English and Modern Languages


Master of Arts (MA)


Karen S Prior


Art Spiegelman, Dialogic, Graphic Novel, Heteroglossia, Mikhail Bakhtin, Polyphony


Children's and Young Adult Literature | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, British Isles | Literature in English, North America | Other English Language and Literature


Using Mikhail Bakhtin's theories of polyphony, dialogism, and heteroglossia, this thesis will seek to show that Art Spiegelman's Maus is an innately heteroglossic work. Through the use of the graphic novel medium, a multi-perspectival blend of visual and textual narrative, Spiegelman creates a work where various key voices are allowed to speak within the work—without any one voice being given full authority over the other. Vladek Spiegelman, for example, is given the ability to speak freely, despite his narrative’s shortcomings. Although Spiegelman shows Vladek’s perspective to be flawed and inaccurate at times, Art’s interviews with Vladek provide a perspective into the realities of the Holocaust and particularly of Auschwitz that neither he nor the broad cultural accounts could ever provide. At the same time, in his interviews, Art often challenges Vladek’s memoirs with the historical accounts that contradict his own, forcing the two to exist in conflict with each other. Simultaneously, as a character in his own work, Art, through wrestling with his own prejudices against his father, becomes a third voice within the novel, finding his own conflicts with both Vladek and with public perceptions of Holocaust survivors. Through these competing dialogues, Maus becomes a polyphonic, multi-voiced construction; rather than allowing one of these perspectives to take primacy or dominance over the others, Spiegelman avoids monologism by avoiding rote reconciliation. Spiegelman does not end by claiming one monologue to be correct; he gives each voice a platform, allowing the reader to inhabit a visual-textual Holocaust built from the personal accounts of Vladek, the troubled mind of Art, and a wide range of historical research. As a result, through all of these perspectives, as well as others, Spiegelman pursues a more truthful, dialogical depiction of the Holocaust through the narrative tapestry that these perspectives create.