Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Richelle Munkhoff

Second Advisor

Jane Garrity

Third Advisor

William McGinley


Through the lens of historical and cultural context, this paper will analyze the ways in which Maurice Sendak deals with the repression of his identity as a gay Jewish man through the children's literature he’s published. These texts include Where The Wild Things Are (1963), In the Night Kitchen (1970), We Are All In the Dumps with Jack and Guy (1993), Bumble Ardy (2000), and Brundibar (2003)—a Czech children’s opera that was adapted into a children’s book written by Tony Kushner and illustrated by Sendak. Using mainly a post-Holocaust lens, I focus on how his main characters create dreamscapes in order to deal with feelings of repression. These dreamscapes reflect Sendak’s own views on the post- Holocaust world and the repression of his identity as a gay Jewish man. There are multiple sections in this paper consisting of an overview of his childhood during WWII, cultural factors that influenced his writing, and analyses of Sendak’s texts which focus on why his use of dreamscapes are so effective. The final section addresses Sendak’s engagement with other Jewish authors such as Tony Kushner (Angels in America) and Art Spiegelman (Maus), all who critically and effectively discuss themes of Jewish identity or homosexuality after the Holocaust. Throughout his work, Sendak constantly reiterates the trauma of repression both Jews and the queer community faced as he discusses that repression in the context of his own life and work.