Kenneth Sammond

Farleigh Dickinson University

“Don’t Say Anything” – Counter/Revisions of the Holocaust in Modan & Spiegelman

 This paper will explore the diverse ways that Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Rutu Modan’s The Property frame and unhinge the controlling or preferred narratives about the Holocaust and Jewish identity. Since the rise and fall of the Nazi regime in Germany, so much of Jewish identity is grounded in the Holocaust.   While recognizing how Spiegelman’s metanarrative criticizes and questions both the validity and purpose of Holocaust narratives and Jewish identity, this paper will examine how Maus reinforces these narratives by unwittingly crafting a story that conforms to American superhero tropes which can be traced back to Siegel and Schuster’s Action Comics #1 (and which are concisely defined in Coogan (2006)). This approach privileges the father’s voice (while participating in and denouncing the harsh silencing of the mother’s voice) while subverting it; more importantly, this approach also makes readers complacent precisely due to the ways that it conforms to such tropes because it fulfills our expectations while concurrently undermining them.

Rutu Modan’s 2013 graphic novel, The Property, is at odds with both the narrative tradition to which Spiegelman is responding in Maus and to the limits imposed by the process and framework of Maus itself. Focusing on the silenced narratives within these traditions (of which Spiegelman’s work has become an intrinsic part), Modan’s work challenges the very ways that notions of Jewish identity and the Holocaust have become cultural artifacts or the basis for understanding and defining a people. As such, this paper will conclude by considering how The Property signals not only a critique of the narrowness in which both Jewish identity and the Holocaust are defined; it also points toward a way to leap beyond the frames or panels imposed on such narratives.


KENNETH SAMMOND Holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from Rutgers University and an MPA from Baruch College-CUNY.  Primarily a scholar in postcolonial literature and the conventions of “imagined communities,” he also has interests in exile literature from the Classical world and their influences on postmodern literature.  He is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Literature, Language, Writing and Philosophy at Fairleigh Dickinson University.  In addition, he is the Associate Director of the Honors Program there.  Currently, he is teaching a graduate course on Graphic Novels in the MA program in Creative Writing and Literature at Fairleigh Dickinson and has taught both honors seminars and undergraduate courses on comic books and graphic novels.

Ken has chaired seminars at NEMLA and ACLA; moreover, he has presented papers at annual conferences including the Popular Culture Assoc., the American Comparative Literature Assoc. the Classical Association of the Atlantic States, Society for Classical Studies, and the Sports Literature Assoc.  A selection of his papers have focused on: 1) the influences of canons in teaching Graphic Novels, 2) the role of exile in Vergil’s Aeneid; 2) the use of exilic imagery in Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and its relevance to trends in superseding Postcolonial Ideologies; and 3) the roles of determinism and allegory in the novels of Mohsin HamidIn the spring, he will be presenting a paper on baseball poetry at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, one of a continuing series of papers he has given on the Brooklyn Dodgers, the borough’s exiled home team.

In his spare time, he is slowly learning Urdu from his wife and children.