Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Krik? Krak!-Part III Analysis (late)

Part III- Analysis (posted late)


            Krik? Krak!, by Edwidge Danticat, was an incredibly fascinating and heart-wrenching look at how ordinary Haitian citizens have been caught up in the country's many political upheavals. Focusing on an island country whose entire history and culture I knew almost nothing about, Danticat forced me to open my eyes to the plight of the average Haitian. The characters in each of these short stories, who we later learn are all linked my family ties, all seem very real to the reader. As a result, Danticat's work appeals strongly to our emotions, and each tragedy, building one on top of the other, is poignantly felt by the audience.

            Similar to all the travel literature we have read this semester, Krik? Krak! served to transport its audience to an entirely new place. Unfortunately, it was not a place where any of us would want to go. In contrasts to the romantic adventures that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader took the reader on, or the appealing attitude toward freedom that On the Road presented, Danticat's novel instead depicted a country wholly unappealing and frightening. As one of Danticat's characters tells us of life in Haiti, "at night i can't sleep. i count the bullets in the dark (8). Ultimately, Krik? Krak! was an excellent reminder to me that travel literature is not just a genre that we use as an escape, or as a pleasant window through which we can view new places and experience other cultures. Rather, travel literature, as Danticat uses it, can also be a highly effective method in informing a larger audience of the injustice, violence, and evil that goes on in the world.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Maus II

Christopher McCune                                                                                             December 2, 2010

EN 384D.01: Travel Literature                                                                                   Blog: Maus II

Maus II

            Maus II is a graphic novel, written and illustrated by Art Spiegelman, which tells the story of how the author's Polish and Jewish father, Vladek Spiegelman, suffered through and ultimately survived the Holocaust. What truly sets this work apart is not only the author's choices to depict the Holocaust in comic strip form, but also that he portrays all the characters in it as animals. The Jews are drawn as mice, while the Nazi soldiers and Germans are all drawn as cats, which was a daring decision on Spiegelman's part.

            Spiegelman's interesting decision to depict the characters as animals certainly, in my own opinion, worked quite well in this book. Even seeing these terrible things being done to mere cartoon mice could not disguise how evil and gruesome the Holocaust truly was, which made the reality of it all the more disturbing. In making the Jews mice, Spiegelman did not dehumanize the mass murders of the Holocaust, but rather managed to emphasize the inhumanity of such a terrible mark on history. Additionally, this stylistic choice allowed the author to get away with incredibly powerful and haunting imagery in some cases, such as when Spiegelman depicts himself wearing a mouse mask at his writing desk, with the dead bodies of hundreds of Holocaust "mice" piled beneath him.

            Just as we have seen this year how literature can be a form of travel, so too can drawing and pictures teach us much about foreign cultures and times long past. In Maus II, Spiegelman brilliantly combines the two in a way that allows the reader to gain a partial, yet powerful, experience of the horrors of the Holocaust. Although I am not a particularly well traveled person, I have always loved literature and had an especially keen interest in world history. After going through this course, I now realize that, maybe the joy I get from reading is the same joy I could experience from travel. Somehow, over the course of this semester, the literature we have read has awakened in me a previously unrecognized desire for travel. The most surprising thing for me, however, has not been this sudden urge to travel, but rather the realization that, in my love for literature, this urge has probably always been there.

Ownership of the text... one last time

In preparing to write this post, I had a difficult time trying to discern what had been the most surprising thing I had learned in Post-Colonial Literature. The class has covered so many themes – be it the importance of history, or the way in which the meaning of a text changes depending on the person reading it – that I was hesitant to pick out one as having had the greatest effect on me. However, reading Maus has compelled me to consider once again the idea of who owns and has the right to definitely interpret a story once it has left the mind of a single individual, and in pondering this topic, I have to conclude that it was the most surprising and intriguing aspect of the class for me. As we discussed in class, the issue of who has the right to mold Vladek’s story of Auschwitz to their own creative – or capitalistic – ends, is a major ethical concern which underlines Maus. While the book is mainly preoccupied with Vladek’s experience, which he took the time to relate to Art, the very fact that Art is communicating that account to others through a graphic novel of his own, in which he chooses how to distill the trauma his father has experienced through the pictures he draws, makes the book an embodiment of multiple levels of interpretation before it is ever read by a person other than Art. One of the major points I remember from my high school World Literature class, and which is relevant here, is my teacher saying that by experiencing and making judgments on real-world events one is essentially interpreting a text. Maus, then, deals with three tiers of text – the actual, objective events of the Holocaust, Vladek’s direct conclusions about those events based on his living through them, and Art’s artistic extrapolation of his father’s conclusions.

There were some comments made in class about how Vladek’s interpretation of the Holocaust, because it is based on his immediate experience, is automatically superior to the perspective a figure like Art, who is hearing about the atrocities second-hand, gives on the situation. I think this point has a great deal of merit -- regardless of what Art has read about gas chambers, Vladek being an “eyewitness,” as he says, to the aftereffects of the slaughter that has taken place in one must be treated with a respect that Art’s academic knowledge does not warrant (69). In reading the second half of the book, however, and realizing how many descriptions Vladek relates of people with whom he has last contact and whom he cannot always fully remember, like “the French Man,” I was reminded – as Dr. Ellis mentioned once in class -- how distinct most personal retellings of truth are from the reality on which they are based (93).

I do not think that such stories are any less valuable because they are so personalized, just as I would disagree that a tattoo has necessarily lost its poignancy when it begins to resonate specifically with an individual rather than a cultural tradition, but I think this comprehension undermines a sense that the non-fiction story Vladek tells is his property. Not only, as Art’s therapist highlights and was brought up in discussion, are the tales of survivors inextricably related to the tales of the dead which cannot be told, but the survivors cannot completely recount their own personal journeys. The past, as is said in and was mentioned during our discussion on Invisible Cities, can be reinterpreted in the present, while the visceral details become muddled.


Spiegelman, Art. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale II: And Here My Troubles Began. New York, Panthenon Books, 1986.

Ellis, Juniper. Tatooing the World.

Calvino, Italo. Invisible Cities.

Wiesel, Elie. Night. Including Introduction and Afterward.

Class Discussions.

In Treatment. HBO. Television Program.

Adventures in Odyssey. “Two Sides to Every Story.” Radio Program.

The Complete Guide to Adventures in Odyssey. “Two Sides to Every Story.

Article and Discussion on J.K. Rowling’s Revelations about Dumbledore and Literary Criticism. Blog.

Maus II

Maus II presents a fascinating and innovative way to communicate both through pictures and words a narrative of historical tragedy, human darkness, and a quest to understand that which we never could. In his graphic novel, Spiegelman made a decision to use mice and other animals to depict the humans involved in the Holocaust. I was especially intrigued by the use of this metaphor because on the surface, it is a seemingly debasing and juvenile way to depict something so grave as the Holocaust. Yet Spiegelman uses the facts of his father’s story to make this metaphor rich, by portraying the Nazis as cats and the Jews as mice, to show the animalistic, predatorial hunt that occurred during the Holocaust. In the second half of the novel, Spiegelman also enriches this metaphor with more animal imagery, not through the pictures, but through his words. He explains that the Jews were transported on a train for horses and for cows, and that within this train, they “lay one on top of the other… like herrings” (85). Using this comparison to horses and cows and herrings, in addition to the images of mice and cats, reinforces this animal metaphor. All in all, this metaphor shows that the actions of the Nazis were clearly inhumane, to say it mildly, and that through this treatment both parties, the oppressed and fearful Jews, and the pitiless and brutal Nazis, lost a part of their humanity.

What is the most shocking thing I learned this semester? SO many things I could think of that would answer this question, as a learned a lot that I never anticipated learning. For one, my eyes have been opened to a completely different forms of literature. From the disorienting futuristic dystopia of Black Rainbow to the fast-paced slam poetry of the Ode to America, to the fantastical and imaginative childhood favorite the Dawn Treader, to the self-love poem Love after Love (which I still have taped to my dresser), I have been impressed and surprised about the different forms literary works can take. I also have been opened to different thoughts and ideas that I’ve never considered before. For example, I have learned that Jews as mice in a graphic novel can actually be quite profound, and tattoo is not simply a rebellious move but actually can be a form of travel and an expression of faith. This class has helped me to gain confidence in my own insights through its nurturing, respectful environment, and it has also challenged me to understand opposite and differing perspectives. I have come out of this class this semester with a new appreciation for different forms of literature, a deep respect for every single person in my class, a desire to emulate the environment and the self-travel that occurred in this class in my own classes when I become a teacher.

Maus and the most surprising thing

There is alot to say about fantasy versus reality when we think about an animal inhabiting a human's body. But when the animal is enacting a major historical event that murdered 6 million people, you have to give someone credit. I found the book really hard to read; not because of subject matter, but because it was all over the place. The illustrations were pretty basic, but I just kept getting caug ht up in them. The book is like any other hero's journey that I've read and that character Maus experiences a unique dilema. Its a lot like Eat Pray Love where the author is being paid to go soul search. Its a different form of the hero's journey, in that there is no death at the end physically. However, there does come a point like we brought up in class where you have to think what length will an artist go to for his work to be good. And I think its the wrong person in the shrink's office. I think the father should get some help too. After all that trauma, why not? Its better than what his kid is doing to him, and majing him remember crap He's rather forget about in the end of it all. Or you could view it as catharsis, but that would be too easy.

In reading the end of the book, I noticed that during the scene when they are asking to hide, the guy they are asking is a cat. And the Americans are portrayed as animals that i couldn't really place. At first I thought they were dogs... The book in its entireity is a commentary on weak versus strong. It also brings up an interesting point in using rats as Jews. It has been said that the rat population is unable to be killed, and the ironic thing about that is that the Nazis had no problem killing off 6 million people, as if they were rats. It sets up an interesting dichotomy that is relatable. the difference is that rats less important than humans. Another interesting thing that the author does is that after he turns them into humans with maks, he turns them back into rats. its almost as if he's saying, "OK you realize what I'm getting at, back to the motif."

The most surprising thing that I learned this year is how many different forms of travel there can be. Usual yo u think of traveling in a car, train or plane and that's it. Internal travel can be a lot more invigorating and at times, is not something we think about. It is more important to have self discovery through experience within yourself than to go to the beaches in Rio. While both are forms of travel, one is more profound because it can happen when you least expect it. Through experiencing it in different cultures, i have realized that it is no different from one country to another. Everyone goes through the same experiences in terms of having struggles. No one is exempt from this. that is an important thing that I realized that no matter time period or country people had and have problems. This can be dealt with through internal discovery, and at times physical travel. The idea is to use that travel to learn something about yourself.

Importance of Graphic Novels

The graphic novel, Maus II, uses its literary form to transcend that of the typical comic book image. Maus II uses a powerful medium of expression for the story of the Holocaust survivor, Vladek Spiegelman. Although the novel harbors typical qualities of a comic book in its struggle for good against evil, a super hero is not present to save the world but rather the novel depicts once man saving himself from the depths of oppression. As the novel presents a journey of survival, the reader follows this journey through the created images. This journey, tied into the placement of images, demonstrates the true importance in sharing a travel story.

The novel journeys through time allowing for images and stories of the past to be shared. Similar to most trips that are taken, images of what has happened are brought home with tales of adventures and typically positive sentiments. The structure of the graphic novel creates a sort of scrapbook feeling with the placement of images in telling the story of Vladek’s journey for survival. This scrapbook of pictures notion is particularly depicted on pages 114-115 in the placement of family pictures over top of the event that is being depicted. Having heard Vladek’s story, the family memories are added to further the journey that the characters create for the reader in their connection to the events and characters of the novel. The idea of creating a scrapbook through the characters tales and images demonstrates the importance of the events of the Holocaust for they are something that is to be preserves along with the images of Vladek’s family. Vladek states on page 115, “Anja’s parents, the grandparents, her big sister tosha, little bibi and out richieu…ALL what is left, it’s the photos.” Transcending the people of the photos, are the images themselves that are depicted. In this sense, the idea of photo images of being the last medium to show a person’s life or story increases the importance of the graphic novel. This would suggest that in the process of “scrapbooking” images of lives and thus history, the negative images and adventures would be even more worthwhile to preserve as Art Spiegelman does through his graphic novel.

Throughout this semester I was surprised by several aspects of travel literature. First off I was surprised by the overall broad range of the genre and the many different forms and types of travel. My initial thoughts as to what the class would be like very much narrowed the ideas of travel literature and I enjoyed expanding my own definition of travel and traveling through my own thoughts and journeys as the class progressed. Another surprising aspect me to was the idea of the forced journey. I feel I focused on this concept several times in my blogs for I am rather fascinated with the idea of a forced journey and what it entails, implies, and even the broad scale this journey could be measured upon. Throughout the texts I was further intrigued by the many different emotions that are involved in a journey and particularly how many of the depicted forced journeys expressed strong emotions of simultaneous dislike/hate/unkindness and love. I really enjoyed the thought provoking nature of the class, for I would often get lost in my own train of thoughts throughout the discussions, and for the fact that this class has really made me look at the ways and how I journey through my own life.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Unexpectedly Satisfying

I have about an average amount of Holocaust knowledge. I've seen a few movies, and I've been to Auschwitz. I probably also have average graphic novel experience. I've never read comic books, but I have perused my fair share of Sunday funnies and scientific adventures chronicled in children's magazines. So I had average expectations going into Maus. Now, I am leaving it with a more than average satisfaction.

In my opinion, choosing this form and depicting the characters as animals was a brilliant idea. By personifying mice, cats, and pigs, Spiegelman managed to actually "personify" people. It is one thing to read a history text or statistics, but it is quite another to see a very personal story played out on one hundred pages of comics. I found the characters to be very relatable due to their quick bursts of dialogue and the modern context in which the character Spiegelman is uncovering his father's story. Like we mentioned in class, people think in short bursts, not long paragraphs. Even reactions such as "gasp!" have slipped into our everyday speech, as dialogue, and no longer as actions.

Even though Spiegelman has drawn people as animals, the characters are definitely human. We can imagine that Auschwitz survivors took advantage of their freedom by sleeping in and treating themselves to the good things in life. We can also assume that their friends and relatives always treated them like superheroes. The truth is, these survivors and their families are still humans, despite, and because of, the horrors they experiences. Spiegelman's father, Vladek, gets up super early and is constantly busy.

Vladek: I'll get you there anything you want fo the week to eat...turkey legs, fish, whatever you want.
Art: We don't want much. We'll be leaving in a day or so anyway.
Vladek: Leaving! But you only just came! I planned you to spend with me 'til the end of the summer.
Art: We told you it was just for a few days to be sure you'd be okay alone up here.
Vladek: Sigh. Then better if you didn't come, now I got used a little to having you together by me.
Art: Bah!

I thoroughly enjoyed the exchanges between Spiegelman and his father; they are exactly the way any father-son relationship realistically would be. This passage illustrates that what Vladek really wants after all he's been through in life is to be with his loved ones. It also clearly shows how irritating and manipulating an old man he can be. In addition to characterizing a credible person to whom many can relate, Spiegelman neatly ties Vladek's quirks back to his experiences in Auschwitz. And despite this heavy subject matter, Spiegelman infuses smatterings of humor quite effortlessly into the text. A depressing and inappropriately funny moment occurs when Vladek tries to pawn off some leftover cereal onto his son, who says he should just throw it away.

Vladek: Ever since Hitler, I don't like to throw out even a crumb.
Art: Then just save the damn Special K in case Hitler ever comes back!

Perhaps part of the reason I enjoyed this book, and part of the reason that enjoyment surprised me, is my own personal lens. Just having been to Auschwitz a few months ago, and becoming close friends with a Polish girl while abroad last year, the location descriptions put me right back there, and Vladek's accent was particularly endearing. On the other hand, my grandmother is German, and was a little girl during WWII. She had little to eat and witnessed her neighbors being burned alive from the destruction wreaked in her small town by the Allies. I am one of those people who becomes very annoyed when it is implied that all Germans from the beginning of time until eternity are evil Nazis. It should go without saying that obviously I find the Holocaust horrific and a completely devasting and unnecessary event, but it has always been a particularly touchy topic for me because of the other stories that get overlooked. Mention Hitler to someone and watch their face screw up in immediate rage; ask them about the Katyn Massacre and they will probably stare at you blankly. (In the winter of 1939-40, the Soviets secretly murdered hundreds of Polish officers deep in a forest, one shot after another, and then blamed the Germans for decades.) The constant bombardment of guilt and the vast number of Holocaust memorials lose their effect after a while; seeing this individual story in Maus brought me back to the realness of what happened.

This entire semester has taken me by surprise. It's not just the sneaky rapidity with which the time has flown, but almost more how truly interesting all my classes have turned out to be. This class in particular has been an unexpectedly engaging and enlightening experience, and reading Spiegelman's Maus II was as well.

Maus Analysis and Surprising Thing

Part III Analysis: Maus II raises the question of whether a person can truly understand something they themselves are or were not a part of and how best to go about gaining this understanding. Art struggles to understand what his father Vladek, a Holocaust survivor, experienced and how that has shaped who is. He wants to listen to his father’s stories and turn them into a novel but he becomes concerned that he cannot accurately portray it since he wasn’t there. The littlest details, like how to draw the tools in the tin shop, frustrate Art and make him question the validity of his work. Spiegelman suggests that it difficult to imagine the horrors of the Holocaust if one didn’t experience them. At one point Francoise says, “Sigh. It’s so peaceful here at night. It’s almost impossible to believe that Auschwitz even happened.” Art responds, “Uh-huh. Ouch! But these damn bugs are eating me alive (74). The flies that are attacking Art are the same ones portrayed hovering around the dead bodies and make it seem like the Holocaust is nagging at Art and he is beginning to understand it.

By having the novel jump from the Holocaust to Art’s discussions with Vladek and take the form of storytelling, Spiegelman seems to be suggesting that storytelling is a form of travel that allows one to understand someone else’s experiences. As the novel goes on, Art becomes continually more anxious to hear his father’s stories urging him to continue talking even though he didn’t want to visit him in the first place. By writing Maus II, Art uses storytelling to help the reader better understand the Holocaust too, and he enhances the power of the story by adding the illustrations and using the form of graphic as opposed to traditional novel. The mouse form of Art seems to experience an internal journey by hearing the story about Vladek’s external one, and in turn the reader is invited on this travel as well by reading the book that the mouse Art is writing in the story. Overall, Maus II seems to serve the dual purpose of inviting the reader to journey into and experience the Holocaust and informing the reader that it is in fact possible to travel and grow in understanding through storytelling and literature.

Looking back on this semester, I would have to say that the most surprising thing for me has been discovering and appreciating the power of literature. As a biology major, I haven't read all that much literature during college except for my core classes and I've always endured that reading reluctantly. However, the works we read this semester and the discussion we had about them has helped me to understand how much literature can teach us about ourselves and our lives even if on first glance it seems to be about something else entirely. I always took what I read at face value, never taking the time to relate it to my own life, but this class has helped me learn how to do that and through this I've come to a much greater appreciation for literature, so thank you.

Endless Forms of Travel

Art Spiegelman’s Maus II follows the journey of both Art and his father Vladek, the journey of one’s recognition and understanding of a family’s past and of another’s recollection. Although Art, through his graphic novel, recounts the story of Vladek’s incredibly harsh concentration camp experiences, relaying the story of his family’s past to the reader, he also manages to relay his own journey in writing the history, his journey of coming to terms with his emotions for his family and for his father and producing a work that combines both the historical and the emotional. He creates a work that combines multiple different forms of life travel.

While Vladek’s Holocaust journey is the inspiration for Art’s graphic novel, this experience is something that Art cannot easily relate to because it is not his own, he has not been to Auschwitz. The novel may seem to be a way to capture solely his father’s journey, but Art turns it into a work that captures his own writing process and journey of understanding and appreciation. Through the graphics of Art and his father, the graphics that capture the way Art extracts his father’s history, the reader sees that Art is growing and changing as he gathers information and even as he reviews his writing process (and writes the final book). The graphic novel shows the power of writing for the author because he expresses a sense of maturity and feeling towards his father and most importantly towards himself, a person that he is trying to figure out a way of coming to terms with. Art’s strong, intimate writing also shows the power of literature as a shared form of travel, of literature as a developing form for the reader, who gains a new insight and therefore mentally transforms or travels, and for the author.

Maus II, along with the other examples of travel literature that we have read, puts into a clear perspective the idea that travel can present itself in an infinite number of forms, that everything about life is a form of travel. This is the idea about travel that surprised me the most, that it exists everywhere, that every piece of literature can be recognized as a form of travel, even if it does not specifically trace a typical “journey” or profound physical travel; the class could have read any work of literature to recognize the presence of travel. Seeing life and everything about life as millions of separate journeys, as millions of possible ideas for literature, is a great way to put one’s individual experiences into a bigger perspective, a great way to see the beauty and growth in everything we do and think.

Dr. Manhattan and a Mouse, who knew?

Spieglman’s Maus, a fantastic graphic novel, touched me with its depth and symbolism. This book was not first my graphic; my first book being Watchmen. In many ways, Watchmen and Maus make the same argument about human nature. It is a fact that the two graphic novels talk about two completely different events in history; however, together serve as a lens into viewing human nature at its core.
First, how can two graphic novels, one from DC and another from Art Spieglman, be related in anyway? First, both novels intend to show human nature when it is separated from society. Many philosophers such as Thomas Hobbs believe that human nature is evil and it is society that keeps us in check. When the German Gestapo, under Hitler’s command, were gathering Jews and placing them in concentration camps, they were working outside society’s norms and showed the evil that was within them. Spieglman did a great job of illustrating that hatred by first drawing the faces of the Kapos and the Germans with expressions horrific and almost demonic. When the SS troops are ordering Jews around and beating them, you see evil at it’s purest. Watchmen did a great job of illustrating human nature at its worst through nuclear war and the almost imminent destruction of humankind with nuclear wars.
In both novels as well, the authors lay out the ignorance in human nature as well. For instance, Spieglman shows himself not really understand the story of his father and all that he has been through. Even when his father is admitted into the hospital and is then cleared to come home, he is upset and is not happy because he cant stand dealing with him. His father is difficult, but all Spieglman cares about is getting the story for his book and anything that prevents that from happening is annoying him and proving to be difficult. In Watchmen, characters prove to be ignorant to the situation around them. One of the characters Rorschach understands that you cannot compromise even in the face of annihilation; but, other characters can not understand that point. They refuse to adapt the same way Spieglman is unable to adapt to his father. In many ways, his father, despite the terrible event he has gone through, has succeeded while Art has failed. Vladek did a great job of surviving the most horrible event in history, but his son can’t even get by with his demanding father. This illustrates the ignorance that humans have at times and how they cannot fully adapt and evolve in certain aspects of life.
To close out the year, I must say that I have been touched in this class. I had been pushed to limits that I never really thought were completely possible. In a class where the readings were hard and draining (with exceptions of course such as Dr. Ellis’ book no doubt), I was surprised that I came out alive. This is coming from a kid that has made it to round 23 of Nazi Zombies on Call of Duty Black Ops by himself (clearly, no one will get that). But, at the end of the day, I must say, it was a class well taught, and a class that I much appreciated. There were things that did push my out of comfort zone, but we can not become better people, better humans, without being stretched, twisted, tangled, and then stretched again. I want to take the opportunity to end with a quote (Yes, I am stealing the idea from another) from one of my favorite movies, Inglorious Basterds, “Well, if this is it, old boy, I hope you don't mind if I go out speaking the King's” This may be the last class where every single one of us will be together, but it could have been only this class that all of us could grow, learn, and love the fine work we all did together and the beautiful work Dr. Ellis did for us. So, I bid all of you adieu, adieu. But never, ever say goodbye. Goodnight and Good Luck, everyone. This is Anthony Santiago, signing out.

The Infinite Abyss

Art Speigelman’s Maus is the first graphic novel I have ever read. At first glance, I wasn’t sure if Speigelman’s cartoons would be able to portray the tragic events of the Holocaust. However, I was taken by surprise once I read the first page. Unlike any other book this semester, I finished Speigelman’s novel in one sitting. The cartoons coupled with short character dialogue led to an addictive read. As I traveled with Artie through his father heroic tale of survival, I learned that his father’s struggle did not end at the conclusion of World War II. Instead, Vladek’s experience has affected his life and in turn has affected his son’s life forever. It is for this reason I think Speigelman is writing this novel. He encourages readers to remember and reflect on the Holocaust. Although it happened in the past, the Holocaust still affects us all in the present.

Although a tale of sadness, evil and tragedy, Vladek’s journey within the Holocaust has shaped his identity. As Vladek fights with the manager to take back his opened box of Special K or shouts racist slurs at the hitchhiker, a reader can see that Vladek still suffers from his time spent at Auschwitz. Through Speigelman’s portrayal of his father as a flawed figure, a reader cannot help but feel pain for Vladek. It was a tragic event that has shaped Vladek and although he may have survived, Speigelman shows that there were parts of Vladek that died in the Holocaust.

All of travel, whether good or bad, affects who we are as individuals. Although Vladek’s tale is one marked by immense hardship and struggle, it is experience that has shaped him. Over the course of the semester, I wasn’t aware of the impact travel and travel literature can have on individuals. After returning from Italy in April, I never took time to self reflect. It was not until Dr. Ellis encouraged us all to look a little deeper that I began to notice how my travel experience has changed me as a person.

Art Speigelman reflects on his own humanity and begins to understand his father more once he listened to his father’s tale. Just as Speigelman becomes more self aware, I realized that the beauty of travel, even if it is experienced on the pages of a novel, can change you as a person if you allow yourself to change. Over the course of the semester, I stopped reading novels because I had to, and began reading them because I wanted to. Through my reflection at the conclusion of each novel, I learned a little more about myself. For this reason, I think travel literature is valuable on so many levels. First, travel literature allows the reader to enter the mind of the author. Second, it allows the reader to enter the journeys of each individual character. And finally, travel literature allows the reader to take the authors’ and characters’ stories, and apply their travel to their own lives.

It is for this reason I want to thank Dr. Ellis. As a senior, I can say that this was the best English class I have ever taken at Loyola. Every discussion, blog post and novel has helped me learn a little more about myself. It’s kind of ironic, but this class itself was a form of travel. I began unsure of what I would learn, but came out knowing more about myself than I could ever imagine. Rather than looking only at the surface of things, I urge myself to look a little deeper. I’ve also learned that all experiences whether good or bad hold worth and become part of our individual stories.

So, thank you again Dr. Ellis and fellow travel literature students! I'm going to end this post with a quote from one of my favorite movies, Garden State... "Good luck exploring the infinite abyss."

Maus blog post

Maus Blog Post

Emily Barbo

Worth a Thousand Words

This is the first graphic novel we have read in class, and although it is not my first graphic novel, I am continually amazed at the depth of the meaning that can be taken from the combination of words and images in every frame. I think that graphic novels have had a negative connotation to them in the past, but as more have been turned into films there has been a shift in perspective. No longer are graphic novels being considered as content-less comics but as worthy works of literature (and arguably art) that can convey really deep and important messages.

Maus is a great example of a very serious subject matter being portrayed via graphic novel. There are many layers to Spiegelman's story; the relationship he has with his father, the relationship he has with his own past, and the relationship that he has and is trying to come to terms with in his father's past to just name a few. I think that the graphic novel can be a more accessible medium for readers when talking about difficult topics like the holocaust. Just like Spiegelman uses the mask to distance himself from the book for his own sanity, the informal ton of the graphic novel allows the reader to become submerged in the content with little risk; you go as far as your mind will take you. There is a lot of imagery and symbolism in every page of Maus; whether the reader sees it or not is completely up to them and their willingness to be submerged into Spiegelman's mind. Obviously, this depth can also be found in novels (take C.S. Lewis for example), however, I think that the necessity of interpreting of images makes the connection that much more personal. Just like a novelist has a choice to make about each word or phrase or paragraph so does the graphic novelist about every caption and every image in each frame. The images on 79, 95, and 116 are all examples of how images can portray just as powerfully (if not more-so) the emotion and tension that Spiegelman and his father experienced.

I reluctantly agree that the graphic novel will most likely become the new favorite medium for my generation. A part of me still clings onto the form of the classic novel but in an age of images and status updates instead of newspapers I think that the literature will continue to travel as each generation does.

I never expected to learn so much about myself from this class. By examining the ways in which one can travel, literature can travel, and how we travel via literature I discovered that I am no strange to travel, and not just the physical kind. I have traveled through my experiences at Loyola and in the tradition of Jesuit Education. I also never would have guessed that I would learn so much about my classmates; we have a lot in common. From debates about form, to modern music, and our own generation I was pleasantly surprised at the vastness of our opinions on such topics and that ultimately on most topics I was never alone. I really enjoyed getting to know everyone and creating an environment (with the help of Frozen Yogurt) that I could feel save sharing personal stories in. The discussion that each student brought to the table made it that much easier to go to class every day. I can honestly say that I enjoyed the experience thoroughly.  

It's Been Real

Without question, Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began serves as the darkest installment of our semester’s readings. Spiegelman provides the perfect conclusion to our lessons on travel by stripping away its leisurely attributes and exposing us to a form of travel done so out of absolute necessity. Art inquires into the atrocities faced by his father, Vladek, in the concentration camps; a place where travel was the only way to ensure survival along the unpredictable journey towards death. Spiegelman is so successful in his recounts of family history through his inclusion of jarring images alongside words of sheer terror, allowing absolutely no escape from the work’s full effect. In the course of his lifetime Vladek Spiegelman was forced to relocate from his home in Poland into the ghettos, into Auschwitz, bounced from camp to camp, tugged all across Western Europe and eventually lands on America’s east coast rotating between New York and Florida. Although we are absolutely incapable of comprehending the course of internal travel during his time in Auschwitz, the words and illustrations of his son present us with a rude awakening. Sometimes the only way to continue on in the journey of life is to have the internal strength to cheat its conclusion in death.

As our time together as a class comes to an end, I would have to say that the most interesting thing I’ve fully come to understand is that everyone travels along a separate path in life. We all come from different places and we are all continuously sprinting in separate directions, yet we meet the people we meet and experience everything we experience for a reason. It all allows us to travel from fetus to fertilizer, testing our inner beings to flourish in their own individual way. The only way to grasp the complexity of life is to hear as many separate accounts as possible, and this class taught me to share my story with as many other people in anyway possible, whether it be through poetry, songs, or simply chatting with a group of new friends.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hopeful and Frightening Belief

Both “Children of the Sea” and “Nineteen Thirty-Seven” feature characters who hold beliefs in a mysticism which seems to subtly, and never unambiguously, affect reality. Kompé in “Children of the Sea” believes that the ocean is a gateway into a watery “heaven” where it is possible to live free from “the chains of slavery” which the political situation in Haiti has placed on him (12, 27). The reader is given the responsibility of reconciling this utopian view of the ocean with the “merc[iless]” body of water which Kompé and his fellow passengers are combating against to survive (26). One could be left with the impression that Kompé reinterprets and personifies the ocean as a way to cope with its apathy. If the reader accepts this premise, the character’s statement at the conclusion of the story that he “was chosen to live… with Agwé at the bottom of the sea” is not an example of catharsis but insanity (27, 28). However, considering that the other protagonist in the story, Kompé’s love interest, espouses a belief in the ability of butterflies to signify life and death that is seemingly confirmed when a black butterfly appears soon after her lover drowns, I would guess that Danticat intends for the reader to embrace Kompé’s trust in a similarly ethereal concept.

The narrator of “Nineteen Thirty-Seven” is surrounded by persons who claim to have an understanding of mysticism. The narrator’s mother views the Massacre River as possessing a holy quality which gives those who survived the genocide committed near it “wings of [flame],” and while the reader of “Children of the Sea” is left exclusively with the conundrum of whether the kingdom Kompé hopes for actually exists, in this story any confusion the reader has about the nature of the river’s power is matched by the narrator’s (41). I am reminded of my research on and our class’s discussion about The Voyage of the Dawn Treader earlier in the semester, and how one criticism of Aslan, which Laura Miller voiced in her book, was that his constant action in the plot made it easy to accept his status as a spiritual deity (Miller). The protagonist of “Nineteen Thirty-Seven,” in contrast, has no such clear example that would allow her to believe fully and happily in her mother’s powers. She is probably inclined to disagree with the people of Ville Rose’s claim that her mother is a “witch,” because they express their faith in the paranormal through fearful violence (39). To admit that her mother could perform magic would compel the protagonist to consider the possibility that the latter did “cause the death of a child,” or at least that the public’s fear might be valid (39). For the protagonist, the decision to believe in the spirituality which her mother associates with the river is not a choice between the barbaric temporal world and an idyllic unseen one, but one that requires trust in an incorporeal plane which could be as dangerous as the corporal one she lives in (OED).


Danticat, Edwidge. Krik? Krak! New York: Vintage Books, 1995.

Lewis, C.S. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Miller, Laura. The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures In Narnia.

Cassidy, Jessica. Johnson, Thomas. Bibliography for “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Part II” Presentation.

McCarthy, David Matzko. The Good Life: Genuine Christianity for the Middle Class. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2004.

Oxford English Dictionary Online. Web.

Krik? Krak! is unlike any novel we have read thus far, as I find that Edwidge Danticat’s work has the heart-wrenching responsibility to expose to us readers that travel may not always be a leisurely activity. While we have seen characters traveling to foreign lands in hopes of a better life, like Ela in They Who Do Not Grieve, Danticat’s characters prove to us that traveling provides a much needed escape in separate life or death situations. The collection of short stories helped me realize that continuously moving may be the only way to ensure survival, as well as the fact that death can sometimes serve as a welcomed escape from the horrors of human existence. Krik? Krak! may not be my favorite piece thus far in the semester, as I feel is it geared towards a female audience; however, there are some crucial lessons to be learned throughout its pages. We’ve watched characters such as the nameless narrator, Josephine and Lili embody a sense of desperation and entrapment to their beloved Haiti, yet how is it possible to find beauty in a land run by absolute monsters? We’ve also seen the other narrator, Josephine’s mother, and Guy find freedom in the darkest depths of death. No matter our situation, whether static or on the run, our soul is on a constant journey towards a sense of understanding. The road to understanding hatred and evil will eternally lead to separate dead ends, yet the path to the acceptance of such is one that distinguish between those who travel to survive and those who travel to live. There is a drastic difference between living and surviving. Without taking the time for love and finding the beauty of life you are simply surviving. Yet, the persistence shown by the narrators of “Children of the Sea” shows a remarkable sign of life not everyone is lucky enough to embody.

As previously mentioned, there is a definite sense of external travel in Danticat’s Krik? Krak!. The male narrator escapes Haiti on a makeshift boat, Josephine’s mother fled the Dominican Republic a few precious hours away from labor, and Guy leaves his land with the help of a stolen hot air balloon. Although these characters embark on actual journeys, I’ve come to the conclusion that the travel crucial to these short stories is entirely internal. The journeys are incredibly challenging, and all involve the strides needed to overcome an internal struggle. After reading the first half of this book, terms like “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” or “that task is quite the climb” make much more sense. Internal struggles and outdoor excursions can be directly related. Before setting out on an expedition, one must prepare and assess all the possible diversions, setbacks, and challenges that await them. One must gather all the necessary equipment to ensure the completion of their experience, and once they are ready, they must set out without the turn of a head. Just as in the case of overcoming an internal struggle, it is required to muster up all courage possible and face the obstacle head on. If you set out on the path of life unprepared for its biggest hurdles, then there is no way you will make it as far as your potential would allow.

Kerouac Analysis

Part III: Brief Analysis

After leaving Bull Lee, Sal reflects, “What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?—it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies,” (156). This quote shows the way in which Sal’s feeling of insignificance in regards to the vastness of the world feeds his hunger for experience.

The image Sal uses here of people turning into specks on the horizon helps us to understand Sal’s idea of the relationship between the individual and the world. Particularly, he calls this world “too-huge,” suggesting that Sal’s perception of himself in regards to the world is as a very small and insignificant speck in comparison to the vastness of the world. This feeling of insignificance pervades Sal throughout the journey, and is partially the reason why he is attracted to Dean’s larger-than-life approach to life. Being a part of Dean’s journey gives him a sense of significance, for with Dean he enters into an adventure that is greater than simply himself.

This involvement with Dean and also his feeling of insignificance in the vastness of the world ignites an unquenchable thirst in Sal for more. In the quote above, Sal opens with the sorrow of saying goodbye, the inconsequentiality of the individual, and the overwhelming nature of the world. He seems to dismiss these ideas with his final sentence, “But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” Yet this is not a dismissal of his previous thoughts, it is precisely these thoughts and feelings that lead him to the “crazy venture,” they drive him to want experience and be significant. Hence, Sal “leans forward” into the experience, despite and also because of his insignificance. By traveling ”beneath the skies,” he realizes the vastness of the world, but does not get overwhelmed by it. He can focus on the present feeling, the present thrill, the present experience, rather than feeling smll and inconsequential. Hence, his fact-paced lifestyle has the power to conceal his true idea of insignificance.

In a way, the same thing happened when Dean first invited him to go across the country with him. At that point, Sal was living with his aunt in a sort of obscure and alone life, with a “feeling that everything was dead,” (1). Sal approaches travel from a place of insignificance, from a realization of the smallness of himself and the greatness of the world.

Journey with Love

The stories of the novel Krik? Krak? by Edwidge Danticat presents a journey that is forced on to the larger part of the characters of each story. This journey is one that others force onto them for they are persecuted by others and forced to leave their homelands for protection and their own safety. This journey is one of fleeing from a tyrannical harassment, never to return home, as opposed to that of a luxurious vacation trip. The forced journey of these characters particularly in the story “Children of the Sea” evokes simultaneous attitudes of love and hate in all characters affected. Hate stemming from the oppressive nature of the journey and love for those left behind or completing the journey; with the unknown nature of the journey ahead, there is not much more for the either sides to contemplate.

The story “Children of the Sea” depicts the love of a boy and girl through their compiled letters after they are separated by the boys forced journey. Having spoken out against the government who was after him, he is forced to flee Haiti to save his life. The focus of the story becomes that of the hateful persecution entwined with a story of love. “I cannot even see the sea. Behind these mountains are more mountains and more black butterflies still and a sea that is endless like my love for you,” (Danticat 29) expresses the girl in one of her letters. This passage presents a sweet morbidity, for she expresses her love for the boy all the while stating that this keeps him away and imply his death. She cannot see the sea and thus where he is but they are divided by mountains and black butterflies who speak of his death yet she still has love for him. It is an oppressive situation which begins the forced journey yet love which ends it.

The boy traveling expresses this love himself before the ship he is on sinks making him a child of the sea. He writes to the girl, “Maybe the sea is endless. Like my love for you,” (Danticat 15). Having been forced into this voyage beyond his homeland, the boy still expresses a love and hopefulness as he rights to the girl he loves. It is their love that becomes the focal point of the journey rather than the oppressive conditions they are subjected to as expressed in the letters. Love is simultaneously tied to the hate and abuse that is brought on by the government officers creating the need for the journey. Love is the connecting force that allows for redemption of the journey stemming from oppression. It is also love which allows for the outcome or end of the journey to be worthwhile, even if the characters are not able to be together, their love binds them with the possibility of being together beyond the journey that is life.

It appears that a journey forced out of hateful persecutions, produces a sort of love quality for those who have to take the journey or are affected by loved ones taking the journey. A journey forced under negative pretenses can be considered redeemable through the love involved between the people affected. Also love then transcends this sense of a hateful nature which becomes the force behind the journey. It is these contrasting ideas that arise in order to make a negative situation into a positive one and the idea that winning can be accomplished through love rather than hate.