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Using Persepolis in a Women's Studies Course

Date: Wed, 22 Jul 2009 15:31:50 +1000
From: Bronwyn Winter <bronwyn.winter AT USYD.EDU.AU>
Subject: persepolis
hello all

apologies if the list has already discussed this - I have been off list a
couple of times in last year or so - but I was interested in reception of
both the graphic novel and the film of persepolis in the US more generally
(reviews, general public reception, iranian diaspora responses) and within
feminist circles and WS programs in particular.  does anyone use it in


Dr Bronwyn Winter 
Associate Dean, Undergraduate Matters
Program Director, International and Comparative Literary Studies
Faculty of Arts 

Senior Lecturer
Dept of French Studies
School of Languages and Cultures
University of Sydney
NSW  2006  Australia
Email: bronwyn.winter  AT  usyd.edu.au
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 2009 05:34:23 -0700
From: Cynthia Fortner <clfortner2004 AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: Persepolis
Hi Bronwyn,

I have worked with both the graphic novel and the film in an advanced
literature class focused on the writing of women within and from
historical, sociopolitical, and psychological standpoints.á Both the
graphic nature of the film and accessible nature of the drawn images
in the novel were extremely well received.á Happy to chat more...

Dr. Cynthia Fortner PhD 
Dept of English and College of Technology
Purdue University 
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 2009 11:02:07 -0700
From: Voichita Nachescu <voikitza AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: Persepolis
Hello, I've also used Persepolis in a class, Coming-of-Age in a
Transnational World. I used the book, the film was not available on
dvd at that time...  I used it coupled with a set of recent readings
on Western feminism and Iran, and my students loved it...

Date: Thu, 23 Jul 2009 01:00:08 -0400
From: keileraas AT WESLEYAN.EDU
Subject: [Fwd: Re: Persepolis]
I have taught "Persepolis" on a regular basis since it was published. I
have used it in a Feminist Theory course in connection with discussions
re. identity, culture, religiosity, and diaspora/ border-crossing. I have
also used it in an upper-level course on sexuality, revolution, and exile
in the middle east and north africa (alongside a few feminist memoirs, as
well as theoretical readings on Orientalism, religiosity and revolution,
gendered nationalist symbolism, state regulation of female appearances,
and identity-formation.)

My students have loved the "novelty" of reading a graphic novel in class,
and have consistently surprised me with highly original, nuanced analyses
of the interplays between the text and images throughout the novel. I have
asked them to read some Barthes in connection with this (esp. re. the
interplay between caption and photograph, text and image in photography)-
this can be useful as a starting point. My students have also responded in
powerful and fascinating ways to the use of the child as narrator in
Persepolis I.

When the film was first released in theatres, I was able to attend a small
screening of the film with a Q&A session with Satrapi afterward. I found
her discussion very interesting; and I do think you can find several
interviews with Satrapi online. Satrapi's comments during the Q&A
definitely imparted a humanist-- as opposed to an explicitly "feminist"--
lens to her project. In some ways, this universalist stance (i.e. her
attempt to strike a "universal chord" among the film's diverse audiences)
undercut somewhat the subversive, quirky touches that, for me at least,
rendered the novel so appealing and effective.

The film came out on video just after I last taught this book in class,
but I would definitely consider screening the film in class (or outside of
class) in conjunction with the novel.

All my best,
Karina Eileraas
Women's Studies
Date: Thu, 23 Jul 2009 01:55:34 -0400
From: Jennifer Musial <jmusial AT YORKU.CA>
Subject: Re: Persepolis

Funny you should post today as I *just* taught it this evening.  Following
Allyson Mitchell's lead (as the usual professor for the course), I had students
read the novel and I showed the film in class.  The class is "Sex, Gender, and
Popular Culture" and it falls under the "cultural translation" section of the
course.  I asked them to consider multiple themes:  woman as cultural producer,
involvement of Satrapi in film, translation from book to screen (what is lost,
what is gained, what is changed, what is the effect of this), form (graphic
novel, animated film, use of black and white, narratives of
exile/displacement/trauma/migration, placelessness/immigrant as liminal figure,
role of memory and witnessing, child as narrator, resistance, question of an
Iranian tale for a Western audience and so on.

Students at York come from varied backgrounds, many are immigrants or first
generation Canadians.  And many of these folks are part of a diaspora forced to
relocate.  Tonight in class, quite a few students connected to Persepolis on an
emotional level. They spoke passionately and with sadness at the feeling of
placelessness/perpetual outsider subjectivity.  Some students suggested that
though they were not Iranian, this is a universal tale for diasporic people. 
Then I had 2 Iranian students connect over their shared history, one of whom
thanked me for including this text.  It was a very powerful class.


Jennifer Musial
PhD Candidate
School of Women's Studies - Graduate Programme
York University, Toronto, ON
Date: Thu, 23 Jul 2009 20:57:40 -0400
From: Heidi Bauer <hbauer AT KENT.EDU>
Subject: Re: persepolis
Kent State is actually using the graphic novel as it's summer reading
book, so all incoming freshmen for Fall 2009 are required to read it
and then we hold book discussions with the new students during the
welcome week at the beginning of the semester. I've read the novel
myself and have spoken to others regarding it and have received
nothing but positive responses so far. I recommended it to our WMST
Director and she might be using the film version in her Women and
Cinema course now.

Heidi M. Bauer
Program Assistant
GED Scholars Initiative
Ohio Literacy Resource Center
Kent State University
P.O. Box 5190
Kent, Ohio 44242
hbauer  AT  literacy.kent.edu
Date: Fri, 24 Jul 2009 11:32:35 +1000
From: Bronwyn Winter <bronwyn.winter AT USYD.EDU.AU>
Subject: Re: persepolis
thanks to everyone who has communicated their successful use of persepolis
courses - it is very useful to know that it is so widely used and to such
positive effect.  I am particularly interested, however, in the sorts of
political/epistemological/theoretical conversations your use of the work has
given rise to, and how US-located people are reading something written in an
iranian-french transnational and transcultural context.

I have already used an extract from the graphic novel in a comparative
literature exercise with graduate students, so my query is less about
whether it 'works' in teaching as I know it does, and not just in a feminist
or women's studies context, and more about the sorts of perceptions it
connects with and intellectual conversations it starts, continues, or


Dr Bronwyn Winter 
Associate Dean, Undergraduate Matters
Program Director, International and Comparative Literary Studies
Faculty of Arts 

Senior Lecturer
Dept of French Studies
School of Languages and Cultures
University of Sydney
NSW  2006  Australia
Email: bronwyn.winter  AT  usyd.edu.au

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