Justice in the Gutter: Representing Everyday Trauma in the Graphic Novels of Art Spiegelman

28 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2013

See all articles by Karen Crawley

Karen Crawley

Griffith Law School

Honni van Rijswijk

University of Technology Sydney, Faculty of Law

Date Written: March 13, 2013

Abstract

Scholars working at the intersection of law and trauma have often turned to literature to supplement the law’s version of justice. In this article, we consider what the unique formal properties of comics – which we refer to here as graphic novels – might bring to this pursuit, by reference to Art Spiegelman’s Maus (1996) and In the Shadow of No Towers (2004). We suggest that these two works offer a critique of the underlying model of trauma upon which law relies, suggesting alternative understandings of trauma in a mode which is particularly instructive for law. Although Spiegelman organizes his treatment of trauma through specific events that have defined the twentieth and twenty-first centuries – the Holocaust and 9/11 – he represents the impact, as well as the ethical and aesthetic questions of these experiences, in ways that radically challenge the supremacy of the event by showing the ways in which the event fails to be contained.

Keywords: Art Spiegelman, graphic novels, comix, comics, trauma studies, Shoshana Felman, law and literature, Holocaust, 9/11, aesthetics

Suggested Citation

Crawley, Karen and van Rijswijk, Honni, Justice in the Gutter: Representing Everyday Trauma in the Graphic Novels of Art Spiegelman (March 13, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2232546 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2232546

Honni Van Rijswijk

University of Technology Sydney, Faculty of Law ( email )

Sydney
Australia

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