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“Well Intended Liberal Slop”: Allegories of Race in Spiegelman's Maus


In a 1992 interview, Art Spiegelman described the genealogy of Maus, his acclaimed comic-book treatment of the Holocaust. He was inspired to write Maus, he stated, when asked to contribute to a commix anthology called Funny Aminals; the only restriction on his creativity was that the story must somehow involve anthropomorphized animals. “At the time I was trying to figure this out,” Spiegelman reports, I went to sit in on some classes of a friend of mine, Ken Jacobs, a filmmaker and very wonderful teacher at SUNY Binghamton, who was showing some old animated cartoons in his class with cats and mice romping around, and then he was showing some racist cartoons from the same period, and it became clear that there was a connection between the two, that Al Jolson was Mickey Mouse without the ears. At that point I said, “I have it: I'll do a comic-book story about the Ku Klux Kats, and a lynching of some mice, and deal with racism in America using cats and mice as the vehicle.” And that lasted about ten minutes before I realized that I just didn't have enough background and knowledge to make this thing happen well, that it would just come across as well intended liberal slop. And instantly the synapses connected, and I realized that I had a metaphor of oppression much closer to my own past in the Nazi Project. (Spiegelman CD-ROM)

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Journal of American Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-8758
  • EISSN: 1469-5154
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-american-studies
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