Why Maus opened the door to comics as literature in schools

The wide acceptance of Maus in the English classroom in the early 2000s led to the acceptance of comic books and graphic novels as literature.

Maus addresses real-world issues and provides an accessible way to do so. Its wide acceptance in the English classroom in the early 2000s opened the door to several other works of graphic literature considered valuable teaching material.

Before convincing the teachers, however, he had to convince the whole world. In 1992, Maus wins the Pulitzer Prize. The Holocaust Museum remarked: “Maus played a vital role in Holocaust education by sharing detailed and personal experiences of victims and survivors. Teaching about the Holocaust using books like Maus can inspire students to think critically about the past and their own roles and responsibilities today. Edutopia, the educational resource founded by George Lucas for teachers, describes Maus as “a favorite to many, explores themes of the Holocaust through a memoir populated by mice and cats”.


Related: US Holocaust Museum Responds to School Board Ban on Pulitzer-Winning Graphic Novel


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These successes, along with very positive reviews from high-profile literary magazines, elevated the book to literature status and made it acceptable for classroom use. For more than two decades, teachers and students have been reading, analyzing, and discussing at the high school and university levels to illuminate topics such as history, sociology, language, and psychology.

While Maus prompted more scholarly research than perhaps any other work of graphic literature, while also opening the door to other books in the medium. The American Library Association (ALA) has established an annual international conference on graphic novels and comics, elevating the graphic novel as an acceptable medium of literature. There is now in publication the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics in academia. Even Kaplan added graphic novels to his SAT prep classes.


As early as 2001, English teachers were championing graphic novels in the classroom. This was reflected in The English Journal 2001, the official journal of the National Council of Teachers. In its pages, Rocco Versaci, a pioneer in the field of the use of the graphic novel, said: “[B]By placing a comic book – the basic form of which they no doubt recognize – in the context of a classroom, teachers can catch students off guard in a positive way, and this disorientation has, in my experience, led students to s engage more in a given work. »

Related: Tennessee School Board Releases Statement Defending Maus Ban



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Come soon after Maus, in 1994, Scott McCloud Understanding comics further pushed the academic study of comics into the mainstream. McCloud’s book analyzed the relationship between the reader and the text. He explained the language of graphic literature and showed how easily a researcher could apply rigorous literary analysis to many comics.

The integration of comics into the classroom has expanded rapidly since Spiegelman Maus. Other works that have caught the attention of researchers include the set Sand seller series by Neil Gaiman, by Joe Sacco Palestine, and that of Joe Kubert Fax from Sarajevo. Past works unknown to the literary circles of their time, such as watchmen by Will Eisner A contract with God, has also been reassessed. These graphic novels were widely available, made by notable professionals, and tackled complex subject matter in an engaging way.


Today, it’s not uncommon for playlists to include recommendations like Jeff Smith’s BONE like a door to The Odyssey and mythology. Dog Man and The villains are often cited as good springboards for those interested in creative writing. Persepolis tells the story of a girl who grows up in Tehran and increases cultural competence among students separated by miles and miles. The use of comics as an educational tool continues to grow. Attempts to ban various content (for example, a Tennessee school board banning Maus) will not stop their importance or use.

Keep Reading: Maus School Ban Prompts CA Retailer to Give Tennessee Residents 100 Free Copies



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