Justice in the Gutter: Representing Everyday Trauma in the Graphic Novels of Art Spiegelman
28 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2013
Date Written: March 13, 2013
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
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