With One Good Eye: Vision And Testimony In Art Spiegelman's Maus

Date
2014-01-15
Authors
Vega, Mark
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
Abstract
A hastily assembled pantheon of literary characters suffering from either total blindness or limited vision might start with such key figures as Tiresias, appearing in both Sophocles's Oedipus Rex and T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland, and the Cyclops Polyphemus in Homer's The Odyssey. Tiresias is blinded by Hera, but given the gift of prophecy by Zeus, while Polyphemus's single eye acts as a metaphor for his inability to perceive how he is being duped by Odysseus. In Ulysses, James Joyce's contemporary reworking of The Odyssey, Polyphemus's Dublin doppelganger is a "fanatical, unreasoning" Irish nationalist who, while not physically blind, is incapable of perceiving another viewpoint beside his own. 1 Thus, at least in literature, impaired vision can be seen in the metaphorical and physical sense as both a blessing-leading to a different, yet insightful way of seeing--or a curse--exposing limitations of vision that extend beyond the physical sense. Art Spiegelman's Maus takes as its central concern the strengths and limitations of vision in witnessing and representing the Holocaust. In comic book form, Spiegelman tells the story of his father Vladek's pre-World War II life in Poland and his internment at the Auschwitz concentration camp. After surviving Auschwitz, Vladek Spiegelman and his wife Anja settle in Rego Park, New York, where Art is born. For reasons shrouded in ambiguity, Anja commits suicide during the '60s-an event that continues to haunt both Art and Vladek.
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