The Graphic Novels: Maus, Persepolis, Fun Home, and Barefoot Gen

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The super-genre of what collectively can be called ‘comics’ represents a cultural phenomenon which has exploded in the last fifty-plus years onto the public scene. Evolving from newspaper strip comics to superhero stories in paperback periodicals, the world of comics spread further and further into public appeal. With the publication of Art Spiegelman’s Maus, however, comics opened the door onto a world of possibilities. After Maus received high acclaim, despite its academic taboo as a medium, many more historical-commentary graphic novels found their way into the public eye: Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen, and a legion of others. Taken together, this new sub-genre of the super-genre provides a personal glimpse into many historically tragic, enlightening, or revolutionary events. These historic-autobiographic stories can effectively introduce people, whether students in a classroom or a curious independent reader searching for truth, to history, because of the format, the popularity of the historical events they encircle, the relatable personal perspective, and the groundbreaking, attention-amassing approval they enjoy.

While graphic novels such as Maus, Persepolis, Fun Home, and Barefoot Gen may differ greatly in content, the format of conveying a story of novel-length complexity through sequential art consolidates all these titles into one sub-genre. These graphic novels would effectively represent history in a classroom setting (besides a personal, individual enjoyment) due to the changed demographic of students in high schools and colleges in the United States (if not throughout the world). With the advent of the Internet and the popularity of the television and video...

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...tting within significant historical periods, and relatable, personal point of view, historic-autobiographic novels effectively represent historical events. The next step toward gaining academic respect requires proving their efficacy to scholars both of history and of literature. Once these works secure an educational following similar to the public fanbase, perhaps history classes and interdisciplinary venues may begin incorporating the graphic novel into their reading lists. Until then, the usefulness of Maus or Barefoot Gen as commentaries on World War II, Fun Home on homosexuality and the Sexual Revolution, and Persepolis on the Iranian revolution must be enjoyed purely from an individual standpoint.

Works Cited

"Your Right-Brained Visual Learner." Time 4 Learning. Time 4 Learning, Web. 6 Oct 2009. .
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