Friday, October 9, 2009

Seminar Contributions

Seminar discussion is going vigorously in all three sections for our course: this is partly by design (material is being presented and set stimulatively); partly by nature (comics evoke keen engagement); and partly by quality of participants (kudos, that is, to you.)

I would like to give a recognition of the vigour and substance of the contributions; allow all three seminars to share in what each of the others is doing; and to give opportunity to perhaps continue the discussions.

Here, then, is a summary from classfellow S.K., Monday tutorial, on a vector of approach to Maus.
While looking at the chapter "Time Flies" in Maus, we discussed the idea of Art's mouse mask representing wearing his Jewishness on the surface. I can relate to this because it is not easy being raised Jewish in a Christian world. For example, everyone gets time off for Christmas and Easter, regardless of religion, but if I wanted to take a Jewish holiday off (like Yom Kippur which falls this coming Monday and is the holiest Jewish holiday) I could but I would have to miss class, so I choose to not take any holidays off because I can't afford to. I always felt like people couldn't relate to me either, like they don't understand what it is to be Jewish. I went to a private Jewish elementary school, but went to public high school and this transition was difficult. Anyways, with time I learned to adjust to my new surroundings. Again, many Jews may wear their faith as a mask in that they were born Jewish but are not religious, like me. I'm Jewish by birth but don't necessarily believe all of it.

The bodies we see following Art seem to be representing the idea that the Holocaust is always lingering in our thoughts. From a young age we are told about what happened and often times forced to "stay" Jewish, like keep Jewish friends, marry a Jew, etc. I married a non-Jew and this was a huge issue for my father at first, but in time he learned to look past that and accept my husband for who he is. I think that because Jews have pretty much always been persecuted in one way or another and the fact there are now so few left is a driving force behind many parents urging their children to remain Jewish and keep tradition alive. For example, mt children will be Jewish because I, their mother, am, whereas if my brother married a non-Jew his children would not be. This is a big issue for my parents and they act very happy that he is dating a Jew so that they need not worry about it continuing through him.

We also touched on the fact that Vladek appears to be perpetuating the stereotype of the miserly Jew. My aunt does this as well. She is bitter and very prejudiced (her daughters don't even have non-Jewish friends) and acts like everything she's been through is the worst ever and anybody's other problems don't matter. It's very frustrating. I wonder if it was hard for Art being the child of Holocaust survivors since nothing he'll ever experience will compare to the hell they've been through and seen. I don't have any direct family that survived the Holocaust, but my uncle was sent to Holland to live with a non-Jewish family while his parents fled to Canada in order to keep him safe. My husband is half German as well and his grandparents apparently were forced to bake for the Nazis and when his grandfather eventually refused, they locked him in a cellar where he almost died. This reminds us that not all Germans were Nazis; it's very important to distinguish between them.

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