Presentation Title

The Newest Witness: Their Integral Role in Testimonial Literature, as seen in Art Spiegelman’s Maus

Presenter Information

Cynthia EsparzaFollow

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Michelle Chihara

Start Date

17-11-2018 8:45 AM

End Date

17-11-2018 9:00 AM

Location

C308

Session

Oral 1

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

humanities_letters

Abstract

Trauma, a force borne out of an inconceivable violation that jars survivors into repetitive cycles of self-deprecation, is a phenomenon that transcends time, cultures, the physical/mental divide, and even philosophy itself. It has found its place in literature by the practice of testimony as catharsis has manifested into metaphorical stories with both exaggerated and uncanny elements to the real-life occurrences they are meant to represent. By entrusting their story to be recorded by another, a survivor (the first witness) is creating and empowering a second witness to the trauma; the audience that one day receives this ‘transmission’ would be the third witness. But what right does this latest witness have to the narrative they have become intertwined with? What duties do they have as a witness to the trauma they have unearthed? Why is the third witness necessary to the testimony’s legitimacy at all? My research explores the paradox of testimony by dramatic literature, how it makes historical witnesses out of readers from the future, and how these readers may find their own catharsis from the still-present effects of trauma many years after postcolonial life. My analysis of the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman analyzes a more clear-cut right to claim current embodiment of the central trauma.

Summary of research results to be presented

My analysis of the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman attempts to prove how this story is an ideal demonstration of the necessity of the third witness in processing trauma for both the initial survivor and those who come to embody their trauma thereafter and serve as a secondary witness. The second witness here is the author and narrator, Spiegelman himself, as he interviews his Polish Jewish father about his time in Nazi occupied Europe and the concentration camp Auschwitz. Candidly addressing the reader throughout the novel, Spiegelman addresses his struggles with his personal relationship to the trauma that has become a defining point of his family’s narrative, and of his own right to take a place as a narrator of that story. He turns to the third witness (the novel’s audience) for both reassurance and a tool of self-analysis, making the reader integral to Spiegelman’s processing of the trauma.

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Nov 17th, 8:45 AM Nov 17th, 9:00 AM

The Newest Witness: Their Integral Role in Testimonial Literature, as seen in Art Spiegelman’s Maus

C308

Trauma, a force borne out of an inconceivable violation that jars survivors into repetitive cycles of self-deprecation, is a phenomenon that transcends time, cultures, the physical/mental divide, and even philosophy itself. It has found its place in literature by the practice of testimony as catharsis has manifested into metaphorical stories with both exaggerated and uncanny elements to the real-life occurrences they are meant to represent. By entrusting their story to be recorded by another, a survivor (the first witness) is creating and empowering a second witness to the trauma; the audience that one day receives this ‘transmission’ would be the third witness. But what right does this latest witness have to the narrative they have become intertwined with? What duties do they have as a witness to the trauma they have unearthed? Why is the third witness necessary to the testimony’s legitimacy at all? My research explores the paradox of testimony by dramatic literature, how it makes historical witnesses out of readers from the future, and how these readers may find their own catharsis from the still-present effects of trauma many years after postcolonial life. My analysis of the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman analyzes a more clear-cut right to claim current embodiment of the central trauma.