Georgiana Banita is an associate professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Bamberg, Germany. She is the author of Plotting Justice: Narrative Ethics and Literary Culture after 9/11 and co-editor of the forthcoming Artful Breakdowns: The Comics of Art Spiegelman.
A seemingly minor episode in Françoise Mouly’s biography holds special significance for the intersection of comics and the avant-garde during Art Spiegelman’s early career. In 1975, having arrived in New York with only $200 in her pocket and eager to improve her English by reading comics, Mouly had a part in Richard Foreman’s play Pandering to the Masses: A Misrepresentation, performed by his Ontological-Hysteric Theater at 491 Broadway. Despite her shaky command of English, Mouly had no trouble slipping into her role. Almost none of the dialogue was delivered live by the actors. The avant-garde director, seated on the edge of the stage with an electronic keyboard that spliced together music and speech, narrated the entire event. The play was a hit.