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Using Persepolis in a Women's Studies Course

The following discussions of using the graphic novel Persepolis in a Women's Studies
course took place on WMST-L  in 2006 and 2009.  On  the first page is the discussion
from 2006, along with  several messages from later  that year that deal with graphic
novels  more broadly.   The second  page has  a discussion  from 2009 that includes
consideration of the film as  well as the novel.  On  the third page is a discussion
also from 2009 offering suggestions for American texts to pair with Persepolis.  For
additional WMST-L files now available on the Web, see the WMST-L File Collection.

Date: Tue, 23 May 2006 16:02:16 -0400
From: "Dr. Blaise Astra Parker" <blaiseparkerphd AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: persepolis
Hello all, Has anyone used Persepolis and/or Persepolis 2 (by
Marjane Satrapi) in introductory women's studies courses? If so,
what approach did you take and how did it fare? Best, Blaise --

Blaise Astra Parker, PhD Asst. Director of Women's Studies 101
Benson Building University of Georgia Athens, GA, 30602
706-542-2846 blaiseparkerphd  AT  gmail.com http://www.uga.edu/~wsp

"It is, I think, that we are all
so alone in what lies deepest in our souls, so unable to find the
words, and perhaps the courage to speak with unlocked hearts, that
we don't know at all that it is the same with others." - Sheldon
Date: Tue, 23 May 2006 13:37:39 -0700
From: Dina Giovanelli <dinagiovanelli AT SBCGLOBAL.NET>
Subject: Re: persepolis
I use this text in a Gender in the Global Perspective course. The
students love using a graphic novel and the material from
Persepolis goes well with a section on religion, coercive body
practices, state control, or veiling.

Best, Dina
Dina L. Giovanelli, MS Graduate Assistant
Department of Sociology
University of Connecticut
344 Mansfield Rd., Unit 2068
Storrs, CT 06269
Date: Tue, 23 May 2006 16:09:22 -0400
From: Ellen Friedman <friedman AT TCNJ.EDU>
Organization: The College of New Jersey

Subject: Re: persepolis
Although this doesn't directly answer the question: I've
recommended it as a summer reading to the entire first-year class;
we brought Satrapi in and the whole enterprise was an enormous
success. I've also used Persepolis in a course entitled Gender and
Democracy, which fulfills a gender requirement. It was a great
success there as well. I can't help but imagine that it would be
good in an intro to ws course as well.

Ellen G. Friedman Director,Women's and Gender Studies Program
The College of New Jersey
P.O. Box 7718
Ewing, NJ 0828-0718
Date: Tue, 23 May 2006 16:43:59 -0700
From: Jessica Nathanson <janathanson AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: persepolis
I've used Persepolis in a capstone course (not WS) and in a
composition class. In both, we discussed the way the text and art
worked together, how it works as a graphic novel, and some of the
larger issues and questions she raises about freedom, women's
lives, etc. The students in both classes liked it.

Jessica Nathanson

Dr. Jessica Nathanson
Visiting Assistant Professor
English and Gender Studies
Augustana College
janathanson  AT  yahoo.com
nathanson  AT  augie.edu
Date: Tue, 23 May 2006 20:01:22 -0400
From: Janell Hobson <jhobson AT ALBANY.EDU>
Subject: Re: persepolis
I've taught Persepolis in a feminist theory undergrad class and
plan on teaching it again this fall in a course on Narratives and
Counter-Narratives. The students' response is overwhelmingly
positive, both in terms of giving students a different genre to
approach critically and in terms of giving them an enjoyable

Janell Hobson jhobson  AT  albany.edu
Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 09:33:32 -0400
From: gray <gray AT TCNJ.EDU>
Subject: Re: persepolis
I've had a similar positive experience to others in the list teaching 
Marjane Satrapi's graphic memoirs.  I taught both Persepolis I and II in 
a course on women writers with a thematic focus on conflict zones. 

I wonder, though, if others on the list see Satrapi's work as 
problematic as an introductory "globalization" of women's studies?  Her 
focus is very much on challenging Western readers' stereotypical notions 
of the differentness of Iranian/Middle Eastern/"Islamic" women and men 
and families, and some of my students took away from the reading not 
much more than a sense of identification with Marjane ("she likes 
Western pop/consumer culture!").  While Persepolis II was not as "fun" a 
read for most students as the first volume, I thought it was very worth 
including because it adds much about Marjane's experience of minority 
identity in Europe--really the formation of a transnational identity. 

In my class it was also very worthwhile to supplement the reading of the 
books with video of her talk here.  There are interviews available 
online, I believe. 

Janet Gray
gray  AT  tcnj.edu
The College of New Jersey
Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 14:20:14 -0400
From: Elizabeth Stein <mkintern AT WOMENSENEWS.ORG>
Subject: Re: persepolis
I would also recommend trying to find a "comic strip" Satrapi did on the
op-ed page of the Times sometime last year... it was very affecting. Maybe
you could find it on Lexis Nexis? 

And have any of you read "Embroideries?" 

Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 17:57:11 -0400
From: Suzanne Scott <sscott3 AT GMU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Persepolis
We have used Persepolis for two years in our first-year experience classes,
which are part of our intensive interdisciplinary general education program.
Prior to using Persepolis, we used Maus. Although the latter may be a bit
richer and more textured, Persepolis really affected the students in
unexpected ways. They were able to identify with the young Marjane, and that
identification opened the door for lively discussions about Marxism and
Islam. Beyond the class discussions, I saw evidence in their final course
portfolios that many drew examples from Persepolis when writing about
ideology and identity (two themes of our course). In dealing with the text,
I worked back and forth between the visual and written texts. That process
also worked to open first-year students' minds to "seeing text." In
addition, I am always pleased when our summer reading or first-year reading
programs use books with female protagonists!

I have not used Persepolis in my upper division or women's studies courses,
but I think it could work quite well as a supplement to other texts that
deal with identity and the social construction of racial/ethnic/gender
Suzanne Scott
Suzanne Scott
Assistant Professor, Arts and Culture
Integrative Studies, New Century College
George Mason University
Executive Director
NCC Summer Enrichment Camps
Date: Tue, 6 Jun 2006 10:20:59 -0500
From: Leni Marshall <mars0264 AT UMN.EDU>
Subject: Graphic Novels Theory
I'm teaching a graphic novel in a textual analysis methods class in 
the fall. General feminist literary theory applies, of course, but 
I'm wondering if anyone knows of feminist literary scholars whose 
work focuses on the graphic novel. In case it makes a difference 
which novel I'm teaching (there are many good ones to choose from!) 
I've settled on Persepolis, an autobiography by Marjane Satrapi, who 
was a girl living in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.

And in case anyone is interested, here are some useful weblinks:

MLA citation style for comics/graphic novels

Syllabi of graphic novel classes and many other useful links are 
available at teachingcomics.org. One of the syllabi 
has a particularly good set of bibliographies - one of graphic 
novels, the other of graphic novel theory books.

Comic theory page (accessible ideas for undergrads)

Online graphic novel

Bibliography of comic books, plus good links

Thanks for your help!


Leni Marshall
Department of English
University of Minnesota
207 Lind Hall, 207 Church Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
mars0264  AT  umn.edu 
Date: Tue, 6 Jun 2006 11:31:03 -0400
From: "Solomon, Jennifer Hodl" <jensolom AT INDIANA.EDU>
Subject: Re: Graphic Novels Theory
_Arab Comic Strips: Politics of an Emerging Mass Culture_ Alan Douglas
and Fedwa Malti-Douglass, Indiana U. Press, 1994.
Date: Fri, 9 Jun 2006 11:04:17 -0700
From: Alwyn Spies <supiizu AT YAHOO.CO.JP>
Subject: Re: Graphic Novels Theory
There is a fair bit of feminist research being done on Japanese  
manga. The US-Japan Women's Journal had a special issue -- Number 25,  
2003. I'm not sure exactly what you are looking for, but you might  
also be interested in looking at academic work by Fusami Ogi,  
Sharalyn Orbaugh (she edited the special edition, above), Deborah  
Shamoon, or Setsu Shigematsu.

Alwyn Spies
Assistant Professor, Creative and Critical Studies
alwyn.spies  AT  ubc.ca

On 6-Jun-06, at 8:20 AM, Leni Marshall wrote:

> I'm teaching a graphic novel in a textual analysis methods class in  
> the fall. General feminist literary theory applies, of course, but  
> I'm wondering if anyone knows of feminist literary scholars whose  
> work focuses on the graphic novel.

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