Professor Roxworthy’s course Animation, Simulation, and Performance focuses on graphic representations of war, such as comic books, animated films, and video games about World War II and the global war on terror. Students learn how to analyze still and moving images of wartime atrocities, particularly in terms of the impact that different representational
media have on the communicative power of these images.
In their first analytical-essay assignment, students compare the first volume of Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus (which documents his parents’
experiences at Auschwitz) with Holocaust testimony from the Visual History Archive. They are asked how the comic book medium and the medium of filmed testimony make different
demands upon their audiences, particularly along the lines of empathy and participation. While students apply theoretical concepts from key media theorists such as McLuhan and Sontag,
the most important work is accomplished through students analyzing how a narrative travels from one medium to another and how this adaptation alters the audience’s experience of war
Professor Roxworthy’s first-year students found the VHA testimony both moving and informative: “Despite the fact that their generation was practically raised on graphic novels and
the comics medium, surprisingly, in their papers, the majority of these students decided that the VHA interviews provoked more empathy and participation than Spiegelman’s Maus did.
Even when they decided that both were participatory and empathy-generating, they generally concluded that the survivor testimony recorded in the VHA more effectively engaged its
audience in a mode of participation that activated spectators,” she says.