Last week, in one of the latest events in a highly concerning wave of book bans sweeping the U.S., a Tennessee school board voted unanimously to ban Maus, Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer-winning graphic novel about his father’s experience in the Holocaust, purportedly due to its “rough, objectionable language” (eight curse words) and brief nudity (a small image of Spiegelman’s mother in a bathtub, dead by suicide). (Spiegelman appeared, vape in hand, on CNN to call the school board’s response “daffily myopic.”)
The board’s choice to ban Maus has been widely and justly criticized, given the book’s role in memorializing the Holocaust; as Spiegelman told The Guardian in 2015, “This is is a book about memory. We don’t want cultures to erase memory.” The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP and other groups have all criticized the ban. Twitter is buzzing. Bookstores and individuals are donating free copies to families and students in the area, aided by crowdfunding campaigns. The Complete Maus, Maus II, and The Complete Maus are all on Amazon’s bestseller list.
In response to the ban, Davidson College professor Scott Denham announced on Twitter that he is offering a free online course for eighth through twelfth-grade students in the county affected by the ban—McMinn County. Dunham said on the course website that he has taught Spiegelman’s books many times, though this Maus course is a “work in progress”; according to NPR, the course will “involve asynchronous tools like a discussion blog and video mini-lectures, as well as live spaces like Zoom meetings.”
Though it doesn’t negate the school board’s harmful decision, Denham’s class is still a thoughtful, inspiring move: in a time of censorship, to create a space where students can learn taboo material. In Denham’s introduction to the course, he pulls out language from the McMinn County School Board’s meeting where they discussed what they would do with Maus: “remove this book from the curriculum”; “to remove the book”; “to remove this particular book from our curriculum”; “to take the book completely out.” Yeah—Denham’s class is important.
Interested McMinn County students can register for Denham’s free course here.
[h/t Inside Higher Ed]