First Advisor

Elisabeth Ceppi

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in English and University Honors




Art Spiegelman. Maus, Masks in literature, Masks -- Social aspects, Jews -- Identity, Group identity




Beginning with Art Spiegelman’s graphic memoir Maus, this essay discusses how masks are used as signs or symbols for projecting cultural and ethnic identity. Spiegelman uses masks to illustrate the properties of Jewish identity as both fixed and fluid, revealing the function of masks to be culturally relative. Cultural frameworks, called indices by anthropologist Donald Pollock, contain each culture’s rules for what comprises meaningful and believable identity. As collections of identity markers, masks have the power to represent as well as erase the wearer when societies demand the performance of identity. In her book Citizen, poet-critic Claudia Rankine considers performance of identity within the white gaze and the toll it takes on black Americans. By linking the functions of masks in Maus to the performance of black identity as discussed by Rankine, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Frantz Fanon, I argue that identity is both fixed and fluid, resulting in the modern crisis of inhabiting both states simultaneously.


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