Reflexive Memory
Construction of Social Memory Through Strategies of Reflexivity:
A Case Study in Three Texts by Art Spiegelman

By: Matthew T. Jones
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Maus I: A survivor’s tale:
My father bleeds history (1986)

Maus II: A survivor’s tale:
And here my troubles began (1991)

In the Shadow of No Towers (2004)

How Is Social Memory Shaped Through Strategies of Textual Reflexivity in the Work of Art Spiegelman?
Strategies of Textual Reflexivity

Authorial Awareness
Intermedia Reflexivity
Reader Awareness
Maus I & II(Authorial Awareness):
Maus I & II (Demystification)
“My hand is sore from writing all this down” (Artie Spiegelman, Maus I, p. 40) maus2
Maus I & II (Intertextuality)
  • Mickey Mouse
  • Tom and Jerry
  • Krazy and Ignatz
Maus I & II (Intermedia Reflexivity)
“as one media form takes over and transforms the structural components of another, the hidden or automatised structural components of both media become defamiliarized” (Szczepanik, 2002) maus3
Maus I & II (Reader Awareness)
“Breaking the fourth wall” maus4
In the Shadow of No Towers (Authorial Awareness)
  • “Doing No Towers, this narcissistic take on a cataclysm much larger than me, let me develop this sort of fractured stroytelling style that I’m interested in trying out on other things” (Spiegelman)
  • This self obsession can be credited to the fact that the memory of these events is still raw in the author’s mind, making his own testimony the most authentic of all.
In the Shadow of No Towers (Intertextuality)

“The only cultural artifact that could get past my defenses to flood my eyes and brain with something other than images of burning towers were old comic strips. That they were made with so much skill and verve but never intended to last past the day they appeared in the newspaper gave them a poignancy; they were just right for an end-of-the-world moment” (Spiegelman)
In the Shadow of No Towers (Intermedia Reflexivity)

“The pivotal image from my 9/11 morning – one that didn’t get photographed or videotaped into public memory but still remains burned onto the inside of my eyelids several years later – was the image of the looming north tower’s glowing bones just before it vaporized” (Spiegelman)
In the Shadow of No Towers (Reader Awareness)

  • “20 X 14.5” plates
  • Automontage: a visual shuffling of images that takes place through the reader’s own self-motivated gaze.

  • Maus I & II = Collective memory in a late stage of refinement, having passed through many contexts to arrive at its present state.
  • In the Shadow of No Towers = Contextualization of a new traumatic memory.
  • Optimal Memory Distance.