This Roundtable will bring together scholars and teachers from across Utah to discuss the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus from interdisciplinary perspectives. The participants will address Maus’ unique ability to reach a broad audience and its centrality to Holocaust education today.
Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus tells the true story of his father’s experience as a Jew in Eastern Europe in the period leading up to and including the Holocaust. Maus was published in installments in the early 1980s before appearing as a book in 1986. It is framed by a quote from Adolf Hitler: “The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human.” Like George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Spiegelman’s graphic novel thus uses anthropomorphic animals to recount and detail the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews in Europe that culminated in genocide. In part because of its genre, which appeals to a younger reading audience, Maus has been one of the most common texts used to teach students at all levels about the Holocaust for over three decades. But in recent weeks the book was banned by a Tennessee School Board under the pretext of “rough, objectionable” language such as the word “damn,” and because it shows a drawing of a dead naked female mouse, an image that represented the author’s mother who had committed suicide.
This Roundtable will include two historians who use Maus to teach the Holocaust, a Political Scientist specializing in the banning of books, and a professor of English who teaches a course devoted to graphic novels. The moderator is also a historian who uses Maus in the classroom. The intent of the Roundtable is to discuss the urgency of continuing to teach the Holocaust and the particular value of Maus, which provides a first-hand account of a survivor of the concentration camps in a format that all audiences will find accessible.
Nadja Durbach is Professor of History at the University of Utah. She received her PhD from the Johns Hopkins University and is the author of three books on the history of the body in Modern Britain: Bodily Matters: The Anti-Vaccination Movement in England, 1853-1907 (2005), Spectacle of Deformity: Freak Shows and Modern British Culture (2010) and Many Mouths: The Politics of Food in Britain from the Workhouse to the Welfare State (2020).
Julie Ault is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Utah. Her areas of expertise include Modern German History, Modern European History and Environmental History with an emphasis on the post-World War II era. Her research explores issues such as the relationship between states, citizens, and the environment; the permeability of modern political borders; and legitimacy under modern dictatorship. Ault is the author of Saving Nature under Socialism: Transnational Environmentalism in East Germany, 1968-1990, which was published with Cambridge University Press in 2021. She is currently working on a new project that examines East German scientific and technological experts abroad during the Cold War and the environmental impact of socialist development schemes.
Dr. Richard Price (they/them) is Associate Professor of Political Science at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. They received a B.A. in political science and history from Western Washington University, a J.D. from Roger Williams University, and a Ph.D. in political science from Syracuse University. Their work focuses on the censorship of literature in schools and libraries over the past half-century with a particular focus on attempts to censor LGTBQ inclusive material. They are currently working on a book tentatively titled The Perils of Queer Literature.
Tammy M. Proctor is Distinguished Professor of History at Utah State University. Proctor earned her PhD in history from Rutgers University in 1995 and is a specialist in modern European and gender history with a special emphasis on the history of youth, gender, and conflict. Proctor teaches courses in sport history, both world wars, and the Holocaust. In addition to studies of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, women in espionage, and civilians, she has more recently published World War I: A Short History as well as Gender and the Great War (with Susan Grayzel). She is presently completing a book, Saving Europe, on the history of US relief in Europe during and after the First World War. For more information, see the website: http://www.tammymproctor.com/