Beyond vision: myth, catharsis and the narration of absence in Art Spiegelman’s Maus and W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz
Comparative Critical Studies
Edinburgh University Press Ltd.
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Wickerson, E. (2020). Beyond vision: myth, catharsis and the narration of absence in Art Spiegelman’s Maus and W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz. Comparative Critical Studies, 17 (1), 71-93. https://doi.org/10.3366/ccs.2020.0344
Art Spiegelman’s Maus and W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz are unusual as second-generation Holocaust narratives not only for their combination of text and image, but also for their subtle allusions to myth. This article considers the confluence of literary and visual narrative, and mythology and the Holocaust. It proposes an extension to Claude Lévi-Strauss’s structuralist approach to myth, suggesting the distinction between semantic and syntactic ‘bundles of relations’. In the context of Maus and Austerlitz, this distinction unveils a tension between theme and form in the echoes of well-known mythological tales. It indicates the multiple narrative levels at work and the disparity that often exists between them. Although both works allude to myths, they subvert the traditional endings, denying the possibility of cathartic release or narrative predictability. These echoes and subversions form part of a wider project that also operates in the combination of text and image. Spiegelman and Sebald draw attention to attempts to visualise and to represent subjectivities and memories, before then indicating the fallibility of literal and metaphorical sight. Bringing together word and image, and myth and the Holocaust in both works highlights the limits of mimetic representation as well the significance of attempting it.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.3366/ccs.2020.0344
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/290581