Tracing Maus Reflection

When I was thinking about the pages that I chose for this assignment, I could not find any similarities and did not know what to write about. Then I decided to trace the chosen pages and during the process to notice some features that these two pages have in common. While I was engaged in the process of tracing them, I started noticing some details that I’ve never paid attention to before. This assignment helped me to better understand how big the tragedies were for Vladek and how they left a deep scar on his heart for the rest of his days. The tracing process itself was very unusual but I think I did pretty well. However, it took much longer to trace it that I thought. I spent a few hours on this assignment without even noticing how time flew. Additionally, for me, it was much easier to present my ideas in chunks like this, instead of writing in a more traditional format. However, I do not feel that this assignment helped me to get in on this secret language.

Overall, I highly enjoyed tracing and annotating pages and then linking the ideas between them.


Photo: scanned from Maus’ cover page


At first glance of the Tracing Maus assignment, I was immediately overwhelmed.  I was intimidated by the several parts and steps that I had to take in order to create this project.  I didn’t fully understand how all of these pages would become a cohesive assignment and I didn’t have a vision for what to do and what to say.  I was able to realize that I just needed to take a deep breathe and go step-by-step. The first stage of choosing the page was challenging for me.  I didn’t want to choose pages that were the obvious choice or just laid it all out there. I wanted to dig deep to find the hidden overarching messages that Art dispersed throughout the novel.  Once I chose my two pages and started to analyze them, I couldn’t stop. It almost became a game of eye spy to me, I wanted to reveal more and more of the symbolism embedded within the graphics of the novel. I also had a lot of fun finding and creating pictures to go along with the text. Overall, I’m happy with my finished product and really enjoyed this project. Through this process I gained insight into how much work and thought goes into creating a graphic novel. 


Tracing Maus Reflection


Remember, I extended the deadline for the Tracing Maus project — you need to have the pages published to your site by Saturday, March 10.

Reflection Prompt

Once you have completed your Tracing Maus project and published the pages to your site, you need to publish a reflection post as well. The post serves to turn the project in when it syndicates to the class site, and is also an opportunity for you to explain your process in the work you just completed.

Your reflection post should link to the landing page for the project and should address the following questions:

  • Before writing your essay, you went through a pretty involved process of tracing and annotating two pages from the book. Briefly explain what that process was like for you — probably this was very different from most other writing you’ve done, so try to explain what was useful about the process for you. What productive thoughts or analysis occurred through the act of tracing and annotating?
  • For this assignment, instead of writing a linear alphanumeric text you created a series of interlinked pages based around patterns you identified while tracing and annotating pages. How did your writing process change to address this assignment? Did you find it useful to write about ideas in chunks like this, instead of in a more traditional thesis-driven linear format?
  • We talking in class about Spiegelman’s reference to the “secret language of comics” as indicating that the writer/illustrator make a whole series of choices in crafting a comic that probably pass by many readers with little or no conscious notice. Do you feel that this assignment helped you to get in on this secret language? Do you understand Maus better after having written this project? What’s the single biggest insight you gained about the book that you gained during the process of tracing, annotating, and analyzing these pages (maybe something you “knew” on some level before you started but that you really get now, or maybe something you hadn’t really noticed until you worked on the project)?

Week Ahead: 8

3/4 Sketch 6: What’s in your bag?
8 3/6 Palestine, chapters 1 & 2 (1-50)
3/8 Palestine, chapters 3 (51-77) Tracing Maus

There’s a lot going on this week as we go out into spring break with a bang. As you begin to read Palestine, you will also be finishing up your Tracing Maus project and working on the literacy narrative comic draft/storyboard that we’ll be workshopping right after we return from break.

In class on Tuesday, we’ll start off with clearing up any questions you might still have about the Tracing Maus projects and then probably spend a few minutes discussing the final chapter of the book, since group work on Thursday meant we didn’t really get to talk about it directly. We’ll also begin to discuss Palestine, focusing on (the first 2 chapters, at least) differ from or are similar to what we read from Spiegelman:

  • Think about how the rhetorical situations are different for Maus and Palestine.
  • Sacco is very certainly influenced by Spiegelman, but what does “influenced by” mean in this context? Where do you see this influence?
  • We’ll definitely talk about genre and how genre conventions shape and are shaped by readers’ and writers’ practices and purposes over the coming weeks. Sacco has a degree in journalism and classifies his work as “graphic journalism” or “comics journalism.” Maus was originally nominated for a National Book award under the category “Biography,” but is also often classified as memoir, history, and even sometimes fiction.

Once you post the “What’s in your bag?” sketch, you won’t have another sketch due until March 25. That assignment will ask you to combine two photos, putting a person from one photo into a place from another one, so if you travel or go home over spring break and you get a chance to either take photos or look through family photo albums, you might keep an eye out for images that would be fun to play with.

Week ahead: 4

2/4 Sketch 2: Visual Note Taking
4 2/6 Maus 1, chapters 1 & 2

Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics, ch 2 (library reserves link)

2/8 Maus 1, chapter 3

Understanding Rhetoric, issue 2 “Strategic Reading”

2/11 Sketch 3: Sunday Sketches

As I said at the end of class on Thursday, Maus is about the Holocaust and so you should be prepared for the book to address difficult, painful subjects. One of the topics we’ll certainly discuss about the book is how Spiegelman handles such emotionally charged subjects and events.

Pay careful attention to the structure of these two chapters. How does Spiegelman indicate the different timeframes included in the narrative? How is the narrative framed? Who are the major characters and how does he distinguish between them, both visually and in the text? How would you classify the genre of the book? Where does Spiegelman’s text fall on McCloud’s Picture Plane triangle?

After you’ve finished reading the first two chapters of Maus, but before class on Tuesday, please watch this very short video by Nerdwriter in which he analyzes one of the first pages from Maus:

Nerdwriter’s video essay is really interesting in a number of ways — and it also touches on the sort of analysis I’ll be asking you to carry out for your major project on Maus, so you should definitely watch it carefully and we’ll be talking about it in class.

Note: I’ve added a follow button, like those that automatically show up on your WordPress sites. If you’re here on the posts page, you should have a “Follow” displayed in your browser (for me, it’s on the bottom-right of the screen, but YMMV). If you want to get email updates any time a post is published, click on it and enter your email address there, then confirm the subscription when you receive the email. Fair warning, since there are 20 of us publishing to the site now, you’ll get a lot of number of email updates, but you’ll know any time a new post goes up.