. A friend of mine says the first draft is the down draft–you just get it down (25).

Brainstorm and Freewrite

If your initial plan doesn’t seem to be taking shape, turn away from your draft for a while. Try brainstorming or freewriting in your journal. Don’t concern yourself with spelling and structure; attend to those matters later. The aim of brainstorming and freewriting is to get your ideas on paper as quickly as you can.

For more on brainstorming and freewriting, see A Writer’s Reference (6).

If you write on one panel or series of panels and that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere, turn back to the pages of Maus and try writing on another panel or series of panels.


Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. 1994. Anchor, 1995.

Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: More on Maus, Part II

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 74.

On Monday we studied several student essays–including three written by students of mine last semester–as models for your own analysis of Maus. Today we will examine an additional analysis of Maus, Of Mice and Menace,” which I wrote as a model for my students last semester.

A Possible Secondary Source

Before we examine my analysis, I will turn back briefly to “The Lasting Effects of World War II and the Holocaust,” yesterday’s live stream of Michael Brock and Zachary Goldstein’s lecture. If you watched it, you are welcome to use that presentation as a secondary source for your analysis of Maus. Here’s how you would integrate one of their points into your analysis:

Zachary Goldstein, Associate Professor of English at Guilford Technical Community College, observes that one of the misconceptions of the Holocaust is the notion that all of the deaths occurred in the gas chambers. Art Spiegelman’s depiction of the public hangings of Jewish merchants in Modrzejowska Street illustrates Goldstein’s point.

Notice that the signal phrase includes the writer’s first and last name as well as his credentials. The paraphrase does not include a page number because the source is a presentation. The works cited entry, which would appear at the end of the analysis, lists the details of the event:

Work Cited

Brock, Michael and Zachary Goldstein. “The Lasting Effects of World War II and the Holocaust.” Guilford Technical Community College Globalization, Education, and Literacy Committee Presentation, Microsoft Teams Live Stream, 16 Mar., 2021. Lecture.

For more on introducing sources with signal phrases and citing online lectures, see A Writer’s Reference, pages 376-79 and 419.

Sample Analysis: “Of Mice and Menace”

My sample essay features all of the elements that you are required to include in your analysis of Maus: 

  • an introduction that includes a description of the panel, tier, or page
  • a thesis statement that presents your particular reading or interpretation
  • textual evidence, both words and images, that support your interpretation
  • a relevant quotation or paraphrase from an authoritative secondary source
  • parenthetical citations for both Maus and your secondary source
  • a conclusion that revisits the thesis without restating it verbatim
  • a title that offers a window into your analysis
  • a works cited list with entries for Maus and your secondary source

Note that the requirements above are for your revision. You do not need to integrate an authoritative secondary source into your draft.

In-Person Class Schedule

Our schedules for in-person class meetings, which begin next week, are posted below as well as in Moodle. If you are in the 9 AM class, review the schedule carefully. Because of social distancing requirements, you are permitted to attend class only on your designated day.

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.

Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Maus under the Microscope

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 66.

In the first weeks of the course, we studied Maus as a model for your literacy narratives. Now, as we turn to more formal academic writing, we will examine Art Spiegelman’s memoir as the subject for your second essay assignment, the textual analysis.

Analysis

Unlike a narrative, an analysis has an explicit thesis, which often—but not always—appears at the end of the first paragraph. A thesis is not a statement of fact; instead, it’s an interpretation or judgment* based on a close examination of the subject—in our case, Maus.

*Making a judgment is not the same as being judgmental. When you make a judgment in academic writing, you present an informed opinion based on evidence. When people say, “I’m not judging,” they are making the claim that they are not judgmental or intensely critical of others.

Statement of fact: The epigraph for Maus shows the young Art Spiegelman and his father talking but not truly communicating with each other.

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon. p. 6.

Thesis (which presents an interpretation or judgment): The cutting remark that Spiegelman’s father makes as he saws wood illustrates the communication breakdown between him and Artie; Spiegelman’s deft depiction of that gulf foreshadows the trials he will encounter: struggling to understand his father and himself as he aims to make meaning of their lives through his comics.

Notice how the thesis above addresses what Vladek Spiegelman says and also lets the reader see him sawing wood. Keep in mind that Maus is a graphic memoir. In your analysis, you will address both the pictures and the words on the page.

Where to Begin

Look back through the pages of your journal and note what aspect of Spiegelman’s memoir interests you most? Here are a few that might serve as your focus:

  • Vladek and Art Spiegelman’s father-son relationship
  • Maus as a dual memoir
  • Maus as a meta-memoir
  • The Nazi persecution of the Jews (leading up to the Holocaust, depicted in Maus II)
  • Anja Spiegelman’s depression
  • Anja’s diary

My journal for English 111 is a dual-entry notebook. I draw a line down the middle of each page to separate my summaries of the chapters (on the right) from my questions and comments (on the left). For more on keeping a double-entry notebook, see A Writer’s Reference, page 59.

Turn back to the pages of Maus devoted to the parts of the story that interest you most. Ask yourself how Spiegelman makes meaning with both his images and his words. Your answer to a how question about those words and pictures could serve as your thesis.

Questions to Ask of the Words

  • Are the words in the panel dialogue, narration, or both? (Dialogue is presented in speech balloons; narration or summary is presented in rectangles.)
  • If the panel includes dialogue, what does the exchange between the characters reveal about their relationship? Do the words of the second speaker propel the narrative forward or disrupt it?
  • Are any words enlarged or in boldface for emphasis?

Questions to Ask of the Pictures–the Panels, Tiers, and Pages

  • Is the image in the panel a close-up or a long shot?
  • Are the panels and the tiers on the page roughly the same size? If not, why might Spiegelman have chosen one in particular to dominate the page?
  • Are any of the panels borderless?
  • Do any of the panels break the frame and spill into the gutter (the white space between the frames)?
  • Are any of the panels oblique or slanted?
  • How do these visual effects contribute to your perception of the story? For example: What mood or atmosphere does Spiegelman create through his combination of black and white, lines, and silhouettes? How does the size of a panel or a series of panels convey the passage of time?

Look back at the panels from Maus at the top of this post. There Art Spiegelman presents the scene of Vladek’s surprise return to his family after he sneaks across the border from the Protectorate to the Reich. A narrow vertical panel shows him in his uniform holding aloft his son, Richieu, who responds to his father’s embrace with screams. Beside the vertical panel, two horizontal ones–close-ups of father and son–depict Vladek questioning his son and toddler’s tearful response. Richieu explains that it was the metal buttons on his father’s uniform that made him cry. In Richieu’s words, “Daddy–they’re cold!” (66).

Note how with minor changes, the preceding paragraph could serve as an opening-paragraph summary that leads to a thesis. Here’s a slightly altered version of the summary, followed by a claim, or thesis, about the panels.

In Chapter 3 of Maus, Art Spiegelman presents the scene of Vladek’s surprise return to his family after he sneaks across the border from the Protectorate to the Reich. A narrow vertical panel shows him in his uniform holding aloft his son, Richieu, who responds to his father’s embrace with screams. Beside the vertical panel, two horizontal ones–close-ups of father and son–depict Vladek questioning his son and the toddler’s tearful reply. Richieu explains that it was the metal buttons on his father’s uniform that made him cry. In Richieu’s words, “Daddy–they’re cold!” (66). That brief exchange between father and son exemplifies Spiegelman’s masterful rendering of the pain that underlies the moments of happiness in the narrative.

Although Richieu has no knowledge of the horrors of war that his father has endured, the uniform that symbolizes the war is a literal source of pain for the child when its cold metal buttons press against his body.

The passage above–the introductory summary, the thesis, and the topic sentence for the second paragraph–constitutes 155 words, which could be the first 155 words of a textual analysis of Maus. The analysis could be developed into one of five-hundred words or more by addressing these points:

  • The juxtaposition of happiness and sorrow in the words and images in the panels.
  • The specific horrors of war that Vladek’s uniform represents. 
  • Richieu’s screams as foreshadowing.

For more on writing analytical essays, see A Writer’s Reference, 69-78.